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Archive of ‘Monthly Money Challenges’ category

Monique’s July Challenge: Master of My Domain

VICTORY!

My July challenge was to decide on a new name for my freelance business and register the domain name.

And I did it!

It’s such a small thing but in reality, this took forever to accomplish. For the past seven years, my freelance biz went by Monique Elliot Media. For a while, I liked it: it’s a super simple name and super clear.

At least that’s what I thought.

It’s a pretty meh name for a freelance journalist and content creator’s small business. It reminded clients of my actual name, told them that I was a one-woman shop, and… then told them virtually nothing about the services I offer. “Media” is simply too broad. And kinda boring.

I had to admit it: I was one of the 71 per cent of Canadians who knew “not much” about domain names, according to a recent research by the Canadian Internet Regulation Authority (CIRA).

Well, no mo’ of that! The work I do is anything but boring! I’ve worked for startups, scale-ups, corporations, and government departments across five industries and counting.

Fresh Ideas, Fresh Content, Fresh Start

My challenge, which I chose to accept and then push to the back burner about 12 times, was to choose a name that defines my business, will grow alongside my services and skills, and suit my personality.

The most hilarious thing was that I came up with the perfect name nine months ago – I just didn’t know it. I was building a website as a short-lived online resume for a potential employer and used the hashtag #ContentChameleon to describe my services – I can write in a variety of “voices” to suit my clients’ needs.

I was going through old projects recently (okay, okay, I was doing a digital clean up and reorganizing old files. Who actually reminisces about past projects?) and found a screenshot of the site.

The Lightbulb Moment

It’s a total cliché (and, in my opinion, totally permissible alliteration) but the lightbulb went on: ChameleonContent.ca

Now, depending on when you read this, the website may or may not be fully up and running, which is why my placeholder site is a lifesaver in the meantime.

I spent literal days trying to decide on a name – something unique, that hadn’t already been registered, and didn’t cost crazy cash to buy. The most epic solution had also been chilling in plain sight: I went to CIRA.ca to purchase my domain name with a .ca ending.

I recently edited a series of articles for CIRA through my work with non-profit Startup Canada. The series profiled Canadian small business owners (SBOs) about how a .ca suffix improved their businesses online.

While I can’t believe it took me so long to finally complete this challenge, it doesn’t have to be the same for you. Check out CIRA’s free e-book about how to choose a domain name and some basic information about how to get started.

Mo’ Progress, Mo’ Hydration!

Now, my August challenge? Mo’ hydration!

I don’t know if you’ve realized this yet but Canadian summers are HOT.

I’ve been steadily increasing my water intake all summer (a telltale sign that someone doesn’t have A/C) and August promises to be extra hot and humid in Ottawa, despite all the rain we’ve been getting. So my goal is to drink three litres (just shy of a gallon) of water every day.

Why choose drinking water for this month’s challenge? August is World Water Month! Plus, I want to see if there is an actual difference in how I feel now compared to the end of the month. I feel like I’m on the verge of big changes, and it’s important to maintain basic health and wellness while going for epic changes professionally, mentally, and (obviously) physically.

High fives and good vibes,

Monique 🙂

Karyn’s July Challenge: Babies be EXPENSIVE (AKA I Learned Nothing New)

Sorry if the title is a tad misleading, but no, I ain’t no mama yet! Though one day I would like to be. This got me wondering about the cost of raising kids, and why we millennials are never really taught about those kind of expenses. Also, the majority of our generation isn’t super focused on having kids “right now”.

Many of our parents had us in their mid-twenties, while their parents had kids even younger. Starting a family used to be top priority, but today it’s seen as more of a relaxed choice.

For my June Challenge, I wanted to do a little research and find out how much it would cost to take care of a baby for just one month. I decided to focus on newborn finances instead of an older kid because that first month has probably the steepest learning curve. So here is what I found out.

DIAPERS

Did ya’ll know that those kewt, tiny babies can be serious poop machines?! They can go through 10-15 diapers a DAY for the first month!!! Good lawd!

On a trip to Walmart (cuz you all know you’ve been to one), I found a Super Pack of Swaddlers Diapers for $29.97 + tax. It contained 70 diapers, but since we know a baby can blast through 10 a day, that pack would be gone in less than a week! This means that you would at least need a minimum of four packs of these bad boys to sustain you for one month. That comes out to $119.88 + tax, JUST. FOR. POOP!!!!

CLOTHES

Many people throw baby showers and receive oodles of adorbs baby outfits as gifts. I’ve run this challenge off the idea of not having a shower, since there are people who opt out of them or just don’t have one, for various reasons.

Personally when it comes to clothes I’m probably going to frequent thrift stores since my little bundle of joy is going to grow like a weed. Since there are people who do buy their precious some sweet duds, I did a little online shopping.

I figured since I would be birthing a poop monster, they would need a onesie for every day of the week, at least two sets of PJs, four pairs of pants (did I mention they poop?!) and four shirts #minimalistlifestyle.

After shopping around on a couple of sites like Walmart, Carter’s, Old Navy and Target, I was able to keep my total to under $200 bucks. This still doesn’t take into account of the vomit, snot, and general mess that comes with a baby. So $200 for a haul of clothes that would be out of commission almost instantly is ludicrous!

FORMULA

Not everyone breastfeeds their babies. That’s just a basic fact. Not all babies can have breast milk (allergies are just one example) and not all mothers can produce it. This means that formula can be crucial to a baby’s growth.

I never realized how gosh darn complicated formula is. Depending on how much your baby weighs it can vary how much formula you give them. According to BabyCentre.com, they suggest you give your baby 2.5 ounces of formula for every pound of body weight. They also mention that it varies whether the child is hungry or not. Some days they’ll want more, some days they’ll want less.

Browsing more baby stores than I care to admit (on the interwebs, of course), I found TheITBaby.com, which did the math for me (thank gawd) using a Target brand of formula.

Consider the following:

Month 1: a 7-pounder bundle of joy, means 17.5 ounces of formula per day, which is $1.58 per day, totalling $47.89.

To be honest this isn’t too bad compared to the other expenses that have already been racked up.

I literally could go on and on regarding expenses for a newborn, but I’m going to stop here. The reason that I’m stopping is that this would pretty much become a full-fledged novel and you probably don’t have time to read it. Or you could find a million better ones in any book store.

With just these very basic items as key examples, I think you get the gist that having a baby is definitely expensive. For my challenge I wanted to become better informed on what financial expenses new parents have to face and what research is needed before I take that step.

If I do decide to have kids soon, I’m very lucky to have the internet at my fingertips. All I have to do is Google cheap kids’ clothing or go on Kijiji and find a car seat or hop on over to the Bunz Trading Zone to get a cute, secondhand pram. My parents really didn’t have that option and neither did theirs.

After doing the research I now know that saving up for a family is definitely something I want to start doing ASAP. If you are thinking about becoming a parent I HIGHLY suggest you start saving too!

Good luck!

– Karyn

Gwen’s July Challenge: Save 50% of What I Earn (And Attack Debt with It)

What an epic month!

This past July has been one of the best months of my life. Here are a few reasons why:

  • I’ve officially been living on a plant-based diet for 60 days. I feel more healthy and vibrant than ever.
  • I said ‘I love you’ for the first time.
  • I lived within a budget I created for the first time in my life.
  • Overall, I’m appreciative of where I’m at and excited for my upcoming goals.

In July, I also discovered my new money ‘guru.’ I discovered Dave Ramsey’s teachings. Dave is a financial expert who went bankrupt in his 20s, which prompted him to dedicate the next 25 years of his life learning finances and teaching others to thrive by living within their means and paying off debt. To quote Gabrielle (the youngest Sisterpack member), “He is a (financial) savage!” Essentially his teachings make you want to eliminate your debt with ‘gazelle-like intensity’ and he’s absolutely no-nonsense when it comes to making your budget.

This leads me to my July challenge: spend 50% of my income on my debt. I’m happy to say I achieved my challenge and spent 57% of my income on debt (this even includes interest on debt as well).

So how did I do this? Here is my six step plan:

1) Face my financial reality head on.

I put all of the money I owed as well as my monthly expenses and income on an Excel doc to see where I was really at. Let’s be real: it can be scary af to be honest with yourself, realizing how much you owe and how long it will realistically take to pay off. It was definitely a wake-up call to see, though it was also inspiring to finally have concrete numbers.

2) Create a goal.

Since my goal was to spend 50% of my income on debt, it was a very black and white goal. I knew what I wanted. Surprisingly, I hadn’t done something like this in the past, which is probably why I haven’t felt like I’ve made much progress lately.

3) Do the math.

After facing my financial reality and setting the goal, my next step was to do some simple addition to figure out if I could consciously pay 50% with the lifestyle I was living. After doing the math, it turned out that 68% of my income was spoken for if I lived the same way that I did in June. So I decided to hack away at expenses. I lowered my grocery budget, restaurant and ‘miscellaneous’ budget and that got me into the right range.

4) Create a budget and use a system to track your spending.

I started the month using Mint.com to track all of my spending and make a budget. Though after discovering Dave Ramsey, I decided to start using his free EveryDollar.com site and app to track spending. I absolutely love it and am obsessed right now. I checked in almost daily to try to live within my means.

5) Tell those you trust.

It’s challenging to scale back your life and live on a budget. So I’m at a place right now that I am very open that I am attacking debt and will not be going out and spending a lot. Luckily, I have created a group of friends and my family get it and have been supportive of my goals.

6) Watch motivational and educational content whenever possible.

I mainlined Dave Ramsey’s YouTube videos. I watched examples of the joy that people felt when they paid off their loans. I learned from people’s mistakes and remembered to have compassion for myself for where I’m at. This all helped me achieve my goal.

I am SUPER proud to say that I accomplished my July challenge and am more committed than ever to pay off all debt.

My August challenge will be interesting. I’ve decided to use the ‘envelope method’ and actually carry cash and pay in cash. I will put my budgeted money in specific envelopes and only use that to pay! I haven’t used cash in a very long time, so I’m very interested to see how this will go!

Thank you so much for reading!

-Gwen

Gabby’s July Challenge: Keep a Food Diary

Hey duders!

How many of you have ever kept a food diary? Well, I never have, and I thought July would be as good a time to start as any! I learned some pretty neat things about what I eat – and myself – this month. Check it outttt:

  • The notebook is everything. If you’re not looking forward to writing down everything that you’re eating, you’re probably not going to. That’s why I spent $12 on this super cute notebook from The Paper Place on Queen St. It never failed to brighten up my day. Look at it. LOOK AT IT. Don’t tell me you don’t want to write your heart out in this thing.

The most beautiful notebook of all time.

  • Being more aware of what I was eating caused me to actually observe it, rather than just scarf it down. And, I hate to admit, but it turns out the more you pay attention to what you eat, the more you’ll find things wrong with it… I’ve noticed more hair in my food than ever before this month. BARF. Well, at least I know where not to eat anymore, LOL.
  • Being able to visually see what I was eating on paper for a whole month made me realize I usually get whatever is closest to my work during lunch, or whatever is fastest to eat. I’m disgusted to admit, but I ate 106 sushi rolls this month. Like, I probably have a mild case of mercury poisoning LOL. More towards the end of the month, I was spending about $5 more for this delicious salad from Flock, filled with all sorts of healthy goodies. It’s a little further than my usual go-to food spots, but always worth the walk. I can’t even explain it. This salad made me look forward to lunch and I actually took my time eating it – probably because I spent a little extra on it. For anyone interested, I got the BOHO salad with roasted chicken. #GAMECHANGER #HIGHLYRECOMMEND
  • Shockingly, by keeping a food diary, I realized I’m actually not eating enough. And none of it is homemade! It’s pretty much coffee, lunch, dinner, and that’s it. Maybe a few snacks or a beer here and there. But most of all, it was eye-opening to see that I’m not getting nearly enough fruits and veggies into my diet. So that’s something I hope to change. Lately, I’ve been going through a sort of food-making rut at home. Cooking is something I love to do, and I haven’t done it regularly in probably three months, which makes me think: how much money am I spending on eating out?! So I’ve already started to get back in the kitchen and make my favourite salads at home 🙂

For any of you who have followed Mo’ Money for the past three years, you may have noticed that it is my dream (lol) to become a morning person. I’ve tried many times, and failed many times. And I realized that it’s probably because I’m setting these ridiculous goals for myself. Well, change doesn’t happen overnight, so I’m going to take baby steps. My August challenge is to wake up at 5 a.m. at least once per week. Bonus if it happens more often than that, or even just waking up earlier than normal.

Wish me luck!

-Gabby

KARYN’S MARCH CHALLENGE: TRANSIT TROUBLE

For those of us who don’t own a car, we rely on transit to get us places. Recently in Toronto they hiked up the transit fare prices. As someone who was unemployed when this was announced, it really burned my muffins.

tumblr_ma0qfsWhEY1r3ovdbo1_500

I had to buy a metropass if I wanted to get anywhere, but with prices going up would it be worth it? My March Challenge was to see if buying the new and more expensive metropass made any difference and if I would save any money.

I started keeping tabs on every where I went and what type of transit I used, whether it was the bus, streetcar or subway. I also noted on whether I would be able to get a transfer or if I would have to pay an extra fare. To my surprise I actually travelled quite a bit (this may be due to me snagging a job… FINALLY!). Mostly it was back and forth from work, but if I had just been paying the cash fare, it’d be $6.00 everyday.

I assumed that I’d be losing money on the weekends when I had nowhere to really be, but that wasn’t the case. I sometimes spent more money on the weekends than at any other time. Running errands and chillin’ with my famjam really added up. Even though I didn’t travel every day I still would’ve spent oodles of cash, metropass or not.

2

So my grand travel total for March was $174.00. I was able to save $32.50 when buying a metropass. Now while I was doing some lovely math I wanted to see if I could’ve saved money using other offered passes.

If I have purchased the Weekly Pass for $40.75, I wouldn’t have saved anything, but actually spent an extra $5.95. This is the same for the $11.50 Day Pass, which would have only saved me .50 on 2 days, but ultimately costing me $5.89 at the end of the month.

So I guess that the transit fare increase didn’t really affect me too much. I still saved over 30 bucks and it got me to work on time. Thanks TTC.

3

Let me know about your transit money-saving stories or if you have any gripes about increases in your area.

Keep it real!

Karyn Elliot: Micromanager + Chief GIF Maker

KARYN’S FEBRUARY CHALLENGE: ASK FOR TASK

The Challenge: To make 100.00 by completing tasks on Ask For Task

ask for task logo

As a person who was unemployed for the entire month of February, the thought of making some side money without the need for pesky interviews and making resumes really peaked my interest.

Signing up for Ask For Task was a breeze, but I really suggest that if you want to really use it on the go to download their app. It’s wicked awesome and supa dupa easy to use.

1 - simon pegg thumbs up

So for the first 1 week all I did was apply for tasks every day. Many of these were for cleaning apartments or running errands for people. At first I didn’t get much of a response, but soon I had my first task.

2 - excited baby

On February 10th I was to meet a guy named Tom to pick up Hockey Hall of Fame tickets. Seems simple right? Well, for someone like me who isn’t the greatest at directions I got easily turned around and slightly lost.

3 - ariana grande confused

Luckily I found my way and met my Tasker. What made my first task so special was that it was actually the people from Ask For Task! They were giving away free tickets and I was lucky enough to win them (plus earn the promised 20.00 for the task)! I also got to meet the magical staff who work at Ask For Task and I’ve gotta say that they are some wonderfully epic people.

4 - barney highes of fives

So with my first “task” completed I was ready to kick my challenge into high gear. Every morning I went onto their app and applied for as many tasks as I could. I found that leaving messages for the people posting the tasks got me a quicker response because it showed that I really wanted it opposed to people that just applied.

5 - bruce almighty at the computer

In the end, the majority of the tasks I completed were for cleaning apartments. I’ve had experience in cleaning homes before. So for those who have never done it before, you need to make sure you set boundaries with the people you clean for, what they want you to clean, a set wage and a set time for cleaning. Sometimes it can get weird and the stuff you clean can be a little strange, but remember that you are making some side hustle money and it’ll be all worth it.

6 - daffy duck dollar sign eyes

I was able to make 105.00 just by using Ask For Task which was incredibly ballin’, but it may not be for everyone. You need to be good at directions (which I am still working on), have the ability to travel using transit or your own vehicle (all about dat metropass), and be comfortable dealing with strangers. Plus when dealing with strangers you always want to make sure you’re safe. Always make sure you’re cautious in the sense that someone knows where you are going and when you’ll be done (just for safety’s sake). Better safe than sorry, if ya know what I mean.

7 - ferris bueller starnger danger

Let me know if you’ve used the site before and how you felt about it, or if you are a first time user tell us how it goes!

Good luck and have fun makin’ dat cash money!

8 - simpsons rolling in money

March Challenge:With a new job and a new commute, I wanted to see if buying a Metropass was actually worth it. Especially now that in Toronto the price of a monthly pass went up 10 bucks.

I’ll be logging everyday to see how often I use it, or if I even use it at all, to find out if shelling out oodles of cash is worth your commute.
Stay tuned!

Karyn Elliot – Micromanager + Chief GIF Maker

GWEN’S FEBRUARY CHALLENGE: FOOD!

My February challenge was to cut down on buying food on the go.

In January, I apparently spent $713.43 on groceries, eating out and coffee. Dear God.

My goal for February was to cut that number in half, ideally spending $356.72.

Here’s the grand total:
I spent $450.99 on food in February.

I did not reach my goal by $100.00.

Am I sad?

Hell no.

I shaved nearly $300 off of how much I spent in January.

A few things happened in February that took me off course (of reaching the goal) that I want to mention:

  • I broke up with my boyfriend.
  • Work life got cray.

I wanted to mention the above points as each of them seriously affected me.

After I broke up with my boyfriend I went off the rails a bit spending-wise. Somehow buying a latte instead of a regular coffee felt justified. And I’d buy one-off things like an expensive chocolate bar or a green smoothie and not really give it extra thought.

It’s also shocking to note that I didn’t do a huge grocery shopping trip in February. I mostly survived on eating out. This stresses me out though, as I know that the food I was eating was not incredibly healthy as most of it was filled with sodium. Ugh.

So in conclusion, I realized that it is SOOOO easy to fall off the wagon when a big life event happens. And what I would do differently next time is to not try to ‘numb’ my emotions or ignore finances entirely when dealing with a life challenge.

My March Challenge:
I spent $118.44 on Ubers in February alone. OMG. Some of them were for work purposes, but most were frivolous and I was just damn cold and took the ride.

I would like to half the amount I’m spending on Uber’s in March. This would equal $59.22.

Thank you for reading and I look forward to hearing your thoughts and feedback on my money adventures!

<3 Gwen

Marketing + Chief Podcaster

MONIQUE’S FEBRUARY CHALLENGE: FREELANCING

At the end of January, when everyone was still flying high off the idea of New Year’s resolutions, the Sisterpack decided that each sister would take on a financial challenge – big or small – each month in 2015. (Errr, well… starting in February!) These goals could be anything to do with financial self-awareness, saving or spending habits, or developing creative side-hustle ideas! The possibilities are endless! (And so are the $$$)

My February challenge was to make – and save! – $500 from my freelancing work. Basically, I had to save $500 in one month from only one half of my income streams (I also work a steady part-time job that keeps the income flowin’ while I build my business).

I didn’t quite make the cut this month. I saved $100. Whoops.

Freelancing has been my “side hustle” since I graduated and I’ve been working Rise&GrindBitchesto make it my main income stream since I started.

Granted, I knew from the beginning that saving $500 would be a stretch since most of my freelancing work depends on the availability of work from clients, and how much time I dedicated to pitching and networking. But hey, #startsmallfinishBIG am I right?!

I set the $500 challenge after looking over what SMART goals are: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely. It could be argued that I glossed over Achievable and Realistic, but sometimes you’ve just gotta aim really high!

While I didn’t achieve my goal (since, y’know, bills are a thing), I got assigned an article for a local newspaper I write for, edited content for a website redesign and, through networking, I gained an ebook editing and formatting project that will be worth more than $600 in the end. That’s almost $1,000 manifested in February after a slooow January. Woo hooooooo!!

2 Broke Girls - Max - Woot Woot

My real challenge, it seemed, was to simply make more money freelancing so that I could justify socking away a huge chunk of change. I learned so much about the value of negotiation and networking in February. (But that’s another post for another day 😉 )

My March challenge:

To get a job interview set up in a foreign country. I’m going to Liverpool, England for two weeks at the end of the month (it’s also where I plan to move next year!), so I’m laying the groundwork. Wish me luck!

High fives and good vibes!

<3 Monique

Resident Reporter + Chief Editor