Make the Most of your Time

If you are one of those people that is always busy and constantly on the go, or you juts really value your personal free time, then you know what making the most of your time is so important. Here are some things that I do to ensure I am using my time more effectively so I can concentrate on other areas of my life.

Cleaning

I always make sure to have a few tasks going on at once that are simple to manage. For example, the dishwasher or laundry cycle will be running while I am taking care of other cleaning tasks. This allows me to get more done by simple planning my time in a smart way. Knowing that my wash cycle will run 40 minutes, I will spend 10 minutes cleaning the bathroom, 10 minutes cleaning the kitchen area and then 20 minutes for general tidy, including taking the recycling to our outdoor bins in the parking garage. While I am doing this, I keep my motion tracker on, which after detecting 30 minutes of active movement will count towards one of my PACT workouts for the week. See, in those 10 minutes, I am not moving at a snail’s pace. I move at fast pace. Not only does it motivate me to keep my living space tidy, but it also frees up more time for me to pursue my personal interests. I may not get to everything in the house, but it helps me to target the immediate areas and then the next day while the dish cycle is running, I will target another spot.

Groceries

I set aside 1 day a week to meal plan. By setting aside a specific time, I find that I am much more focused on the task. My process involves checking the flyers, Checkout 51 offers and PC Plus offers. If I see any offers that appeal to me, I jot it down, along with meals for the week. I take into consideration the following: price per serving, time we have to prepare a meal, quick meals in case of unexpected situations and balanced meal options. A couple days before our next grocery shop, we check the fridge and the pantry to remind ourselves of what we have left. We make meals out of what we can before it spoils so that we can stretch our dollar a little. This helps to eliminate food waste. Then, before we head out, we clean out the fridge.With my jotted list, we head to the grocery store and purchase only items on our list. This helps to cut down shopping time because we know what we want and we stick to it. When we get home, we unload our groceries. This may seem like a lot, but we have it down to such a routine that it really cuts out a lot of time in our day.

Organization

We keep any and all important papers in a file system in our office. Before tucking it away in the appropriate file, I make sure to scan it onto our computer. This way we have more than 1 copy in case it gets misplaced. This extra step takes a maximum of 2 minutes and in doing so has saved our butt more than once after one of our files got misplaced in a move! Another strategy we use is to have a “communication board” ie. a large dry erase board, where we write important upcoming events, bills, etc. This gives both of us a clear image of what we need to be prepared for. Being proactive with organization can save time in the long run.

Car

I do not know what it is, but it seems that our car is a collector of stuff throughout the week. One guilty habit I have is that I end up bringing things to school for lessons and they do not always make it back right away. Rather than stress about it, I just let the week roll by. On Fridays, before I head up to our apartment, I gather all items that do not belong and take them up with me. We also keep Lysol wipes in the car for emergency spills and a mini garbage can for any loose wrappers. On Fridays, I also stop by the garbage receptacle in the parking garage, which again takes care of a cleaning task quickly.

Finances

This is one of our biggest time-saving tasks. Once a week, we sit down together and take a peek at our finances. We look at our short-term and long-term goals and try to find ways to reduce spending. Sometimes, we are very disciplined with our goals and it only takes 5 minutes. 5 minutes set aside, both knowing our upcoming bills and savings… yeah, definitely worth it! Sometimes, we have a more in-depth conversation because we are looking at a more complicated situation or we are looking at multiple angles to overcome an upcoming financial obstacle. Both of us are able to walk away with minimal stress because we are on the same page and we know where we stand. It also allows us to determine if we have any spare change for social activities.

These are just some of the ways we put in a little time to open up more time. What are your “make the most of it” time strategies?

4 Ways to Reduce your Hydro Bill in the Summer

Usually when we rent, we seek out a place that includes all utilities. This helps making our budget more consistent because we do not have to account for unspecified utility bills. This time around, it was much more challenging and we had to make some compromises on what our rental included. This time, we focused more on a dishwasher and laundry to save on costs (and time) in other areas, and now find ourselves responsible for our hydro bill. Here are a few ways we are lowering the cost of our hydro bill this summer.

  1. Let there be light!
    Natural light, that is. We keep the blinds open in every room from the moment we wake up until as long as we possibly can to avoid turning on unnecessary lights. We have to be more conscious of our neighbors as our apartment faces another building, but this is not a big deal. We also remind each other of the lights if we do happen to need them (particularly on rainy, cloudy days) so that we only leave 1 light on.
  2. Unplug!
    I really did not think much of this one until we started tracking our daily usage. As an experiment, I unplugged the toaster, battery charger, coffee maker, laptop charger and cell phone charger just to see what the difference would be. I was astonished to see our usage drop from 30 kW to about 1/2 of that. I continued with this habit for another week and am seeing that consistently so we are much more aware of this step.
  3. Stick to the cheapest rates!
    This one may seem obvious but since I am on summer vacation for 6 weeks, I have a lot of free time at home. It makes me want to wash dishes and do laundry in the morning, which is what I would usually do on the weekends but I have to remember that the cheapest time is after 7pm. Instead, I try to focus my energy on other organizing and cleaning tasks that do not require much energy usage. I even vacuum in the evening!
  4. Beat the summer heat without the AC!
    This may not be possible for everyone. Where we live, the weather is breezy enough to not be overwhelmingly hot throughout the summer. Instead of using a energy sucking air conditioner, we keep the back door to our patio open and a window or two to allow for fresh air to circulate. That is usually enough to keep us feeling comfortable. We are not afraid to bust it out on the humid days though, like when we experienced a heat wave earlier this month!

What are your hydro-saving tips?

How Much Does a Teacher Really Move?

As you know, I have been tracking my steps using the Pact app to see if I can hit my daily 10000 steps. Mentioning this to a friend who is also using the app, he looked at me in surprise and said, “How much does a teacher move? Don’t you guys just sit at your desk a lot or sit with your students?”

This made me laugh… a lot! After tracking my daily steps consistently for over three weeks, I can hit anywhere from 11000 to 14000 while at school. How is this possible?

Well, when I am at school, I do the following:

*I teach in a portable. I walk from the portable to the school multiple times a day to grab photocopies, check my mail box, meet with other staff before or after school, take my students to the library/gym/music room/computer lab. While in the computer lab, I do not sit. I walk around the entire time, checking in on my students, verifying they are on task, picking an appropriate activity and answering questions. Often, I forget something back in my portable or the school, so this tends to add up fairly quick!

*I have supervision twice a week. During those recess blocks, I am again, circulating. Some teachers will stand in one general area but I just cannot do it. It is boring, so I greet students and solve problems while moving around. I need a body break too!

*In the classroom, unless I am evaluating a student or reading aloud a story, I am moving constantly. I will float around the room, checking in on students. I find this is an effective strategy for classroom management because I am buzzing around and my students know I will be circling back in a minute or two. The only time I really use my teacher desk is after school, when I need to revise my weekly lesson plans and even then, I don’t last long in my teacher chair. I think my students use it more than I do!

*I participate in PE or body breaks. My primary students love when I join in on their games or body break (sometimes yoga, sometimes dancing videos). It gives me a great mini workout and I get to have fun connecting with my students. Plus, my students do not care how silly I look trying to keep up with them!

*I am guaranteed to hit around 15000-16000 whenever I am involved in a special event because of all the preparation and tear-down. Carrying decorations, equipment, etc. from one spot to another adds up quick and then there is the circulating while delegating student responsibilities or sending groups to their stations. I love special event days because I can really put my energy to good use!

This does not account for my other walking activities outside of teaching. For instance, if I keep my tracker on before and after school, the number increases due to getting ready, chores, walking after school, errands, and the list goes on.

When I described all of this to my friend, he realized that his perception of teachers was a general comment. Not all of us sit at our desks all day, that is for certain! I know I’m not the only one in the hallways zipping along. It’s just another job perk!

Does your job help you get moving?

 

My experience using PC Plus at No Frills

Grocery shopping is an on-going challenge for us, as we are constantly trying to find meals that are inexpensive and tasty, while also adding variety. We know when we get stuck in a rut that we start getting lazy with cooking and that is when our healthier choices start to slide.

pcpointsAlways willing to try something different, we have started to dabble into the PC Plus points loyalty program. Last summer, we tried it out at Real Canadian Superstore but we did not earn much because the items we were purchasing were not heavy ticket items for points. Also, we found it too expensive for weekly shopping (our personal experience based on our budget). So, we just kind of forgot about it, along with a measly 190 points.

After moving, we discovered we were within walking distance of a No Frills. Now, I know some people turn their nose up in the air at the sight of this obnoxiously yellow store, but I like the deals I can find at this store. I do not see the point in paying double for the same item, simply due to a trendy brand or a location. I was doubly thrilled when I discovered that No Frills is accepted in the PC Plus program. Good deals and loyalty points? That’s my jam!

The downside to the program at No Frills is that there are no in-store offers. Your eligible points are based solely on your personalized digital offers. This means that Superstore shoppers have potential to earn more points. However, it works for me because we buy a lot of produce and frozen veggies, so our digital offers align with that.

For those who are curious, this has been my experience so far:

For the first two weeks, it was really easy to earn points. Since we were just starting out, we had the same offer 2 weeks in a row: Spend $50 (or more) and earn 10,000 points, which amounts to $10. We did 2 weeks of our regular shopping and earned 20,000 points. Fair enough.

Since then, we have had regular offers based on our purchases. One week, we did not use any of the offers because we forgot to load them, which is very important!! Since we do not purchase a lot of meat, I have found we have had a lot of smaller offers (Ex. 100 points for every $1 spent on bananas). We are okay with this, but I know my friends have earned some pretty big offers on meat purchases. It just means we will earn points slowly.

An example of this week’s earnings:

To give an idea of our offers this week, here are the ones we purchased:

  • 100 points for every $1 spent on bell peppers
  • 200 points for every $1 spent on celery
  • 100 points for every $1 spent on PC frozen vegetables
  • 100 points for every $1 spent on bananas
  • 400 points for every $2 spent on Campbell’s soup broth
  • 700 points for Jet Dry rinse aid

Total points earned this week: 2000

Total points earned since consistently using it: 24, 390

Will we stick with it?

For now, yes. We are only purchasing what we would normally, so it can’t hurt. We are hoping to have saved enough for a nice Christmas meal or some stocking stuffers (gift cards). We are getting closer to earning $30 just from regular purchases so it seems to be helping over the long term.

Do you use PC Plus points?

 

Week 3: The Pact App Experience

It took me a while to take the plunge with this app. Putting my money on the line would mean making a huge commitment and one that I did not want to take lightly. I read multiple reviews, with mixed reactions, which did not help my indecision.

So far, I must admit that it has sparked some motivation within me. For instance, this week was particularly busy as I was wrapping up year-end reports for my students. Rather than shame myself for not finding time to make it to the gym, I instead looked to some of the options on the pact app to see how I could squeeze a workout in. I knew that Monday and Tuesday would be difficult as I had a mountain of marking to get through and I needed to get started right away. Thursday was also out because I had committed to attend a friend’s singing showcase at a nearby cafe and I knew by the time I got home, I would end up heading to bed not to soon after.

So on Wednesday, I used the step tracker to track my steps for the day. I knew that I would be moving A LOT because my students were prepping a science obstacle relay course and I had to monitor those crazy monkeys all over the field and back to my portable. We had to carry out the PE equipment, set it up and return it, which used a lot of steps just in that part alone. In fact,  working in a portable gets me moving because I have to hustle to get the bathroom, staff room, copy room and you get the idea.

I also knew this would be a good choice to track this day because in the afternoon, I knew we would end up outside for PE. Instead of standing around while my students attempted to play a team game, I circled around the field continuously and marked their participation. I do not think I stopped moving once within that forty minute period.

The end result? 14,000 steps taken that day (the minimum is 10,000). Now, you might think I am crazy and to take that number with a grain of salt. Trust me, I do. I know it isn’t the most accurate way to track your steps. But I was moving on my feet all day, I felt it and it made me feel good. Isn’t that what is most important? That is the feeling that keeps you moving the next day.

On Friday, I was feeling pretty burnt after another busy day at school. Figuring I would just lounge around until bedtime, when 8 pm rolled around, I realized I was feeling bored and restless. So, I grabbed my phone and used the motion tracker option to head for a walk around the neighbourhood. For each minute that the motion tracker detects a moderate to high level of movement, it will count towards the 30 minute minimum workout time. I just walked non-stop until I hit 30 minutes and boom, another workout done. I got to explore our new neighbourhood a little and enjoyed the sunshine, which was still partially out.

Saturday was really rainy, so I took advantage of the weather and stayed in to finish reports. Happy to report that they are now completed and sent off! Sunday, I woke up and started my cleaning tasks that I usually set aside for this day and then, knowing that I was going to lose $5 if I didn’t get 1 more work out in, I headed out with the motion tracker option set for another 30 minute walk. This time, I walked around the neighbourhood park and checked out the local community garden. What a neat idea!

The point of my using the app right now is not to bust out the most intense workout ever. Right now, I am easing into building an enjoyment and trying a variety of things. I actually enjoyed walking. It felt peaceful and wasn’t too hard on my knees. Also, walking does not feel intimidating, so that helps.

As for my veggie commitments, this has been an easy one to complete. Each day, I ensure to eat a snack that is a fruit or veggie. I take a photo and people vote. All of them have been accepted. I added 6 veggies/week as my goal, but just by eating my snacks alone I am already surpassing this number so I might up it. I might as well get the full benefit from the money earning portion of it.

My total earnings so far: $1.75. Is is still worth it? Yes, because I’m not doing it to become rich. I’m just adding incentive to what I wanted to do anyway.

Week 1 Using the Pact App: I Got Paid to Work Out & Eat Veggies

I have been hearing a lot about this app, and while it has mixed reviews, I wanted to give it a shot myself. This is a review of my first week using the Pact app.

What is the Pact app? Basically, you commit to a certain number of workouts per week, eating a certain number of veggies, or logging your food on MyFitnessPal. There are rules and restrictions, of course, but that is the main gist. If you miss a commitment within that week, you pay a “fine”. The lowest amount is $5. If you make your commitment for the week, you are rewarded a small amount. Payouts begin at $10, but it will take you a while to get there.

How was my first week? It took some time to figure the app out. I had to make sure it recognized my gym location before my workout started and that it detected my movement for a full thirty minutes. Once I got used to working out with my phone on hand, it didn’t bother me all that much. It was a little weird taking photos of my veggies with bites taken out of them, but you have to show you are eating them. I did not get downvoted, which is good. People can upvote or downvote your pics, so make sure they are not blurry, include a full serving of a fruit or vegetable and are not duplicates.

How much did I earn? This is where it gets a little funny and might turn people off. I made a whopping total of $0.21 per workout, so $0.63. For eating my veggies, I made $0.06 per serving, so in total, $0.24. Am I going to get rich quick off of this? Obviously not. But did it motivate me to get my butt to the gym? Yes! Why? While I may only made about $0.80, had I not gone, it would have cost me $5 per workout and $5 per veggie. That’s a lot of money for making a lazy choice and it would not be worth it. I was working out before and not earning any money, so every little bit counts!

Will I continue? For now, yes. Until I run into a problem that becomes inconvenient for my workouts or a customer service issue, I will stick with it. I will admit, it did get my out of bed one morning, where all I wanted to do was hit the snooze button. That $5 on the line really made me panic!

Would you use an app like the Pact to get paid for your workouts?

Need to Move More? Become a Walking Tourist

Looking for a way to get outside more as the warmer weather is greeting us? Why not become a walking tourist in your local area?

A quick Google search prompted me to learn about multiple parks, gardens and hiking trails that are within my city. I did not realize how many trails there are close-by!

What a great way to get moving more, which has been my most current goal, health wise. Now that I have gotten myself back on track with my gym routine, I want to find other ways to keep myself moving. I used to love walking and I was known to walk for hours on a sunny day. Somehow, I lost that after hitting some rough patches.

Knowing that I would not commit to this alone, for sake of it being more fun and interesting when you have a buddy, I begged my friend to join me. Our goal is to become a walking tourist of a different trail each week. We plan to reward ourselves with a coffee date afterwards, once we have stuck to our plan for four weeks. It is nice to have someone to keep you in check for accountability. Plus, it will be a great way to blow off steam.

I am looking forward to getting to know my local surroundings and best of all, it’s a free activity! I’m always looking for inexpensive ways to prevent boredom.

Would you explore your local surroundings as a walking tourist?

Summer Munch Lunches

As the warm weather hits, it seems that my appetite starts to disappear. Goodbye hearty soups, hello light crispy fruits! Since I know it is important for me to regulate my blood sugar and to ensure I continue to eat balanced meals throughout the day, I like to prepare “munch lunches”.

summerlunch

What makes a munch lunch so appealing:

  • You get to eat a variety of small things, which adds interesting flavours
  • They are colourful. Who doesn’t love a visually appealing meal?
  • They are satisfying with out feeling heavy and sustain my apetite
  • They encourage me to eat more fruits and veggies
  • I do not like my food touching and I like dipping things. Munch lunches are great for both of these preferences!
  • They can be a way to control cravings

A munch lunch is not a super creative meal. In fact, anyone can throw one together. The term really just came from Mr. Lolobunny, who says that I look like a rabbit munching away. I just throw together items in my fridge that I do not want to go to waste and then add whatever else I have lying around. They are easily transportable, which is also a plus, because as the warm weather hits, I often bring them to work. It is also one of the many ways I use my silicone baking cups, which I am obsessed with! I found mine at Ikea, where we also recently purchased a ceiling lamp on the ceap.

Some combinations I like:

  • Pretzels, yogurt, fruit/veggies of my choice
  • Trail mix, dark chocolate, peanut butter, apple slices
  • Feta cheese, watermelon, veggies, hummus, crackers
  • Grilled chicken, avocado slices, veggies

Do you have any weird eating habits, like not wanting your foods to touch?

 

Our $15 Ikea Lighting Solution

Now that we have settled into our new apartment, we realized how little we own. Moving multiple times has really caused us to size down on furniture and decorative accents. As we were sitting in the living room one night, we realized that there is no lighting in the living room. Mr. Lolobunny had to take down the only light over the counter area leading into our living room, which served as a cramped dining space to the previous tenants, because it hung too low for him. Cue many head injuries! My landlord happily took it to another tenant, who required a new one.

After browsing various stores, we were shocked at how expensive a floor lamp could be! The cheapest one we found was $30, but it looked like it was made of cheap materials and to be honest, it was ugly. It just reminded me of being a super cheap university student willing to use anything and everything. I’m not one to turn an eye over a low price, but we believe in enjoying the item as well, or else it will get pitched further down the road.

So, off we trekked to Ikea, which for the most part, has treated us well. We make careful selections at Ikea, and they definitely fall within our budget for the time being. We walked all around the lighting section 4 times. Every lamp made us feel as if we were either compromising on price or aesthetics. It was getting really frustrating. $150 for a decent floor lamp? Not happening!

Our frustration led us to other options. We considered decorative string lights, but they actually consume a lot of energy. We looked at smaller table lamps. Unfortunately, our current set up does not accommodate this option well. Our sectional takes up too much space, and while we would love to upgrade to a smaller sofa + armchairs combo, it is not in our priority purchases right now. Which led us to option 3. My husband reminded me that we already had a set up for a hanging ceiling lamp.

That is where we found our price, aligned somewhat within our aesthetics bubble. While it may not have been our first choice, the price tag on our new lamp was marked down from $85 to $19. Maybe that helped shift our aesthetic expectations a little 😉

torna

Upon further investigation, we discovered it was actually marked down to $15. In my cart, you go! My husband also picked up some chains and 2 hooks to mount the light further into the living room. I may or may not have shouted, “let there be light!” as we flicked the switch to test it out.

Voila! A decorative lamp that serves a great purpose and the total cost was less than $25 with the chain/hooks included. Sometimes, you gotta compromise your initial design desires to make way for your wallet.

Another Ikea findSilicone muffin cups for $3! I got a pack of 12. I cannot tell you how long I have been searching for these. It seems they have disappeared from shelves all over. I use them for bento lunches, dipping sauces, storing small items and more!

What is on the top of your priority purchase list?

How Scheduling a Financial Date Can Do Wonders For Your Budget (And Your Marriage!)

One of the most important lessons I have learned in the five+ years Mr. Lolobunny and I have been together is that if we are not on the same page, our life becomes disastrous. I am not saying we have to agree on everything. We are opposites in many ways. However, when it comes to finances, if we are not on the same wave length, the spending and saving could make or break us… but more likely, break us!

time-273857_640In the past, when I was in control of all the finances and we were struggling with some debt in a time when both of us were not making much, I was making the awful choice of prioritizing what was going to get paid and when. Late payments were becoming a habit and it was driving Mr. Lolobunny nuts. It was embarrassing to say we could not afford certain things, so I would try to cleverly make it happen without actually being clever at all. This was four years ago and luckily, I got over myself. I have developed much better habits since then, but it was an adventure to get where I am today.

Our saving grace was to schedule a financial date. A place to meet, in public, where neither party could become upset or raise their voice so we discuss our financial situation calmly and look at it with open eyes. We had to rip the band-aid wide open and expose every dark corner to each other. From our first financial date, Mr. Lolobunny considered ways of increasing his income, while I explained more clearly what our monthly expenses really added up to so we both knew what we were dealing with. In this situation, both of us felt like we were contributing without a rack of guilt.

Part of the fun of a financial date is it involves communicating with each-other outside of the home. We treat it just as seriously as a romantic date. We usually pick a place to get coffee, although sometimes we prepare a picnic and go to a park or find a place with happy hour specials. Since we rarely go on dates, we set aside a small amount of money for this.

We started slowly and let our financial dates develop from there. Before meeting, we always have a goal in mind so that we do not shift our focus. We discuss our current goal and how we will achieve it, our budget or an increase in income, a wish item, a need item and so on. Sometimes, we even call emergency meetings for when one of us feeling overly stressed (ie. me!). I always take notes to remind us of what we discussed and in case we may need to refer back to the numbers.

On our most recent date, I showed my husband a great budgeting tool called CalendarBudget. If you have not used this tool yet, it’s a great one to check out! It is free and allows you to enter your current balance, all your pre-authorized payments, deposits, etc. Then, it will display on a calendar exactly how much will be in your account each day until your next pay. I love this because it gives me a visual way of tracking our spending. I can schedule in my budget for gas, groceries, etc. and see how it will allow me to make extra debt payments or contribute to savings so that every dollar is assigned a home. This is important because every time Mr. Lolobunny wants to make a small purchase, I whip out my phone to add it into my calendar budget and he carefully reflects on whether he would like to proceed. There has to be a buy-in on both sides.

The time before that, I showed him FoundationsU, so that we could calculate paying off our car loan earlier, which we did successfully! I was unsure how he was going to take it, but we ended up playing around with the program for almost 2 hours… no joke! We carefully played with the numbers to see which debt we would pay off next. It was not boring or painful, it was nice to feel connected and to have a shared vision.

Knowing that we are fully aware of what is in our bank account and that we have chosen goals together has been such a strengthening exercise for us. It has brought us closer together and has also helped us to skip quite a few arguments over money. Lastly, it taught me more about my spouse on a personal level. While I tend to stick to a vision of ourselves within 6 months to a year, Mr. Lolobunny often shares great plans for our future within the next five years. Knowing he is the more positive and optimistic cheerleader for our future has made me appreciate his suggestions in this entire process so much more. I would not be where I am financially without his support.

If you are unsure of how to propose the idea of a financial date, be sure to set the tone. Putting emphasis on a safe space in a public area can help to alleviate pressure. Also, keep it simple at the start. Pick 1 thing you would each like to discuss and be sure to listen wholeheartedly.

How do you approach the finances situation with your spouse?

 

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