Thursday, November 18, 2010

Birthday on a budget

Hubby's birthday was yesterday, and although I got him his present a few months ago (a super nice DSLR camera, on sale but still expensive, and doubling as his Christmas present), it's nice to have something to open on your actual birthday. He loved when baby D brought his presents to him in a tiny backpack on Father's Day, so I thought that she would probably want to do that again. And since she's such a generous toddler, I also figured she'd want to get a few prezzies for her dad. I wouldn't usually say this, but luckily he had to work late the night on his birthday eve (can you tell birthdays are a big deal for me?). This gave us the chance to hit up Winners and Zellers for his gifts.

My mom gave me a great tip for gift-buying that helps you not to go overboard. You get the person in question 4 things:
Something they want
Something they need
Something to wear
Something to read

I decided ahead of time what these would be, and how much I wanted to spend on each one. Here's what my list looked like:
Want: Caramilk bar (around 1$)
Need: Socks (around 10$)
Wear: Belt (around 20$)
Read: Car magazine (around 7-8$)

Then, I rounded up the total to 40$, to allow for taxes. Finally, I took out 40$ cash to make sure I wouldn't go over budget Here's how we did:
We found a Michael Kors reversible belt on clearance at Winners for 15$, and black socks for 7.99$. The total came to almost 26$ with tax. I was very pleased to come in under budget with our more expensive purchases. Next, we found Road & Track magazine at Zellers for 5.99$, under budget again, so we splurged a bit and went for a 4-pack of Caramilk bars at 3.99$. That all came to about 11$ with tax, so in total we spent 37$. Last year, I think I spent that much on three pairs of running socks for him, also purchased on birthday eve.
Lesson learned: make a list, make a budget, and bring cash!

Although Hubby loved his presents, pictures of them would be rather dull, so in their stead I am including photos from his birthday dinner out (courtesy of my parents) and the cake we had at our house afterwards.

Hubby is a big kid when it comes to treats, so even though I love to bake from scratch, I acquiesce every year and make him rainbow bits cake from a box. I reserve the right to make the icing myself; in this case, bright blue with sprinkles (or Hundreds and thousands, as they say in his homeland). Hubby likes unnatural colours.

PS It's okay to talk about the prices of Hubby's gifts, because he already knew how much they cost. Tactless Baby D left the tags on and the receipts in plain sight.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What D wore to the wedding, and phone considerations

Well, after tallying the votes, and taking into account the advice from a couple of wise moms that D would probably make use of both sweaters, we ended up bringing both! Initially, I had her in the gray one, as shown below. Later on, though, she mostly wore the purple one, because we had a bunch of family photos to shoot outdoors, and it being November, the possum-merino blend turned out to be warmer than acrylic. Yes, I said possum. It's from New Zealand, which makes it awesome. (The dark girl you see with us recently returned from NZ. You wouldn't know it to look at us, but we are in fact of the same parentage.) I have a whole ball of possum yarn left, and I'm resisting the urge to knit a matching hat and mittens for the baby, seeing as she's almost outgrown the sweater. Those sleeves aren't meant to be 3/4 length.

The night before the wedding, we had a lovely time at the rehearsal. I gave the bride and groom their gift, and it went over tremendously well. I foolishly neglected to photograph their jubilant faces, but here's the final product sans recipients:

The fact that the blanket took me about three and a half months to knit up, with a couple of interruptions, makes me want to create one for our little fam. We love blankets here, and although we have a bunch, we don't have one made by me. I probably wouldn't knit the exact same one, but I have another one in mind. We'll see how I feel once the year of no new yarn is over.

In other news, our grocery bills have been getting up there lately, and since my income is quite reduced now that I'm no longer on EI, we're looking for other ways to cut our expenses. Since I do child care two days a week, some of those groceries can get written off, but still. This week's bill was 150$! That's not good. Granted, it was a week where we needed to buy meat, and cheese was on sale for 4.44$/500g, so that kicked it up a bit. Also we got our turkey for Friends Thanksgiving, which is a one-off.

Where to cut back? A few friends of mine now have gotten rid of land lines altogether and gone with a cell phone. I am somewhat averse to this for three reasons: 1) I do not tend to answer my phone. 2) I do not tend to keep my phone charged. 3) I do not tend to have my phone readily accessible. So to get a hold of me via cell phone, you need an unlikely trifecta of ideal circumstances. Also not many people have the number. Also I'm on a 10$ pay-as-you-go type of deal, and am comfortable paying only that much.

But then Hubby told me we pay 40$ a month for our land line, and if I switched to a plan that was, say 20$ or 25$ a month, it would be a net savings of 25$-30$ a month. And if I stay with the same company, I wouldn't have to change my phone. I think a lot of cell phone companies are scams anyway, with the way they try to make you covet the newest and coolest phone. Sign a three-year contract and you get the phone for "free"! You'll pay much more than it's worth in minutes and text messages anyway! I especially love when people describe their plans as having a certain number of free texts or free calls. Not so much free... that's what you're paying for.

I have an almost-two-year-old flip phone that I bought outright for maybe 50$ (including a 20$ phone credit), and I'm quite content with it. I recently learned how to scroll to a different word in t9word or whatever. Instead of typing the word out letter by letter. I am a techno wizard. So maybe by the end of the month we'll have it worked out. I'd like to make sure I give out our cell numbers to everyone who needs them, and not forget, say, our mortgage company, or my school board. Or my good friends, or my tutoring student.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Almost ready for the wedding

The gift is wrapped and ready, I have my dress and D's dress, and now I have a little sweater for D to wear! The key was that it was a quick knit, done in 9 days. My friend Jasmine kindly donated the yarn in the exact weight (DK) and colour (soft gray) I had in mind, so the year of no yarn continues unabated.

I was photographing the sweater and the dress on baby D when I noticed another sweater on the floor. In a shade of purple that I thought didn't go with the dress. There are now two sweaters contending for display on Saturday.

The one I just made, endearingly titled the Whirligig Shrug:

And one I made back in February, aptly named the February Baby Sweater:

Baby D is too busy playing peek-a-boo with her dress to offer an opinion, so I am leaving it up to you. Vote for your fave!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Monday morning errands

This morning, D and I got up and headed out to do some shopping. We had a number of things on our list:
-pretty things to wrap our present for the wedding this weekend
-a nice sturdy necklace and earrings for the wedding
-a costume for Hallowe'en next year
-sale candy from Hallowe'en this year
-a prezzie for my cousin's baby shower tonight
-ideally everything on sale

Here's what we found:

Basket: 5$
Flower: 0.99$ (incidentally, why is there a € key, but not a cents one?)
Ribbon: 3.99$
Necklace: 7.99$
Earrings: 7.49$ (not on

Dragonfly costume, complete with alliteration for baby D: 5$
Not shown: 1$ bag of mini Caramilk bars

Components for diaper cake: around 20$

I also got baby wipes, because we were almost out. Name brand ones, which were 11.99$ for 576.

Everything aside from the earrings was on sale. I am reasonably pleased with this.

Oh, you were wondering why the necklace has to be sturdy?