Giving in to the urge to give!

Two observations that I've noticed over the years: 1) Everyone wants to change the world in t… Read More

Getting back on the (blogging) horse.

This time last year, my poor little blog was much better treated...but sometimes, life conspires against updates. And, of course, it's much easier to keep something moving than to start it from a stop… Read More

On wishing for more time...and finding it (sort of).

I seem to have a lot going on right now - and I feel like I shouldn't say that, because everyone says that. But between my 70 contest/day minimum (see my article on how I upgrade my lifestyle throu… Read More

Eight reasons to be glad it's January (and nearly February)!

1. Settling back into some kind of routine. With Christmas comes parties, glitter, presents,… Read More

Benefiting from your benefits!

My laundry list of general wants that would make my life better is extensive, as is most people's. An extra hour of sleep every morning, perfect teeth, perfect vision, time at the spa, fewer (or no!)… Read More

Giving in to the urge to give!

money photo

Two observations that I’ve noticed over the years:

1) Everyone wants to change the world in their own way.

2) That goal seems so insurmountable that almost no one starts.

One of the challenges that I’ve always had with charitable giving is how faceless everything is. You give to XYZ charity with the very best of intentions – my particular causes tend to revolve around the arts, helping children, and giving a hand up to people who are homeless and trying to dig themselves back out and into society – but find yourself wondering how much of your $10/$20/$100/$whatever goes to actually helping and how much just continues to keep the paper being pushed in the great administrative wheel.

And then I learned about microphilanthropy, and my charitable giving world changed. Microphilanthropy is essentially a person-to-person (or person to group) method of giving.  The first introduction I had to it was a few Christmases ago, when I read a newspaper story on the website Homeless Partners , which was a local charity that allowed people who were homeless or just really, really down on their luck to post a list of one or two items that they wanted for Christmas. Awash in the general warm fuzziness of the holidays already, this was an idea that immediately jived with my personal ethos. I want to help the individual, not the entity – and that’s hard to do with the way charities are often organized.

So I scrolled through the lists of presents people wanted. Unsurprisingly, most of them were things like ‘warm boots, size 8’, or ‘a Tim Hortons gift card, so I can warm up my fingers on a cold day’. Making sure that one person had warmer fingers inspired me vastly more than a faceless organization claiming to help the masses. (I do, for the record, recognize that they do invaluable work, but it just isn’t a close enough person-to-person connection to inspire me). And I chose a fellow named Joe, in his mid fifties, who wanted a winter jacket and a Tim Hortons gift card. (My experience working in welfare showed me that homeless single white males in their mid-fifties have it the hardest – they tend to be the least resourced group and in need of the most help). So I bought it, wrapped it up, wrote a card to go with it, and dropped it  off. And you know what? That $50 brought me so much more satisfaction than the hundreds I’d given the rest of the year.

So on a crummy day, I’ll sometimes go to a microphilanthropy site and see whose life I can improve. Another favourite site is Kiva, which is a site that takes people from around the developing world who need assistance and provides them with loans. That’s right, not a gift, but what they need right then to get them back on their feet or on their way to a better life. You buy credit from Kiva, choose your person and their project, and loan them your chosen amount. They then pay it back over a period of months or years (and the default rate is absurdly small), and you then have that money to lend all over again.

So on a rainy, gloomy day where a myriad of tiny things had gone wrong, I headed over to Kiva to see if I could make the world a better place. I chose Hannah, a single mother of four in Kenya, who needed $175 to buy fertilizer to grow her crops and keep her children and herself out of poverty. My $25, when taken in context of what she needed, was not a small drop in the bucket anymore. And so in a little way, Hannah’s life is on the upturn and I feel like I’m helping society in a direct way.

If you want to join Kiva, click here and sign up. It’s $25 that will make you feel much better than that fifteenth sweater, I promise!

Lastly, consider Breakfast Clubs of Canada. You know what  kids need to learn? Not iPads. Not the latest and greatest series of lessons or Baby Einsteins. They need food in their stomachs. And for a lot of kids, that’s not the given that it is for mine, who is wont to demand cranberries AND raisins AND almonds on her cereal. So if you want to make your own neighbourhood a better, safer, happier place for the kids, consider directing your money somewhere it will really impact the start of a six year old’s day.

So, inch by inch, life is a cinch. Yard by yard, it’s very hard. And I’m now spending my donation money in inches rather than yards, and I’m so much happier for it. Joe having warm fingers on a chilly January day and Hannah being able to raise crops and send her kids to school – that brings me joy in a way that giving to a large organization never could.

PS I’ve been advised to add that I was not compensated by anyone nor by any of the charities listed for this – just as an FYI!

Getting back on the (blogging) horse.

This time last year, my poor little blog was much better treated…but sometimes, life conspires against updates. And, of course, it’s much easier to keep something moving than to start it from a stopped position – I’m sure there’s a law in physics somewhere that specifies that. Layoffs, new jobs, family changes and a multitude of other things have left me with a massive writer’s block the size of Nunavut (small Canadian territory primarily comprised of frozen tundra).

So this morning, at 4:45am, I find myself awake (due to small child with sleep issues), and getting ready to head out to Blissdom. This time last year, I was much better prepared, and summed up my Blissdom experience here. Last year, it gave focus, drive and a clearer plan to blog. For 2014, as I head out to the wilds of Mississauga, I need it to give me the impetus to get back in the blogging saddle again.

Blissdom, here I come – let’s get this show back on the road!

On wishing for more time…and finding it (sort of).

I seem to have a lot going on right now – and I feel like I shouldn’t say that, because everyone says that.

But between my 70 contest/day minimum (see my article on how I upgrade my lifestyle through contests here), working full time at a new job that is much more demanding with the immediate learning curve required, a very busy two year old, a Board of Director position on a local theatre board, date nights (which involve some work usually – see my article on mystery shopping here),  blogging, wanting to see friends and family, and just regular life stuff, it feels overwhelming.

It reached a crisis point a few days ago when I didn’t meet my (self-directed) contest entering minimum and had a slight meltdown, convinced that all of our interesting life activities were going to shudder to a grinding halt because I’d missed a day. This was clearly just minor crazy speaking, caused by overscheduling. But something has to change, or I need to find more hours in the day.

Here’s the thing. We all have exactly the same number of hours in the day that others have had: Marie Curie, Mother Theresa, Newton, Galileo, Leonardo da Vinci, LM Montgomery, Taylor Swift, Benjamin Franklin, Bach, Nikola Tesla, among others. (Yes, I *did* include Taylor Swift in the same comparison with Nikola Tesla. And that’s why you love me. But she has cranked out a seriously impressive number of songs for an early 20something). So in terms of accomplishments, clearly you can manage quite a few in the same number of hours that I have. And often more, as some of these folks statistically had far shorter lifespan expectations than we do.

So now what? I took a couple of minutes and made a list of priorities, and then figured out how I could accomplish them.

Here are some tips on managing time that I got from my inside-my-head adventure:

1) Put it in your calendar! This prevents double booking, but also ensures that priorities don’t get set aside for making dinners and playing endless games of Facebook Scrabble. If it’s important to you, carve out the time. You’re the most vital piece of your universe – so treat yourself kindly, and make time for what you need to feel sane and (somewhat) balanced.

2) Stop goofing off on the Interwebs! Seriously. You could spend literally all day reading Facebook feeds and clicking onto articles. Jot down a list of things you want to look up as they occur to you (origins of Daylight Savings Time, anyone?) and then set aside half an hour to actually do it, rather than interrupting what you’re in the middle of because you can’t remember Jennifer Aniston’s character’s last name in Friends.

3) If it takes less than 5 minutes, do it now. I have spent WAY more than 5 minutes reminding myself to pay the property tax bill/call a friend to check in/make an oil change appointment. If it’s less than five minutes, you’ve saved time by doing it right away when you think of it.

4) Outsource where you can. We have a miraculous teenager that we know as a friend of the family, who is reliable, hardworking and smart. She comes over and cleans for us for a couple hours a week and also babysits K for us once in awhile. She likes the cash, and it means that when I do have spare time, it’s not spent washing floors. Everyone knows someone who has teenagers, and I suspect that if you offered said teenager money to mow your lawn/plug your friends’ birthdays into your iPhone calendar/clean your kitchen/cook you three meals a week and deliver them to your freezer/whatever, they’d be delighted.

5) Ask for help, and swap services. Maybe your Mom can take the kids to the park on Saturday mornings. Maybe your husband can do the grocery shopping every second week. Your best friend the fabulous cook? Ask her to make you a new recipe and a stack of meals for your birthday present.  Maybe one of the other parents in your kid’s class wants to drive to soccer on Thursdays if you can do Tuesdays. Who knows? Think outside the box!

6) Eat that frog. Mark Twain once said “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” (Oddly, I went to elementary school with his great granddaughter). What he meant was that you should start the day with the task you’ve been dreading most. Whatever your personal frog is, deal with it right away. Desperately avoiding that meeting? Get it over with at 9am. Procrastinating because your history homework is due? Eat that historic amphibian, baby. You’ll immediately feel a huge sense of relief and accomplishment that will propel you through the rest of your day.

7) Make the regular life needs easier. We also, once in awhile, get meals from a local caterer who delivers. That way, if I know I won’t have the energy or inclination to cook, I have a stack of genuinely good quality frozen meals ready to put in the oven. Healthier than pizza, better quality than your local takeout place and roughly the same price. And when you are cooking, always make enough to have leftovers – it’s no more work, but you’ll have something to heat up or bring for lunch later on in the week.

8) Lower your standards. This one is a challenge, but I realize that there are going to be days where I can only enter 30 contests. Or where I may need to send an email instead of a card in order for it to arrive in time for a birthday. Your 10 year old may not make their bed quite the way you like it, but you know what? That’s okay. They need to learn how anyways. Kids are ideal for activities such as matching socks, unloading the dishwasher and folding laundry, and as they get older, for things like making casseroles once or twice a week when they get home from school. Assign a day that’s ‘their’ dinner night, and they can make whatever they want for the family. And unless it’s inedible, don’t criticize – this is a learning process for everybody! – but feel free to suggest recipes.

9) Get enough sleep! Skimping on sleep (which to me means less than 7 hours a night) is going to make things harder, not create more time. Being constantly tired will make you fuzzy headed, more likely to get sick and it will take you longer to do simple things. So try not to make that your “cost saving measure”.

What about you? What do you do to make more time in the day?


Eight reasons to be glad it’s January (and nearly February)!

January photo

1. Settling back into some kind of routine.

With Christmas comes parties, glitter, presents, carols and generalized throwing out of the status quo and regular routine. This is exciting but EXHAUSTING, particularly if you’re a parent. The onset of January is a relief in some ways – while I miss turning the Christmas tree lights on every morning, a part of me breathed a huge sign of relief to have everything back in its place again.

2. Sales! Sales! Sales!

If there are things you wanted for Christmas (or didn’t realize that you wanted), and have been a diligent saver, this is your time to indulge. I tend to save a little bit a month for a modest shopping spree in January. Everything is marked down as retailers try to make some sales in what is otherwise a dreary financial month.

3. A fresh start.

Anne of Green Gables once noted that each day is a new one, with no mistakes in it yet! This goes doubly for a new year – it’s the ideal time to reinvent yourself. Want to become a pilates-doing, lasagna cooking super Martha? Somehow it’s easier to start that in January than August.

4. The days have officially started getting longer.

If you cringe at the ‘dark when you get to work and dark when you leave’ situation that December brings, rest assured that it’s improving. By March, you’ll have light at both ends, and it’s probably (hopefully!) no longer dark when you head home.

5. Valentine’s Day and Family Day.

I’m in BC, which has a new February holiday…the prospect of a long weekend can lift even the dimmest of spirits. And chocolate and pink sparklies everywhere. Regardless of whether you’re single or coupled, the themey-ness is awesome.

6. A new set of benefit and vacation allowances!

Just the prospect of vacation in the future can make you feel better – whether you’re staying home or going somewhere glam, you have a brand new year of time to spend doing what you choose with it. Please note that you should use it! Don’t be one of those statistics that baffles me about people who don’t take their time off. WHY, people, WHY? You’ll never sit down in twenty years and regret working less, let me assure you.

The other bonus is a new set of benefit allowances – see my post here on the benefit of benefits.

7. Your favourite TV show is back from the holiday hiatus.

And if you’re madly ensconced in Downton Abbey or Parenthood – that’s good news!

8. Comfort food.

Soup and stew and warm solid foods are what the winter is all about. One of the best things on a January night is to come home to a crockpot full of bubbling hot chili and some cheesy bread to go alongside it.

So next time you’re grumbling about winter, it’s not all bad. And those blustery nights are awesome for a book and a mug of cocoa.

Benefiting from your benefits!

My laundry list of general wants that would make my life better is extensive, as is most people’s. An extra hour of sleep every morning, perfect teeth, perfect vision, time at the spa, fewer (or no!) migraines, and I could go on ad nauseum – you would probably recognize and identify with a number of items on that list.

While some of these seem like the proverbial pie in the sky items, they are closer to achievable than one would think at first glance. Why?

Benefits, my dear Watson.

A great many jobs come with an extended benefits package which covers things like vision care, dental, medication, and paramedical services (massage, chiropractics, etc). It never ceases to boggle my mind how many people don’t read through their benefits packages. Why would you not take advantage of your employer paying for some (or in some cases, all) of a massage or chiropractic treatment? Think of the quality of life increase that you could have! Most providers that have a vision care coverage component will allow that to be put towards laser eye surgery…and the costs of that have come down substantially over the years as well.

If your spouse has coverage, you should check whether or not you can put the two together – it’s known as ‘umbrella’ coverage in some circles. What that means is that I have $800 every two years for optical coverage. My husband has $500 every two years, which means that if I wanted to get laser eye surgery, I would have $1300 to put towards it, which is huge.

We also have excellent massage coverage, which covers all of my massages up to the first $1500. And I can go anywhere, as long as it’s a registered massage therapist. The immediate leap that this brought to my brain was: Wait! Spas have RMTs! I can go to the fanciest spa in town and use their facilities and snack and be all posh! And someone else will reimburse me! That’s BRILLIANT! And that, boys and girls, is exactly what I do.

Sometimes, spas will have bonuses when you buy a gift card of a certain denomination, usually at Christmas. So you buy the gift card, get the bonus, use the gift card to pay for the massage, get reimbursed via extended benefits, and voila! You get to keep the gift, and are not out of pocket – everyone wins.

What work benefits do you have that you appreciate? What do you wish that your employer offered as a benefit?


The critters of Kangaroo Island.

When last we left, Jon and our friend James and I were living the high life on our wine tour of the McLaren and Barossa regions.

It was now time for the highlight of our tour – the wildlife! Give me some kangaroos, and a home among the gum trees, people! (I now actually know what a gum tree is, which answers a longstanding question from an Australian song we used to sing in my music class in 6th grade).

It seemed that there were only four people under the age of 70 on this trip – Jon and I, and a young couple honeymooning from France, Jacques and Maxette. This had both pros and cons. On the one hand, it meant that we were taken directly to each destination, and then given time to wander on our own. On the other, getting on and off the bus was excruciatingly slow. And we know how much I love slow!

The sights were well worth it though. I had envisioned a zoo or wildlife preserve-type of environment, where we’d be separated by water or cages or ravines or something. What I hadn’t expected was this:

feeding the wallaby

The kangaroos and wallabies are just hopping around, minding their own business, focused on acquiring food from enchanted tourists (see exhibit A above) and napping. It’s a good life.

We went to a pelican feeding on a dock, where they actually sat down beside you. This was a bit nerve wracking – they are POWERFUL birds. You don’t want to get in the way of a pelican’s lunch, let me tell you!

pelican 2

The one that has had the most impact on our day to day life is the echidna. It’s kind of like a porcupine and we brought a little plastic figurine of one for Kate. It now goes in her pocket wherever she goes, and there is no pain like stepping on a plastic echidna in the middle of the night!


We saw myriads of sea lions, at the aptly named Sea Lion Bay, and it felt almost like spying, it was so completely natural.

sea lions

sea lion closeup

We went to a koala forest, where they just snoozed along in the trees…it must be a good life!

koala 2

And to finish off our wilderness tally, random peacocks, in full colour!


So that, ladies and gents, was our trek to the wilderness of Kangaroo Island. I saw creatures I’d only read about, lived someone else’s life for a week, and generally loved Australia. Aside from crazily high food prices, and the enormous variety of poisonous snakes and spiders, it would be a wonderful place to live.

Back to the world and real life, and hello Christmas time!







Living the high life – food and wineries!

So everyone’s heard of Australian wine. And I know that I’m the only person in the world who doesn’t like wine. There’s an irony inherent in me being on a madly expensive wine tour with a private driver that I appreciate.

We set off with Mary Anne from Taste of South Australia on our trek to the McLaren Vale with Jon and our friend James. It’s beautiful, rolling countryside with vineyards and birdsong and every now and then, a randomly frolicking critter.

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And, of course, tacky tourist photo ops:

Adelaide days 1-3 098

We went to about half a dozen vineyards, had several fantastic meals and I ended up actually finding a sparkling white wine or two that I was willing to taste without making what is deemed as “THE FACE” (it involves an expression much like sucking on a lemon).

Jon and James, on the other hand, were pleased as punch and we all ended our afternoon here:

Adelaide days 1-3 118

Next up, the wild and wonderful creatures of Kangaroo Island!

And we’re off to see the Wizard!


Adelaide 009

Of Oz, that is. And by Oz, we mean the country of Australia rather than the Oz populated by Scarecrow and the Tin Man (though I’d love to see them too!).

The backstory here is that late last year, Elle Canada had a contest to win a trip to Kangaroo Island, which is a nature preserve off the coast of Adelaide. It has beach kangaroos. Beach kangaroos, people! I entered that contest EVERY SINGLE DAY for months, and then early in January, I found out that I’d won – dancing and glee ensued.

We had to formulate a babycare plan as the trip activities were already included and K would probably not do so well at the winery tours. (Green blankie might give her away, as would trying to get the wine put into her sippie cup). Luckily, we have a very supportive family and compiled a team comprised of both sets of parents and our daycare provider to man the fort for twelve long days while we ran off.

I’m normally a fantastic packer, having been from Bali to Bulgaria and back again. Attempting to juggle a twelve day packing job for Kate with getting the house set up for us being away and work and getting myself packed apparently didn’t go very well. This was not helped along by the sole weather report I checked the week before which listed the weather at 28 degrees. It was a bit of a shock to my system when we got here and it was 16 and all I had packed was sundresses and sandals.

But we’ve soldiered on and it’s been lovely!

Adelaide days 1-3 002

We left on Wednesday Nov 6th, with Air NZ via Auckland. I’ve flown Air NZ before (on a previous trip that we won on our honeymoon) and was genuinely impressed. This time, we had paid the $50 each for premium seats. I thought somehow that we had paid to be upgraded to premium economy, but this was not the case – I felt the website could have been clearer that all we were paying for was an ever-so-slightly roomier seat and no other benefits. The flight was looong (14 hours to Auckland on leg 1) but went quickly in that weird no-mans-land time stasis that happens on long international flights. Air NZ has a brilliant new safety video that was so entertaining I *actually* watched it! It stars Betty White – no need to say more. Staff were funny and friendly and we were well fed and watered – all of my flight requirements were met. I’d like to try out their premium economy at some point and see what the difference is.

We arrived in Adelaide 30 hours later, hideously jetlagged but ready to take on the city. First stop, lovely hotel at the Majestic Rooftop Gardens. Jon loved the gym being open 24 hours. I loved that the staff were willing to scan documents for me so that I could send prize releases in for things I was winning while over here (thanks Daniel!). And it was walking distance to everywhere we needed,. Not having to deal with transport and being able to just wander to where I’m going is AWESOME.

Adelaide days 1-3 014

First stop, Central Market. Many organic things. Much food.

Adelaide 004

Adelaide 007

Our friend James happened to be in town as well, so we got some collective wandering in.

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Jon and I went to see the big event of the day, the annual Adelaide Christmas parade. It was crowded with delighted children dressed as elves. The parade itself was weirdly unfestive. The floats were cool and had a variety of themes – lots of storybook motifs – and at one point there was a zombie house. What about pirate ships and zombies doesn’t scream ‘Christmas’ to you?

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The end of Day Two culminated in a trip to the Botanical Gardens, where we ran across the Tree of Drunken Parrots. Really. Apparently the parrots are drawn to the nectar from the blossoms of this particular tree in the gardens, and then they drink so much that they get drunk and can’t fly away again. So you can hear the cacophony of bird squawking from all over, and the tree is so full of parrots that you can see the branches move. It’s slightly insane but makes really good bird photos easy to achieve.

Adelaide days 1-3 080

More later on the Great Winery Tours.

Sleep, wondrous sleep.

Sleep 2

I yawn as I type this, which is an irony in and of itself. If there’s one thing where our society has gone downhill, it’s in getting enough sleep. With the kajillion different ways we now have to stay up and the endless parade of more information and games and tasks, it’s easier than ever to stay up that extra hour and play another game of Facebook Scrabble.

Sleep 4

Prior to the late 1800s, adults got around 9 hours of sleep a night. That dropped by an entire hour within less than twenty five years. Why, you ask? The invention of the light bulb suddenly made it possible to finish that novel after dark without having to burn through your supply of candles. And that was just the beginning. The OECD had a report in 2006 which said that Canadians sleep an average of 8.5 hours/night, but no one I know actually gets that much. The US Center for Disease Control considered it an epidemic, according to a report they issued back in March.

Sleep 3

Sleep needs are made up of your basal sleep need, which is what you actually need every night, and your sleep debt, which is that massive wall of snoozing that you haven’t gotten because of that great new book/Candy Crush/watching too much late night TV.

What are the effects of all of these missing zzzzzzs? Lots. Here are just a couple:

Transport Canada estimates that 20% of fatal collisions are caused by fatigue, and that the most problematic times are around your body’s circadian rhythms (sleepy times, in laymen’s terms) of 2-4am and 2-4pm. So there’s that. Driving sleepy is apparently as dangerous as driving drunk.

Not getting enough sleep impairs your immune system, has been shown to have a correlation with weight gain, and is terrible for your skin. When you’re sleep deprived, your body releases more of the sleep hormone cortisol, which breaks down collagen and ages your skin.

Being tired makes me (and others that I know) crabby. Which affects not only people I work with who like me more when I’m not so tired, but also my relationships with family and friends. I find I have much more patience for K attempting to bring all four of her stuffed friends into the car (Donkey, Monkey, Teddy and Eeyore) with a full eight hours behind me than I do if I’ve tried to squeak by at 6.5.

Sleep 1

So what can we do to get more (and better quality) sleep? There are a million (and that may be literal) websites that have sleep tips, so I’m just going to tell you what’s worked for me personally.

1) Have a routine.

Humans are built on routine. If you do the same thing at roughly the same time every night, it will begin to trigger your brain to start thinking ‘zzzzz’. I have an evening shower, and the warm water cues my melatonin to start kicking in.

2) Stop checking the Internet and playing on your phone an hour before bed.

This is the hardest one, and I’m not always roaringly successful at it. The blue light that emits from all of our beloved gadgets also makes it harder for your body to get into sleep mode. I’ve found that the nights where I’m playing those last few games of Scramble right before bed are the nights when my sleep is the most choppy.

3) Wear pyjamas that are the right temperature.

It’s kind of a Goldilocks thing. Not too hot, not too cold. I can’t sleep unless I’m just the right temperature. This sometimes leads to midnight pyjama changes, to the bemusement of my husband.

4) Have a snack half an hour before bed.

Preferably something like cereal or toast with peanut butter. I Iike to think of it as a warmup for breakfast. That way, your tummy is full and you won’t wake up starving at 2am.

5) Swap off with the other parent.

This applies only if you have small people. You should each get a day where you get to sleep in and the other person takes over baby duties. It can be the same day each week or flexible based on job schedules, but everyone deserves at least one day where they can catch an extra hour or two.

6) If you can’t sleep, try one of these: listen to piano music. Recite the alphabet backwards. Count down from 100 – in French.

What do you do to get shut-eye, folks? Enquiring minds want to know!

What are your

Small people – adorable but expensive!

Under the table

We’ve all heard that having a child from 0 to 18 will cost you a whackload of money – according to the Huffington Post, approximately $235000. Is the cuteness and general life changing joy of having a tiny person of your own with your DNA worth a quarter million dollars? Most parents I know (myself included) would say yes. While I recognize that the sticker shock may be making the hair on your eyebrows stand on end, it isn’t as bad as it initially appears.

A lot of those expenses are gradual, and some of them are optional. The three major child expenses are diapers, food and STUFF. (Note: This presupposes that you are Canadian and will be on maternity leave for a year and do not have any additional health care expenses due to universal health care, so daycare and health costs are not noted here).

Let’s deal with diapers first: a lot of the data I read had quoted me up to $100 a month for the first year for disposable diapers, and the outlay for cloth diapers ran about the same (taking into account the initial costs for the diapers themselves). While the tiny environmentalist on my shoulder cried a little with each disposable I used, the first six months were just so overwhelming that I couldn’t add anything else to it. Particularly when that ‘something’ would have entailed rinsing out cloth diapers in a sink in our 700 square foot apartment while pumping, feeding and trying to have the odd shower myself. So disposables it was. I’ve tracked our diaper cost at between $35 – $50/month, with the average being about $40. How does this happen? There’s a variety of factors that come into play…primarily combining coupons and sales, and early toilet training. The latter will depend entirely on the child – I have a girl, and apparently they train more quickly and earlier, so I expect her completely out of diapers a few months after age 2.

What I did was chose a points program that worked for me (Shoppers Optimum), always used the same brand of diapers (Pampers) and ensured that I made all of my purchases there, always on sale and on double points days. I would save up the coupons I would order online from PG Brandsaver, wait for a diaper sale day, and then stock up using the coupons on the sale price, getting roughly 120 diapers for $35. This would make it equivalent to the price of the cheapest box store, but would come with the bonus of getting points for it. Once every three months, I would have enough points to buy $100 of baby supplies and other items completely FREE (although you do still have to pay the taxes).

If you register for the e-club of the points program of your choice, you’ll also get bonus coupons that will give you more points when you buy items that were on your list anyways. And depending on what type of diapers you use, they’ll often have loyalty rewards too.



Food for infants and babies is a fairly hot button issue. Obviously, a big piece of this is whether or not you’re able to/choose to breastfeed, as the first six months is nearly a complete liquid diet. If you’re breastfeeding only, obviously that issue solves itself. I would recommend a double electric breast pump to get some additional milk to freeze so that Elvis can occasionally leave the building, or in case of an emergency if you need to be away – having milk available will mean one less stress if a situation pops up. If you’re doing a hybrid of formula and breastfeeding or completely formula feeding, either by choice, not enough milk or just pure sanity, you’ll need to purchase formula. I’m not going to get into the enormous (and in my opinion, judgey and unjustified) political debate that surrounds breastfeeding/formula feeding. I assume that you, reader, are making the best choice for you and your family and that’s good enough for me! Formula feeding requires bottles and formula (obviously). Once again, use your points program and use it well. Choose a formula based on your particular infant, and then sign up with the company to get coupons and samples sent in the mail. Generally speaking, once you’ve found one that works for your baby, you probably won’t change, so when you see it on sale and have coupons, stock up!

I started our daughter on people food at just over four months (the health folks changed it to six months about a year ago, but four months worked fine for us! If you start too early, babies have a tongue thrust reflex that means they’ll just spit it back out at you – it’s a survival instinct). I gave her infant cereal, but also started her with pureed fruits and veggies right off the bat. Most other countries start babies on real food immediately once they’re able to process solids, and it seems to be just North Americans that have this whole ‘only cereal for a month’ thing. We did about half and half jarred versus homemade…essentially, you just steam stuff and blend it. Easy, yes? Soon enough, they’re eating whatever you eat, and your baby food expenditures just get lumped into general groceries.


Oh, baby gear. The baby is so small, yet the gear is SO LARGE. There are a ton of people and places and institutions who solely exist to SELL YOU RANDOM CRAP.

Get what you actually need. Not what the fine folks at Babies R Us say you need. Or the shiny new baby store in the posh part of town says you need. But what you ACTUALLY need. The basics for the first six months (according to me) are:

*onesies and pants (weather appropriate)


*hats (sunhat if summer, fuzzy hat if winter)


*jacket, coat or baby bunting suit for winter

*somewhere for the baby to sleep (bassinet? crib? Etc). Buy used.

*a baby monitor (depending on the size of your house. We had a teeny apartment and didn’t need one right away)

*swaddling blankets

*bottles (if formula feeding, and also if breast feeding, so someone else can feed with pumped milk and you can escape for a few minutes. Seriously. Leave. It will be better for everyone for you to walk around the block once or twice every day).

*diapers (either cloth or disposable)

*diaper cream

*wipes (or cloths, whatever you prefer)

*baby towel

*baby washcloths

*carseat (be aware that you cannot buy this in the US as it will not have the Transport Canada approval stamp. This means that if you were in an accident, you could lose coverage. Don’t do it. That level of risk is NOT worth saving a few bucks).

*stroller (always buy used or on a really good sale)

*baby carrier (also known as a sling, or at my house, the ‘baby hands-free kit)

*soothers (some people would argue that this is not a need. They did not have my daughter)

*high chair (also buy used)


Some of what *I* considered  fairly essential:


*swaddling sleep sack (that’s a lot of alliteration!)

*mobile (this kept her contented for AGES)

*Bumbo (the baby got to sit up! Without me holding her up all the time! This was genius. The usual common sense rules of ‘don’t leave child unattended on high surface’ and ‘wait for head control apply’).

*double electric breast pump and freezer bags (I liked the Medela freestyle). (NB: I pumped exclusively for the first five months, so this was something I used six times a day and I got the most expensive one possible that suited my needs).

*dangly toys and books for the stroller and to play with on the floor.

*diaper genie. Enough said.

*glider to rock the baby in…also for you to snooze while rocking said baby.


*exersaucer to keep her busy so that you can make a variety of pureed items which will all look slightly gross, no matter how delectable the actual food itself is.

What you DON’T need:


*those weird wedge things that keep babies on their backs. Come on people. They can’t roll over for the first while, and once they can, it’s a bit of a moot point.

*a fancy layette set. Blankets in cribs aren’t recommended anyways, so really? A couple of hundred dollars in bedding that isn’t recommended?

*bottle sterilizer. Use your dishwasher. End of story.

*shoes. I know I’ll get flack for this, but Kate didn’t wear shoes until she was starting to stand. Why? Because she wasn’t going anywhere.

crazy crib

*crazily expensive cribs/strollers/etc. If it goes into the higher three digits, and definitely into the four digit range, it’s just crazy talk. The child will chew on the $2000 crib the same way she’ll chew on the $400 one. Stop the madness.

*those things that tell you if the bathwater is too hot. Use your elbow. It’s free. And presumably, you won’t lose it amongst the other random baby items.

What weird stuff did you get for the baby that you never used? Or what did you consider essential that isn’t listed?