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Gabby’s January Challenge: Look Into A New Bank

Hey dudes,

So my January challenge was to look into other banks to set up an account with.

*Cue the sad trumpets*

I FAILED.

I didn’t even bother to look into it. Why would I? Nobody my age actually likes banks. We don’t trust them. And I have a good thing going with CIBC. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

One thing I realized is that I need to pick challenges that actually interest me. Take my February Challenge, for example. I really wanted to start treating my body better by being more consciously aware of what I’m fuelling it with. So I decided to make this month all about eating healthier. And it’s working. I’m passionate about this. Once I made the decision to start eating better, I don’t even want sweets anymore. Sure, I’ve had a couple slipups here and there, but it’s all about forgiving yourself.

And I’m not even worried about being surrounded by sweets on Valentine’s Day. Bring it on.

The lesson here is to fill your time with things that actually interest you or will make your life better. It’s all about being honest with yourself. The rest is just noise.

Love,

Gabby

Karyn’s January Challenge: Food Prep For The WIN!

To be completely honest, I totally forgot about my January Challenge until last week. Initially I was incredibly disappointed in myself… until I realized that I unknowingly completed it!

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My original challenge was to prep my food ahead of time so I wasn’t constantly eating junk food and spending money that could’ve been used for something much more important. I imagined myself at least one night a week in the kitchen prepping food for the days to come, making lists (I LIVE FOR LISTS) of what recipes I would be using and the ingredients I need and all that jazz. Instead it turned out completely different, but the end goal remained the same.

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Work right now is mad hectic, but in the best possible way. I’m loving my job, being busy as fudge and getting stuff done, while having a blast. That being said, busy Karyn’s brain completely forgot about her food prep challenge. Until one day at work I was talking to my managers about how we buy food for our staff for lunch/dinner. We buy food from the same four places and it can get kind of monotonous. That day I actually made a sweet meal of salmon, greens and mashed potatoes and brought some in to share. My subconscious mind must have been working overtime because I suggested that instead of buying our meals I would make them!

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I would make our army of staff a home cooked meal for our busiest days so we could save money on eating out and people would be eating healthier at the same time. So now I was actually meal prepping for 13 people instead of one! Though that may seem like an ordeal and a half, it was actually awesome!

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This forced me to make food for myself, write ALL THE LISTS (guh love it) and make sure I’m sticking to a budget ($30 or less). This also forced me to be creative since we did have some dietary restrictions at my work and making food for a slew of peeps.

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Though my challenge is over, I’m still going to continue to make huge amounts of delish noms for the magical people I work with!

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Next on the menu… salad, cheesy mashed potatoes and sausages!

 

LET’S DO THIS THANG.

-K

Monique’s January Challenge – Sparking simple change

The new year started off on a frantic, heavy note.

I didn’t get a job I wanted despite being qualified and a good fit (being rejected for something “intangible” stings in unexpected ways). My freelancing, side hustling, and part-time bridge job were picking up pace and I was on the verge of burnout… again. I didn’t write anything about my failed attempt at my December challenge, which was, in itself, as frantic and heavy as I was feeling.

So I decided to switch it up.

My Mo’ Money goal for January was surprisingly simple and largely symbolic:

I wanted to buy a yoga mat.

I’d been meaning to pick one up for so long (earliest musings began circa 2013). I wanted to save some cash by working out at home (I also own free weights and other gym gear). I’ve been getting stiff by spending so many hours at the computer, researching, writing, jotting notes, transcribing… and doing it all from my home office, the little nook that doubles as a mini library by the floor-to-ceiling window in our apartment.

But above all, I needed a return to center.

My center.

Why a yoga mat? Have you ever been to a yoga class? Yes, they can be full of trendy, bendy people who seem aloof, toned, and enlightened about the versatility of coconut oil but I’ve always enjoyed them.

The chill music, relaxed atmosphere, and emphasis on the connection between mind, body, and soul always got me breathing a little deeper and feeling a little lighter by the time I rolled up the gym mat and pack up to head out.

That’s what I wanted to bring home. I wanted it accessible, convenient, and, most importantly, mine.

Now, I haven’t attended a yoga class since 2013. It’s not really my prerogative to enroll in a class anytime soon.

Expressing my desire to buy a yoga mat sounded weird when I voiced my interest for the first time, as though it wasn’t really true, as though it was a frivolous purchase I wanted to make just for the sake of owning one.

Yet, trekking to the store and picking out the right one, the one that was just thick enough and soft without being too heavy to carry, felt right.

Despite all the setbacks and disappointments, I made mo’ progress in January.

Getting clear on something meaningful, no matter small it seemed, and then acting on it felt satisfying.

January is always the “new beginnings” time of year as most everyone hangs up their new calendars, take note of what worked and what didn’t within the past 12 months, and set new goals in an effort to start fresh.

It’s recently gotten some seriously cynical backlash for that. While buying a yoga mat wasn’t a new year’s resolution of mine, it reminded me on the importance of doing what makes you feel good, even if it doesn’t always fit into the big picture of your life.

It’s like buying a new piece of clothing you’re in love with, and realizing it goes with nothing in your existing wardrobe. But you wear it anyway, and eventually an outfit comes together.

Sometimes that simple change is the catalyst for hauling yourself back on the path to the happiest, healthiest, most awesome version you can be.

With that in mind, my February challenge is to actually use my new yoga mat, and see if I can inspire some more bawse-awesome, incremental changes.

High fives and good vibes,

Monique 🙂

 

January Challenge: A Tax Prep Party

I know it’s hard to believe that both ‘tax prep’ and ‘party’ can co-exist in the same sentence.

Tax prep brings out a lot of dread for many people (myself included), so I was inspired by my financial planner Shannon Lee Simmons to adopt her enthusiasm for all things taxes and challenge myself to make this task into a celebration (of sorts) for my January challenge.

I used to think of doing taxes as a total drag. I didn’t see the positive side. What came to mind were negative quotes like ‘all you’re guaranteed in life is death and taxes’ and flashbacks to how I used to hear adults talk about taxes as a kid… which doesn’t help my motivation.

So before starting this challenge, I decided to remind myself through a bit of research why paying taxes is a positive thing. Here are three great reasons if you’re looking for some inspiration:

#1) Paying taxes is an investment in our glorious country. More than ever before, I truly appreciate being Canadian and don’t mind paying for the privilege.

#2) Paying taxes keeps us safe, provides education and ‘free’ health care. I sprained my wrist this past year and forgot how easy it is to just stroll into a hospital in Canada and get care by showing my health card.

#3) Emergency services. I’m appreciative that I haven’t needed to rely on police or firefighters this year, though it’s tremendous peace of mind to know that they’re on-call for any tough times.

I’m just scratching the surface here with these three reasons.

Now back to the ‘party.’

So last year, I got my taxes in early, as I invested in myself and booked in to work with Shannon for tax filing. As an employee and a freelancer, my taxes always seem a bit more complex, so I prefer to outsource this to a professional.

In preparation to meet with Shannon last year, I came up against the wall of resistance too. Literally the night before I met with Shannon last year, I was up until 3 a.m. working on last minute number crunching. It sucked to feel exhausted as I walked into her office like a zombie.

So my January challenge was to book in a Tax Prep Party for a couple hours every Monday of the month to be prepared for my meeting with her on February 28th. This was set to be a time where I started entering digits into a spreadsheet.

Results: I am about a quarter of the way done, and only spent one Monday this month working on taxes.

Truth: My enthusiasm quickly waned after week one, and I found convenient excuses not to sit down and do the work.

Learning from this (and the resistance I have to sitting down and doing the work), reminds me that this is the type of task I should get down all in one (or perhaps two) sittings. And ideally, I’ll find a way to enjoy the process (I’m thinking latte + fun music + dance breaks!)

So with this, I am officially sharing that my February challenge is Tax Prep Party II! My meeting with Shannon is on February 28th, so there’s definitely a huge incentive to really get this done!

Now accepting all positive vibes and well-wishes 🙂

-Gwen

Gabby’s December Challenge: BUNDLE THE F UP.

I’ve been living in Canada my entire life, yet I’ve never bought myself a proper winter coat as an adult. I was always skirting by with something to break the wind and wore tons of layers instead. In my last year of high school I actually just wore this fake leather jacket and bundled up with a scarf, hat, and mittens. That’s it. And obviously, I was always miserable.

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Why do we do this to ourselves? We know the weather is going to be horrible every year, yet we stick it out with whatever will do the job. But when I heard this winter was going to be one of the worst, I knew I had to do something.

via GIPHY

So I set out to buy myself a baller winter jacket. There were three things it absolutely needed to have:

  1. Needs to be warm (duh)
  2. Needs to be fashionable + fit me well
  3. Needs to be at a reasonable price. I was planning on spending anywhere from $200 – $400.

I started the hunt. I looked around for stores in my neighbourhood, like Patagonia, asked around at my work and took my coworkers’ suggestions, and looked online. But nothing seemed to check off all my boxes.

Then it dawned on me: three years ago, my parents treated us all to really nice winter coats from this store called Lorne’s on Spadina and Adelaide. I got this beautiful white peacoat that is still really warm, but I feel like (as Canadians) we need more than one winter coat. One for fashion, and one for functionality.

So I went back to Lorne’s, and sure enough, there were plenty to choose from. And then I saw it: this beautiful coat with a fur trimmed hood that actually looked like it would flatter my shape. But, as a good shopper, I looked around the store for more options, tried some on, and almost threw up at some of the prices (LOL). I ultimately came back to the first coat I saw and tried it on. It fit like a dream. I got to talking with the sales lady and mentioned that the fur trim on the coat in my size didn’t look as floofy as some of the others. She instantly switched the fur with another jacket’s. Talk about service!

Now it comes down to price. My dream coat cost $550. Gulp. But I figured since I just got a raise, and this wasn’t some frivolous purchase, I was willing to spend the money. Especially since it’s really warm and I love the fit. The sales lady also mentioned that the one I had was the last one in my size and that the manufacturer stopped making that specific colour. (It was called “merlot,” by the way– I took it as a sign 😉

So I bought it! I am now the proud owner of a warm-ass winter jacket. And it was only $620 with tax. Pretty good considering some other coats I found were, yes, cheaper, but I definitely knew I would regret it since they didn’t seem warm enough.

The first day I wore it outside, it was like angels were singing. I was so toasty, and when I got on the streetcar I didn’t feel like I was melting. I got compliments constantly and it wasn’t weighing on my back like all my other past winter coats.

And then I realized: I actually don’t mind winter now that I have a proper coat. In fact, I welcome it.

Karyn’s December Challenge: Making A 12 Month Budget (And Sticking To It)

The budget queen strikes again!

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For my December Challenge I wanted to gain control of my finances for good after the horrifying year I had (I’m lookin’ at you H&R Block/CRA). After finally paying everything off I could now focus on my savings… except that my life was changed, turned upside down, if you will.

I had to move (again) and figure out how to pay for rent, food, internet and whatnot (guhhh this is getting old). Plus I had to factor in how much I spend on Krav, movies, eating out (which is happening a lot lately) and just the randomness that pops into everyone’s life.

So I was reunited with my old pal Google Excel and got to work.

I looked at my wages and then figured out how much I spent on all the junk that I need (and want) in my life.

It looks a lil sumthin’ like this.

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I decided to kick it up a notch and maintain this financial tracking for all of 2017! Yeah, it’ll be a pain in the butt, but after the financial fiasco that was 2016, I ain’t takin’ no chances!!!

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Wish me luck Mo’ Money Posse! I hope I can keep up with this mo’ money plan. I promise to keep you all updated on my progress!!!!!!

-Karyn

Gwen’s December Challenge: Internet free? Not a Possibility for Me!

Let me start by saying I completely failed my December challenge.

My challenge was to live 30 days without home Internet. It was a bold move, though with complete confidence, I cancelled my Internet with the intention of going cold turkey in December.

WHY?! You may ask? The catalyst to cancelling was watching this YouTube video:

I loved learning about minimalism from Joshua Fields Millburn of TheMinimalists.com. I was so inspired by the fact that he runs an online business and doesn’t have Internet access at home. As I was also in a bit of a funk at the beginning of December, I figured if I cancelled my Internet, it would force me to work out of coffee shops and cafes more often (and be with the energy of the people), instead of hermiting at home.

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My Internet-free plan worked for about 10 days. Then slowly, my addiction to being connected online started to creep back in. I found myself waking up in the morning and wanting to jump on Instagram right away. Or I’d check the news on my iPhone, and suddenly want to know everything that’s happening in the world. The trouble was, I had just 2 GBs on my phone’s data plan (which was running out quickly). And of course using my phone to check the Internet killed the whole spirit of the challenge!

Within a couple of weeks I had maxed out my phone’s data, and lost all desire to live out of coffee shops. As I needed the Internet for work, I decided to accept defeat (this time) and bring the Internet back.

Bringing It Back:

I suspect the feeling of getting the Internet back, was much how a caffeine addict feels upon their first taste of coffee after a dry-spell. WHOOOOOSH. Eyes dilated. Overstimulated.

Unlimited Facebook… and Instagram… and YouTube… oh my!

After two weeks of missing unlimited access to the content I was used to reading (from the productive health and wellness sites and business content) to the unproductive (aka a few celebrity gossip sites). It was officially time to mainline the Internet to see what I missed.

Turns out: I missed literally nothing.

I was able to catch up on the goss (LOL), and a few of my fave YouTube shows within an hour.

This was a very eye-opening experiment to me and a reminder that it can be challenging to change ingrained habits after watching one inspirational video. Now, I know it IS possible, though as it’s the new year, and perhaps you’re putting pressure on yourself to go ‘cold turkey’ with something (i.e. eating super healthy, cutting sugar, no alcohol etc.), I’d love to share a gentle reminder to go easy on yourself. If you don’t live up to your impossibly high standards, re-evaluate and start again.

Focus on building momentum, not perfection. That’s what I learned about cancelling the Internet. And it’s a challenge I may one day take on again.

My January challenge is to start preparing for taxes (yay! LOL). I have set up a meeting in February for all things taxes with my financial planner, Shannon Lee Simmons of The New School of Finance. This year, I’d love to be proactive with going over everything and crunching the numbers with time to spare. Every year is a new process, and this year I’ve put ‘Tax Prep Party’ on my calendar in a two hour block every Monday of January as a system to kick-start the process. I’ll report back at the end of the month about how my tax prep is going!

Sending you tons of positive vibes!

<3 Gwen

Minimalism. I’m embracing it… you in?

“Get your stuff down to what you can carry on your back.”

This is the message my dad used to tell me and my sisters growing up. What he meant was get rid of everything in your life that is non-essential and only own a handful of important things. Apparently my dad is a bit nomadic, (and perhaps a tad on the radical side) though I realize that this is helpful training for a minimalist life; a tool for freedom and happiness.

Despite Instagram showing you that everyone is buying everything, minimalism is gaining in popularity for many Millennials. Joshua Fields Millburn one of the co-founders of the highly popular site TheMinimalists.com (which receives 4 million hits per month), recently shared some knowledge bombs in an interview with lifestyle entrepreneur Lewis Howes:

I found this interview to be incredibly inspiring to the point that I took action right after watching it. A few of the key ‘aha’ moments I discovered was how Joshua had an amazing job and made great money, though he kept buying expensive things to try to fill some kind of void in his life. Despite looking like he ‘had it all’ he was secretly struggling. He soon found himself $500,000 in debt and had to figure out how to get out of it. This is when he started to learn about minimalism and started his site with his good friend. On the site they share that  “minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom.” It’s about embracing a desire to own less and doesn’t have to be incredibly drastic.

Here are a few ways they share on their website how minimalism helped them create more freedom:

  • Reclaim our time
  • Live in the moment
  • Pursue our passions
  • Discover our missions
  • Experience real freedom
  • Create more, consume less
  • Focus on our health
  • Grow as individuals
  • Contribute beyond ourselves
  • Rid ourselves of excess stuff
  • Discover purpose in our lives

Overall, I felt sold on the big idea of lasting happiness. So often it feels like happiness is something you can buy, when in reality, I know that it is something that you must feel.

The one big change he made that shocked me was cancelling his home Internet access. My first reaction to this was I thought he was absolutely nuts. How could an online entrepreneur cancel his Internet? What the heck do people do without the Internet to keep them busy? Then he mentioned he used the Internet at his home office, though had to be creative to have fun at home. He picked up old books, had more dinner parties, actually went outside, exercised more, and overall got better sleep. As someone who has fallen into a routine of staying up too late trying to read everything created on the internet, I was intrigued by this idea.

As I live in downtown Toronto, I figured it was worth a shot to cancel the Internet for a month to try it and see if I can do it while avoiding going insane from boredom ;). I am also taking this challenge on for my December 2016 monthly challenge.

If you want to get started on owning less, I also highly recommend reading tidying guru Marie Kondo’s New York Times best-selling book and watch a few videos where she teaches you her game-changing tidy methods:

I find it fun to try something new and switch things up in life. Are you interested in trying out the minimalist lifestyle? Or perhaps uncluttering a part of your life? It definitely starts to get addicting in a good way! If you are, tweet us or email us to share your story!

-Gwen

Worth it? Or Naw?

Last month, Buzzfeed released a new series called, “Worth It,” where two pals weigh the value of certain types of dishes at drastic price points. At the end on their drive back, they decide on a winner!

Here are a few of my favourite episodes so far 🙂

Sushi

“My tongue is just livin’ in a sexy salt bath right now.”

Steak

“I’m like, embarrassed to be watched eating this, because it’s like, something so pleasurable shouldn’t be done in public.”

Pasta

“That’s a lot of flavurr.”

You gotta love the personalities on these guys.

I would totally do a food comparison like this myself, but, you know, who has $300 to spend on a steak?*

*Me, when I’m rich AF. One day…

Have you ever done a food comparison? Tell us about your experience! Or if you don’t have $700 to spend on different (delicious) dishes, do it on a lower scale, like comparing the price of a double Americano at three different coffee shops. Get creative! Find the best value for your dollar and tastebuds.

-Gabby

My First Experience Selling Electronics Online

I am embracing a minimalist lifestyle. As you may have read in my last post, I am down the rabbit hole of learning about living with less (stuff) to focus long-term happiness unrelated to external possessions.

It’s been on my mind for months to sell my second laptop. I bought it earlier this year, as I had anticipated needing it for work projects, though I quickly realized it was ultimately a frivolous purchase. It was a gold MacBook with all the bells and whistles (okay it was just a fancy case because it’s TINY and a new USB cord). I knew it was something I could sell that someone would love to own.

I have friends who have sold things online, though I definitely felt a bit apprehensive about selling a laptop on the Internet. I had so many questions: would people really want to buy second-hand electronics? How much do I sell it for? What site do I sell it on?

I allowed these questions to cloud my mind, and avoided taking tangible action for far too long. My ultimate push to sell it was watching videos from financial expert Dave Ramsey who gives pretty outrageous advice to people looking to earn extra money and pay off debt. I heard advice that he gave to couples to sell both of their cars, their houses and literally anything they owned if they were ready to get serious about taking control of their finances. I figured if people could sell such personal items that they used every day, I could sell a laptop I barely used.

So I did it.

Here are the different strategies I used to make the sell!

THE ‘MARKETING’ STRATEGY:

I know from reading #GirlBoss (okay, and just general smarts), that the photo is key when selling anything online. After much procrastination, I cleaned the laptop from every fingerprint and used my ‘skills’ as a photographer to stage an iPhone photoshoot. I made the decision to list on both eBay and Kijiji at the same time (which you will later see was a mistake). I’ll be honest, this took me an afternoon to get the postings online. I had a steep learning curve of reading about how to sell on each platform. After I got it to the point where I would be interested as a potential customer… I posted. To my surprise, within an hour I had requests on both platforms, and in a few hours I was overwhelmed with requests. Clearly, I priced it correctly and took some good photos. It was officially ON!

PRICING STRATEGY:

The laptop was in mint condition and was used only a handful of times. It was originally purchased for $1,549 CAD. As it was an older model, I noticed online the price had dropped to $1,349 CAD for a new one. Yikes. So I went with my gut and charged $900 CAD and also included the bonuses like the $50 case and an extra USB cord. I clearly wasn’t going to profit from this, though I appreciate the lesson learned. (And also an extra $900 cash is nothing to sneeze at.)

SELLING STRATEGY:

I originally chose to sell to a man who emailed me via Kijiji who had a very clear response to my ad. As we chatted back and forth, it was clear he was interested and seemed like a sane human who simply needed a laptop. Then suddenly, I checked my e-mail and noticed that someone had insta-purchased the laptop on eBay! Oh no :-(. I found out that when someone purchases on eBay, you have to send them an invoice to pay on PayPal, then ship it out. Even though I had built a relationship with the Kijiji man (named Adam) I figured ultimately it’s easier to send a PayPal invoice and get paid, vs. meet a stranger in person to get paid. So I sent the PayPal invoice. For two days there was radio silence. Then I emailed the eBay woman (Susan) to check in. Radio silence for a few more days. Realizing she probably wasn’t going to pay, I emailed her letting her know I was going to cancel the invoice (for a courtesy) then cancelled. I then went limping back to Adam from Kijiji, asking if he’d like to still buy it. He said yes, and we arranged to meet-up. In the meantime, I got a response from Susan who asked if I could send the laptop to Nigeria (seriously), and she’d take care of the shipping. IMMEDIATE RED FLAG. I ignored this, and a day later got an email from eBay saying this person was a scammer. PHEW! A good reminder to not send anything until you have cash in hand. Also, I found out Adam was no longer interested that same day as he found a better deal. So let’s just say I was feeling a bit annoyed, and wondering if it was all worth it.

I decided to give it another shot (electronics will only depreciate in value, and it would be such a shame for this awesome product to go unused). I listed on a Saturday, received numerous responses, and decided to go for it and meet up with a new potential purchaser the following day. We connected via texting and I figured I had nothing to lose, so we decided to meet up on a Sunday evening at a busy coffee shop near my place.

THE ELECTRONICS EXCHANGE:

The gentleman who was purchasing gave me a call before arriving at the coffee shop and ended up bringing his sister along as well (I guess in case I was an Internet murderer heehee). He was UBER prepared for the meet up. He had a checklist to ensure I wasn’t a scammer. He checked serial numbers, Apple IDs, speakers, charging ports, etc. etc. etc. It definitely gave me peace of mind that he was so prepared. After about 30 minutes of checking out the laptop (side note: I brought my own laptop along so I had something to do to keep busy), he was interested and wanted to buy. WOOHOO! Before meeting up, I asked him if he could bring cash. He brought nine $100 bills in an envelope and allowed me to count it. It kinda felt like being a drug deal or something when you’re counting $100 from an envelope in a coffee shop, though it was overall a great exchange. Turned out he had back surgery and needed a lighter laptop, and I was helping him in more than one way!

OVERALL:

Overall, I definitely haven’t caught the selling online bug, though I am grateful for the opportunity to sell. I would sell online again, though I would likely only sell things that are higher in value as it doesn’t feel worth the time to sell smaller items.

Have you ever thought of selling online? Or are you a pro at selling online? If you have tips share them with us below or on our Instagram post or Twitter! The sharing economy is the future, so I highly recommend embracing it – at least with baby steps!

  • Gwen

 

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