Student Loan Debt – How Can I pay it off?

Calculator on a sheet of numbers

You go to university or college to help you to get a good job. But for most of us, we need to get a student loan to be able to do this. It seems easy enough, but we soon realize that we have taken on a small mortgage. It is like having a huge, heavy stone around our necks and we do not know how to take it off. You know you need to pay off your student loan debt, but how?

Step 1: Assess Your Student Loan Debt

The first thing you need to do is figure how much you have in student loans and from what sources. In the Canada student loan program, you can have a federal loan and/or one or more provincial loans. Once you have done this, you can then rank your loans from largest to smallest. For example, you might have a federal loan of $15000, a Manitoba loan of $10000 and an Ontario loan of $5000. Once you have created this list, you move on to Step 2.

Step 2: Figure Out Minimum Payment

The next step is to figure out the minimum monthly payment to cover the accrued interest on each loan. In our example above, we figure this out to be $150 for our federal loan, $100 for our Manitoba loan and $75 for the lst one – our Ontario student loan. Once we have done this, we can move on to step 3.

Step 3: Target Smallest Student Loan

Now we need to look at our smallest loan and see how much we can pay over and above just the interest payment. In our example above, our smallest loan is the Ontario loan at $75 per month to keep the interest off our principle amount. Suppose we can add another $75 from our household budget and pay $150 per month on this student loan. Then: just keep doing this until the loan is gone! That is the goal of course – getting each of these burdensome loans GONE. And then we are ready to move on to step 4.

Step 4: Rolling Payment to Next Student Loan

Rolling payment means taking the amount we were paying on our smallest loan and then adding that amount to the next smallest loan. In our example above, this means adding $150 per month to our $100 payment of our Manitoba loan. You’re really making progress now! Now it will be a total of $250 per month on our Manitoba loan until it is gone. We then move to Step 5.

Step 5: Rinse and Repeat

We now take the $250 we were paying on the Manitoba loan and add this to the $150 we are paying on the federal loan. We now will pay $400 per month our federal loan until it is gone. Just like that your loans will be gone!

Conclusion

The process above seems simple enough, but the reality is that it will take effort. You need to be disciplined enough to stick to the plan. Also, you need to be patient because it will take some time to pay it off, depending on how large your student loan debt is. However, if you stick to it, that heavy burdensome stone around your neck – called your student loans – will finally be removed. You will be free at last!

10 Natural (and Cheap!) Ways to Treat and Prevent Heartburn and Acid Reflux

It happens to all of us occasionally – heartburn strikes! There is that terrible, burning sensation in your chest, and you may feel that acid burn right up in your throat. Not a lovely feeling. And if it happens at night, heartburn can even cause you insomnia. But, instead of always reaching for a prescription medication, are there natural heartburn remedies you can try instead? Yes! We’ve researched 10 tried and true ways to treat heartburn at home with common items you likely have around anyway.

These are helpful tips to try, but please always talk to a doctor about any new health issue you have. Heartburn could be a sign of something more serious.

1. Battle heartburn with baking soda

Baking soda is one amazing ingredient to have around the home! (We’ve also written about 10 Ways to Use Baking Soda to Clean your Home, so check that out for other ideas.)Once you’ve tackled your heartburn, you can go and clean the toilet with the same ingredient! Huh!) What we most often think of as a rising agent in baking, can also help treat heartburn naturally. Simply add about one teaspoon of baking soda to a small glass of water and stir well to dissolve. Then, drink up! Baking soda is naturally alkaline, so it can help to reduce acid. (But, if you’re watching sodium content then please be careful before trying this tip. Just one teaspoon of baking soda contains a whopping 1250 mg of sodium!! If you have high blood pressure, you also shouldn’t try this tip because of the very high sodium content in baking soda. But don’t worry, our other tips should be helpful for you!)

2. Drink a glass of milk

Again, milk is an alkaline – not acidic – substance, that can naturally help to combat either heartburn or acid reflux. Some people find a lot of relief by drinking a small glass of cold milk when their heartburn is acting up.

3. Prevent heartburn by reducing how much coffee you drink

Ahhh, sweet coffee! I love it too, but too much coffee – which is, again, very acidic – can create more problems for those of us with regular heartburn and/or acid reflux issues. Limit your coffee and overall caffeine intake to help prevent more problems with heartburn. And if you do have a cup of coffee, it helps to add milk to it rather than pure coffee alone. (Or milky coffees like lattes or cappuccinos will cause fewer problems than very strong coffee like an espresso.)

4. Limit how many citrus fruits (oranges, lemons) you eat

Delicious as they may be – and healthy too! – citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes, and mandarin oranges – are all packed full of acid. (This is why they’re damaging to teeth enamel too. Side tip: drink a glass of water after eating citrus fruits to limit the damage on your teeth.) Limit how many citrus fruits you eat, or how much citrus fruit juice you drink. Some people find that if they have a small glass of orange juice with food, they’re okay. (The food may help absorb the acid of the fruit juice.) But, some people are very sensitive to citrus fruits, and need to make them only an occasional treat.

5. Drink a little aloe juice

Now, aloe juice may not be an ingredient we all have in our pantries regularly. But, you may have an aloe plant somewhere in your home! Drinking a little natural aloe plant juice is a wonderful way to soothe away some of the discomfort of heartburn. You can also purchase actual aloe juice at health food stores. If you’re prone to heartburn, this might be a good item to keep on hand to treat it naturally when it strikes next. The juice is easy to drink, whereas the aloe gel that comes straight from the plant may not be quite as palatable.

6. Eat a banana

Bananas are naturally very alkaline, and they seem to soothe a lot of stomach problems and ailments! Eating a banana can help ease away the pain and discomfort of heartburn or acid reflux. And hey, they happen to be pretty yummy, too. Delicious snack plus heartburn treatment all in one little yellow package.

7. Eat a few plain crackers (soda crackers)

I remember my Mom suggesting this when I was a child, and it works! Eat a few soda crackers or other very plain crackers. It seems to help absorb some of the excess acid in your stomach and makes you feel a bit better.

8. Don’t eat so late at night

I know, I know! This sounds so judgey. But, if you cut back on late night snacking, you may find that you have fewer problems with heartburn in the middle of the night.

9. Raise your head up on a pillow (when trying to sleep)

Raising your head up a bit higher on an extra pillow will help prevent the additional acid from sneaking up your esophagus and causing you discomfort. This simple tip really works! But hopefully it won’t give you a neck ache the next morning!

10. Try a little Apple Cider Vinegar in water

This seems totally counterproductive, right? Why would you want to consume additional acid when you’re already suffering with too much acid in your stomach? And yet, many people find that their problems with heartburn are caused by too little acid being produced in their stomachs. For some people, a spoonful of natural apple cider vinegar (the good kind, with a ‘mother’ in the bottle) in a small glass of lukewarm or cool water can be very helpful. It can help balance out the healthy acid in your stomach.

We hope these tips have helped soothe your heartburn, and that you’ll be able to get on with your day, or even have a wonderful nighttime sleep. If you have other natural heartburn tips that are tried and true, please let us know about them!

This post contains affiliate links, meaning we could earn a small commission on sales at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

Instant Pot Replacement Lid – Genuine Instant pot lids in 3 sizes

Have you already discovered the Instant Pot? It’s become one of the easiest and fastest ways to get supper on the table when you have a bunch of hungry faces to feed. You might wonder, though, if you can buy replacement parts online when needed.

We went hunting for an Instant Pot replacement lid, and found a great selection! If you’re looking for a new lid for your Instant Pot you’re going to be pretty pleased. And the prices were reasonable too! We love that you won’t have to replace your entire Instant Pot, but rather can just replace the lid when you need to. Yes!

Instant Pot Tempered Glass replacement lid (for 8 quart instant pot)


Genuine Instant Pot replacement glass lid

  • At time of writing the price was $22.97 for the largest replacement lid, but please note that prices can change at any time.
  • This is for the largest size lid – a 10 inch lid, that fits the 8 quart Instant Pot. But, there are also lids for the small 3 quart size, AND the medium 6 quart size. As you would expect, the prices go lower as the size does.
  • Lid is made of tempered glass and stainless steel and has a steam vent.
  • Glass lid is perfect for viewing the food cooking inside your Instant Pot, without having to remove the lid.
  • Dishwasher safe for easy clean-up
  • Oven safe lid up to 428 degrees F

This post contains affiliate links. This means we could earn a commission on sales made through those links, at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

10 Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Food in Canada – Offline and Online Shopping Tips

There is no denying it – what we spend on food can cost us a huge portion of our income. And, with prices of food seemingly going up continuously, we all are looking for ways to save on our weekly grocery bills. Here are our top 10 ways to save on groceries starting today.

1. Change Supermarkets or Grocery stores

I know, you’ve shopped at your favourite store forever and so did your Mama and your grandmother. Maybe the store you shop at is very comfortable for you – you know where everything is located, and you even know the names of your favourite cashiers! I get it. But, changing to a lower-cost supermarket can save you immense amounts of money. Stores like Walmart and No-Frills are much lower cost than high-end grocery stores.

2. Shop at multiple grocery stores

Instead of hitting up only one store every week, make a detailed list of the best sales (or loss leaders) at every store, and stock up on those. This one tip alone will save you a huge amount of money!

3. Search grocery flyers or flyer apps before you head out

Apps like Flipp have made browsing through grocery flyers a way easier task! You can even create a shopping list of all the specials at each store, and then access that list easily on your smartphone. Or, of course there are still paper flyers that you can peruse. This way you are armed with the information on what each store has on sale this week, allowing you to get the best deals. And therefore – save your money!

4. Make a price book

This has been a frugal living tip for a long time, as any longtime frugalites will know! What is a price book? Basically, a notebook (or digital file on your phone or tablet) where you keep track of the best prices in your area for the food you buy. This is helpful because it is such a personal document – you will know what is truly a good deal when organic strawberries are on sale, for instance. You only need to keep track of the things you regularly purchase. It’ll help you understand when something is actually a very good deal. Making your own price book will help you save money because you’ll know what is and isn’t a good deal on the food YOU purchase the most often.

5. Shop at Farmer’s Markets or Local produce markets

Ahhh, I love an afternoon at the Farmer’s Market! But, some of these markets are quite pricey along with their charm and quaintness. Ask around to find the best markets with the lowest prices. Sometimes shopping nearer the end of the day means you can snag a deal on produce that the grower doesn’t want to drag back home with them. Plus, local produce markets are also popping up all over the place – one here in Calgary to try is Fresh & Local. (Located quite centrally on Macleod Trail.) But again, you can find these markets in your local area by searching ‘local markets’, ‘farmers markets + your city’ on Google.

Covid update: It’s not as easy to browse and relax at farmers markets now, but they are still an excellent resource for the freshest produce. Simply plan your trip beforehand, and hit up the stalls you like the best. And of course, always wear a face mask or face covering.

6. Shop at Outlet food stores

I was recently told a tip about an Italian outlet market here in Calgary! It’s called Scarpone’s, and is located in the North of Calgary. There you can get amazing deals on their own canned tomatoes, and items like olives, olive oils, capers and pasta sauces. Ask around in your area, or head to trusty Google and type in ‘outlet food stores’ + ‘your city’ to find some hidden treasures you may never have known existed. (Another good resource to know about is McGavin’s Bread Basket. This store sells bread that is still a number of days out from being past its Best Before date. You can stock up, and freeze the bread, rolls, bagels or English muffins. It is a huge savings on the cost of a regular loaf of bread! And since I have to eat gluten free, the savings are even more tremendous.)

7. Use coupons on groceries

Coupons are one of those things you either love, or you roll your eyes in disgust at the very thought of! I think I’m somewhere in the middle. I usually have a few clipped coupons in my wallet, but only on items that I would normally buy. And apps like Checkout 51 make clipping coupons as easy as tapping your smartphone screen. (In fact, you get credited a cash amount – say, $1.00 – after you purchase a certain product and prove that you purchased it by scanning the receipt and sometimes also the UPC. Once you reach a $20.00 threshold, you are sent a cheque! I have indeed received such a cheque, and can verify that this is a worthwhile app to have.)

8. Check clearance sections at supermarkets

The clearance sections of your grocery store can provide all sorts of goodies! Sometimes you can even match a clearance price with a coupon, or a digital coupon on Checkout 51. Score! Double savings, folks. You can find a regular merchandise clearance, a produce clearance, and often a fresh foods clearance. You’ll have to keep your eyes open to find where your store has all the different reduced food sections. Usually these food items have a short best before date, so use up this good food and know that you’re preventing it from being dumped in the landfill! Get used to the type of sales sticker your grocery stores use to markdown their merchandise – sometimes they are yellow stickers, or red stickers. Then, you can look for that telltale sign when you’re searching for markdowns.

9. Try generic or store brand food

Generic or no name products are often just as good as their more highly-advertised, brand name counterparts. Store brands are a good compromise on a product that is just as good as a brand name, but is usually quite a bit cheaper.

10. Shop for groceries online

Many of my friends swear by online grocery shopping. You choose all the food items you want, and then simply go to the store to pick your order up. Some stores have a fee for this service, but it might be worthwhile if it prevents you from impulse buying. Don’t have a car to go pick up your groceries? Then, check out if your local food stores have a delivery service to have your groceries delivered right to your door.

Now, in the time of COVID, online grocery ordering makes more sense than ever before. We use SaveOn Foods online grocery shopping all the time, and we love it! With SaveOn here in Calgary, there is no fee whatsoever for having a personal shopper do your grocery shopping for you. This is the safest way to grocery shop in the time of the pandemic, and we are very grateful to have it as an option.

Bonus Tip – Check Amazon Grocery deals of the day

If you’re comfortable grocery shopping online (and more and more of us ARE now, because of the pandemic we’re living through!) then you need to check out which items Amazon has on sale. This one link will show you the best sale items on food and groceries. You know Amazon though – those deals won’t last! AMAZON GROCERY DEALS TODAY. These are pantry stock up items like: canned soups and chili, spices, ground or whole bean coffee, and of course CHOCOLATE!

We hope that our list of grocery shopping savings tips will help you save some of your hard earned money. With a little pre-planning, a bit of browsing through flyers or flyer apps, and a little effort you can both save money AND eat like a king or queen.

This post contains affiliate links. This means we may earn a commission on sales made through those links, at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

10 Ways to Save Money on Rent – Saving on Apartments and Condos

There is no greater cost for most of us than our housing costs – either our monthly rent, or mortgage. In some large cities – I’m looking at you Toronto and Vancouver – monthly rental costs can easily swallow up half of our paycheques! (Or, sadly sometimes way more!!) With rent prices skyrocketing, we thought it would be helpful to discuss some ways you can save money on renting an apartment, house or condo. If you can lower your rent costs, then you’ll be able to live within a budget. So, here are our 10 favorite tips!

1. Look for apartments in the ‘off season’

Sometimes you just can’t control when you need to rent a new place. For instance, if you’re a student – well, you need to rent an apartment to be ready for the new school year! But, if you are in a situation when you can be flexible about when you look for your new digs, choose winter time to search. Fewer other people will be searching then, and you might secure a lower lease because of it.

2. Add up all the costs – rent plus utilities

Sure, that gorgeous little downtown condo sounds like an impressive bargain! But, make sure you include all costs in your total rent payment. If the rent is $1500, but then parking is $150 and utilities are $200 your total rent payment is actually $1850! If there’s another condo located in the same building for $1750, with all costs included then you’re better off choosing Condo B. Do your research to discover what your full monthly housing costs will be.

3. Negotiate a lower rent

If you’re a brand new tenant, you may be able to negotiate rent by being knowledgeable about the area and what typical rental costs are. You can even print out similar properties with the rent that is currently being charged. If the landlord is reasonable, they may be willing to lower the rent. Or, if you’re a long-term tenant, use your record of excellent payment and tenancy to negotiate to either stay at the same rent or even lower it. Or, sometimes landlords are willing to negotiate for other freebies such as free additional storage space, or free parking. (I’ve recently done exactly that – received free parking that would’ve otherwise cost $65/month, because we are long-term, excellent tenants.)

4. Offer to do repairs, maintenance or lawn work

Your landlord may really appreciate it if you’re willing to do some of their hard work for them! It never hurts to ask if you could do some repairs around the place for a lowered rent. Or, you could do regular maintenance or yard work – such as raking up leaves, mowing the lawn, or shoveling snow. Ask them if you could negotiate your rent based on offering these maintenance services. Then, if they agree – get your agreement in writing.

5. Manage an apartment building

Some people get free rent by managing an apartment building! Others will receive reduced rent for doing this job. But, make sure you know what you’re signing up for. Other tenants will come to you with complaints, and worries and even possibly to drop off rent cheques. Make sure you want to take on this responsibility before signing up to be a resident manager. If this kind of job sounds ideal, then you may snag some very cheap rent!

Home sweet home

6. Get a Roommate

Sure, getting a roommate may be an obvious choice to reducing your overall rental costs, but make sure to do your research. As in: know the person you’re going to share your home with! Ask around your friends to see if anyone needs a good roommate, or even at your workplace. Set up careful rules about how rent will be paid, how utilities will be divided, and even how food will be shared.

7. Sign a longer lease

Have you found your dream place? Are you worried that rent prices are just going to continue going up, up, UP? Well, then sign a longer lease. Ask your landlord or the management company of your building if a longer lease is an option. This could be 1 year, or even 2 years or longer. Then, you’ll have locked in your housing costs for that period of time and won’t have to worry about that dreaded letter being slipped under your door telling you about rent increases.

8. Rental Incentives

Especially in areas where there are a lot of rentals available, and too few qualified renters – there will be rental incentives. Take note of signs in the areas you’re looking to live in of these special offers. $500 off, Free Parking, 1 month free rent, and other offers may be used to entice new tenants to sign a lease at that apartment or condo complex. And, if there are incentives, you know too that the landlord may be willing to negotiate a bit more in other areas – such as free cable or internet. It’s always worth asking! (Just be polite about it, and don’t seem as if you’re trying to take advantage.)

9. Refer a Friend

Often, larger condos or apartment buildings may have a referral system in place to reward you if a friend moves in. At one point, where we live, both we and our friend received $150 off rent, and all because we referred her! It’s worth checking it out, and seeing if there are any perks for referring people to live in the same complex you do. And hey, then you’ll know the neighbors, too!

10. Rent an unfurnished apartment

If this is the first time out on your own, you may be very tempted by gorgeous, glossy looking, fully furnished apartments or condos. But, the price for these can be outrageously high! Instead, choose a small first apartment and then furnish it very cheaply. You can do so by letting your family and friends know (it seems like everyone’s Auntie or Grandma has some extra, old furniture lying around unused in the attic) or also by finding freebies or very inexpensive furniture on Craigslist or Kijiji. It’ll take a little time to furnish your place, but this way you’ll also make it more your own, unique space.

10 Best Frugal Living Blogs

Frugal living blogs keep us happily on a budget!

Frugal blogs are some of my very favourite blogs to read. While browsing through them, I am inspired, determined, and ready to take action to make an keep my budget! I love reading all of the creative ways that people around the world are finding to stay on budget, and still have a pretty amazing and fun life!

Many of my favourite blogs are from the UK – typical, since I’m a bit obsessed with that entire region! But, on my favourites list there are also a few favourites from Canada, and the US, too. So, here we go – here are some of the best budgeting/frugal living blogs online:

  1. The Non Consumer Advocate – This quirky blog has been a favourite of mine for years. Katy is a married registered nurse with a great income, and yet she lives life simply and fully. And is conscious of every penny! She’s currently funding her two college-aged children through university. While you’re there check out her 5 Frugal Things posts, which are the ones I always check for! (She came up with the popular concept first – kudos to her!) And, also take time to read through the comments section – her readers are true blue frugalites and I love reading their tips, too! Bonus points for: using beans so often! I need to up my bean game.
  2. Mean Queen – Life After Money – This British blog features Ilona, another quirky character that is a true inspiration to those of us who are trying to live a frugal life. Her frugality may at times seem extreme – such as how her meal plan may feature almost entirely marked down groceries! (In reality, I sort of respect that! HA!) And, she’s been blogging regularly for over 10 years! Quite a feat. Bonus points for: her artistic flair and downright individualistic attitude. (Oh, and even more bonus points for the fact that she loves cats so dearly. So do I!)
  3. SimplyFrugal.ca is a Canadian website/blog that features Canadian focused deals and bargains. Taya’s beautifully laid out website features all sorts of practical tips that are organized in such a way that makes finding the information you need a breeze! This includes budgeting tips, household tips such as organizing ideas, and much more. There are also sections that help you find Canadian coupons, and special deals. She even has exclusive Canadian coupon codes, so definitely worth your while to visit.
  4. Shoestring Cottage – is another British money saving blog. Oops, I guess my obsession with all things British is really showing itself here! This is another comforting blog that eases you in to your frugal lifestyle – especially if being money conscious is a relatively new idea to you. Jane posts frugal recipes, tips on saving on secondhand clothes, and is another one who posts Five Frugal Things posts that are awesome fun to read.
  5. Costco East Fan Blog and Costco West Fan Blog are two new blogs I recently discovered, and am amazed by! Each Monday, the writers go on a shopping trip to Costco locations in Canada to find all the secret sales and deals for that week! This is an incredible resource for Costco members who like to plan ahead, and budget for their shopping trip. These tips help you know when it’s time to stock up on a truly great deal on your favourite Costco items! (Whether that is toilet paper, spices, or OTC medicines.) And, I LOVE that they have two separate blogs- one for Eastern Canada, and one for Western Canada – because Costco sales can definitely be dependent upon region.
  6. Notes from the Frugal Trenches – is what I call a ‘comfort blog.’ Just as we sometimes reach for a piece of (ahem! I usually reach for a BAR of) chocolate or a bag of potato chips, there are some blogs that bestow upon us the same feeling of comfort as a portion of our favourite comfort foods. FT is a Mom of 3 living in Toronto, and has what may seem like overwhelming challenges in her life. And yet, she carries on like such a trooper, and makes life sweet on a very limited income. Her kindness emanates from her every word. Bonus points for: Her humanity. AND, how she squeezes delicious meals for herself and her children on a very VERY tight budget. Inspirational indeed. (This one hasn’t been updated in a while, but I love going through her old posts.)
  7. The Frugal Girl – is an incredibly popular American blog that features recipes, reviews, “What I Spent, What We Ate” posts about grocery spending, and much more. A very easy-to-read blog.
  8. The Frugal Canadian – is a site with all sorts of freebies and contests for Canadians, and other money saving ideas. All Canadian content, which is super helpful!
  9. Nana Pinches Her Pennies – is an American blog that is lovingly low-tech, and very raw in its realness. The writer shares her tips on how to live on a very low income. When you read her writing she sort of feels like your own Grandma, too. Bonus points for: wanting to hug the brave writer!
  10. Our New Life in the Country – is a beautifully written blog about a woman named Sue, who with the love of her life switched from a busy town life to one settled in the Welsh countryside. This blog is actually retired now, but Sue has created a new blog about even simpler living in a trailer (caravan) that she writes at A Smaller Life Living Simply. Bonus points for: the adorable pug named Suky!

This list of 10 favourite frugal blogs is, of course, just scratching the surface! The Internet is awash with beautifully written blogs that really help us frugalites try to stay on budget. Please leave a comment if one of the above frugal blogs is your favourite too, OR let us know about one we didn’t include. Happy frugal living, all!