Is the big house the problem or the price? : PF Friday grab a brew #66

grab-a-brew-online-reviewGO BIG OR GO HOME


We all know someone who bought the big house and later found out it was too much to handle or too pricey for their budget.

We may like to browse online at pictures of big houses for sale but for many it’s just a dream or a distant reality.

We have been through some beautiful big houses when we have toured opened houses and although we are being nosey we love for that moment to feel what luxury is all about.

I was having my morning brew while reading Yahoo news and again another Hollywood star is struggling to sell their big house or mansion as we would all call it.

He has the big house that is absolutely stunning on the market for $15.5 million dollars BUT no one has purchased it and he has slowly reduced the price. This is the one and only Bruce Willis which we have learned to love over the years from watching various movies.

The Idaho ranch is now listed at $8.8 million dollars nearly half off the original listing price. If I had $8.8 million dollars and depending on other factors such as location and what the house has to offer I’d say that’s a darn good deal. I would almost feel as if I just won the lottery if I bought that house for nearly half off.

If you are looking for a big house to rent for parties or simply to rent you might just be in luck with some of these sellers who are struggling to sell but need to make cash to pay off the mortgage because they have since left the house to work on other ventures.

The problem?

You may never be able to sell it at $8.8 million down the road let alone the $15.5 million Willis originally had it on the market for. Having a big house is great but we all have to remember there are only a limited amount of people who can whip out a mortgage or pay cash into the millions of dollars to purchase said homes.

Not everyone is looking to buy really big houses even though many of us might dream of having the mansion property with all the bells and whistles. Many homes are becoming less affordable to most people these days.


The big house


The same goes for houses on a smaller scale and I’m not talking millions I’m talking hundreds of thousands leading up to a million or two dollars. Sure, it’s nice to have all the frosting on a new big house but are you prepared that if the time comes and you need to sell that it might not sell as fast as your neighbours up the street and around the corners house might for $400,000?

We see it all the time in our neighbourhood as some of the homes are in the million dollar range and they sit on the market. It’s not that they are overpriced as we are in a sought after area.

It’s because there is a limited amount of people willing to dish out that kind of money. It’s nice to have a big house but with that mortgage comes bigger expenses as well. Buy a mansion and you’ll likely need staff to help run the property. Sure they eventually sell but not as fast as many anticipated.

Do you remember the post I wrote about the couple a street or so over from us that jumped the gun and bought a pricey house while they still hadn’t sold their house? It took them ages to sell their house on a beautiful street and they had to cover two mortgages at the same time.

Sure the price was reduced over the months and eventually it sold but there’s a reason sticking to a realistic budget is important whether you are rich or not. It’s also important to make sure you can cover the expenses of two properties if you do buy a second home.

Sure most of these celebrities have cash although many of them don’t because we hear of so many of them going bankrupt or the money is tied up in real estate. It’s also because they blow money faster than they make it sometimes because they live on another money planet than most people.

I remember watching a program once where Michael Jackson went shopping. He walked in a store and was just pointing at items and saying he wanted that, and this and so on. Money takes some people to a level most of us will never experience. Some might not want to because money doesn’t equate to happiness. These stars for the most part can afford to do that because they make the big bucks but I still hold true that budgeting your money no matter how much you make is important.

My wife and I had a conversation about buying the big house down the road if we decided to sell our current home. We would like a bit more space, maybe a pool and walkout to a larger property BUT that all comes with more expenses, a new mortgage unless we can pay cash to cover the difference in price for the new home.

We bought our house on one income because we didn’t want to be house poor or stuck if something were to happen to one of our incomes. It’s a tough call and for some risk is better than kicking back like we did. That’s what made us feel comfortable though. We aren’t sure if we are prepared to go bigger as we like the debt free lifestyle and the doors it has opened for us.

If you live in Toronto, $500,000 is nothing for a house but think prices relative to your community so this all makes sense to you. I’m not sure how many millionaires reside in Idaho but I’m sure at one point someone will jump on the 50% reduction on his ranch.

It’s easier to sell a home in the mid-range to buyers and much quicker that the near million dollar home. That doesn’t mean you can’t go out and spend a boat load of cash on buying a big house but if you decide to sell realize that the price you want might not be the price you get.

If you need to move for work or are getting divorced or need to sell fast you might just have to take a price dump to get it off your hands.

I don’t know how much Bruce paid for that big house but like any property it has likely gone up in value. Whether it has gone up enough for him to still make a profit is his business but sometimes people don’t care and just want out profit or no profit.

Do you know someone who bought the big house then struggled to sell it and had to cut the price just to find a buyer?


Top recipe


marshmallow and white chocolate brownies

If you don’t already know I have a second Facebook page online called The Free Recipe Depot where I share recipes from other Foodie Bloggers from around the world.

Once a week I pick one recipe that has been submitted as my Top Recipe of the week. Trust me when I say this is no easy task as some of these foodies can cook up a storm.

This week that recipe goes to a food blog called “Family Food and Travel” with their Marshmallow White Chocolate Brownies. If you know me I have a thing for brownies.

Don’t believe me? Check out my Brownie board on Pinterest with well over 1000 pins and over a 1000 followers on that one board alone. I’m not the only fan of brownies of all kinds and I can understand why. They are delicious no matter what you stuff or layer them with.

Weekly CBB posts


If you missed any CBB posts from the week here is the list of posts you can catch up on reading!


Weekly reads


Every week I share a few of the best personal finance blog posts that I read online over the past week with all of you so please enjoy my top picks.

Well, that’s a wrap for this PF Friday’s Grab a brew #66. Happy budgeting and I’ll see you here again next week when I do it all over again.





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Are you envious of others’ success in life?



Envious definition for me means that someone wishes they could have your success but they just need to find their own path to reach their goals. 

The minute your friends Facebook status goes up and says they got a new job, a new car or are in a new relationship do you get upset that it’s not you?

Do you question why nothing good ever happens to you?

Are you feeling jealous of other people’s success?

Don’t be but if you answered no I’d say you are telling a lie because every one of us a tiny bit of envy towards something. It’s how we handle that envy that matters the most.

No one likes to feel as if they failed at life and that they have no other options but to accept what they have been given. I think that we can do anything we want with this one life we are given if we find a way to make our dreams come true.

Sometimes all you need is a positive boost from a friend or someone who believes in you and before you know it you will land your dream job. Never give up on yourself.

I don’t think that just because someone is envious that it’s a bad thing. I should hope that with being envious of others success that someone challenges themselves to work harder.

Sometimes that’s what it takes to light a fire under someone’s butt to get the ball rolling in terms of their career or financial goals. Too often people sit around and sulk about how life has not been the greatest for them yet they put all that negativity ahead of anything positive in their lives.

When we look at things that spark a bit of envoy or jealousy in our lives and take that and work it into our own lives maybe we will be the next ones laughing all the way to the bank.

Envious people


There will be jealousy all around us whether it’s envious friends, envious co-workers or envious strangers that we’ve never met before.

They want what you might have but lack the desire to achieve it on their own or feel they can’t, have tried and failed then gave up. I’m sure the list can be ongoing but none the less these people need to flip their attitude and work it into bringing in success that makes them happy.

I’m pretty sure most of you have a friend you can call Money Bags because they seem to have an unlimited supply of cash. Then one day you will catch them on one of Gail Vaz Oxlade’s shows like Money Moron because all that showing off was done on credit they can’t pay back. What’s to be envious of that?

You may even find jealousy in your relationships but that just means someone has to build up the confidence in themselves and just trust love. Envy in love is not a good place to be because money and love can cause problems if the two people in the relationship are not on the same page.

If the male believes he is unsuccessful or that he should be making more money than his partner it could cause problems. If you are not happy with your career in the first place this may cause problems in a relationship because one is so focused on getting a job rather than the relationship.

Some people can’t be happy in love until they are happy in career. It’s just the way they are wired and sometimes letting go of these relationships might be the best thing for both of you unless you can weather the storm together.

Job envy


Being on the bottom of the ladder in an industry can be hard. Everyone around you gets paid more and has more opportunities to advance their career or move on to another job. This is the time to start learning past what you’re getting paid for and don’t let the envy under your skin.

It’s easy to come home at the end of the day and forget about work. You could be moaning about how someone at work was bossing you around because they are higher up than you. Get out there and improve yourself, take part-time courses if necessary.

Having envious thoughts against your neighbour because they have a better job than you can be a little harder to swallow. If they are a trades-person they have served several years as an apprentice on the bottom of the ladder too.

They had to acquire skills over the years to get to where they are now. A doctor or other highly skilled medical profession also takes years. I’m sure some of these people were envious of others at one point or another but put their skills to work and now they are reaping the rewards of a career they always dreamed of.

A lot of people have good jobs or well-paying jobs because they listened, learned and applied themselves to be the best at what they can be. They sacrificed nights out drinking with their buddies to build something that you are now envious of.


Financial envy


I’ve written before about how you should never compare your financial numbers with others numbers because you simply can’t do that. For different reasons and opportunities we all have accumulated wealth based on our savings ability, income levels and our determination to be debt-free or not.

I’ve said it a million times that “it’s not about how much money you make it’s how you save it” and it’s a saying that I created years ago and stand by fully. I’ve pretty much littered this blog with my quote in hopes of getting through to people and I’ve had some fans tell me that since starting a budget they understand what I mean now.

I know that when I was making a lower-income I was still saving money and paying off bills however I did not accumulate any debt. We were still able to go out for walks and spend time together as a couple doing things that didn’t cost money or very little. I guess thinking ahead of ourselves was smart, marriage, house, kids, travel etc.

If we wanted to do all of that we knew we needed the cash set aside. If we blew all of our money now to live in the moment we 100% knew we’d struggle down the road. If that’s the road you want to take, then so be it. It’s your life.

If you make the decision to start putting things on credit then you are deciding to bring debt into your life.

If you can save cash to pay for what you need it is 100 times better than putting it on a credit card and paying minimum payments each month. The other options are to save cash and buy second-hand items. If you have the mind-set that you need to impress everyone and have shiny new things and you don’t have the cash be ready to live with debts you need to pay off.

If you don’t have that mind-set like we have then you can live with an older refrigerator, a used vehicle and buying things that are essential as opposed to ‘wants’ in our lives. This has helped us to get where we want to be today, debt-free.

We never once cared what other people make because we know that just because you make 6 figures doesn’t mean that you are worth more than the guy who makes minimum wage. Think about it for a second.

It’s all about spending and saving. If you don’t have the discipline to save and watch your spending DON’T complain about what others have in the bank.

You don’t need TV, Internet, Junk Food, pop at the gas station, fast food, theatre nights, fancy clothes, hair styling, nails, booze, travel etc. In those rare circumstances there are people who live at the poverty line or below it or cannot work for one reason or another.

If you are fully capable of working then get out there and keep looking until someone says yes or find ways to get more education, volunteer, network even move if you have to. Do whatever it takes and get rid of feeling sorry for yourself because no one will care.

Those items above and many more are nice to have but only if you have the cash to pay for them while accomplishing your financial goals. That is what we live by but others may disagree and that’s fine, it’s your bank account in the end that maters to you not me.

So go ahead and be envious of what other people have but I’ll tell you that it won’t get you anywhere until you focus on your own financial goals and priorities.


Happiness envy


You don’t know everyone’s circumstances so this is very difficult to judge and besides I would never even attempt to build my happiness on what others have or don’t have. Happiness doesn’t mean you have money.

I know some people who have not a penny to rub together but they are always happy and enjoying the simple things in life. They are happy just to wake up in the morning. Sometimes the more you have the more you want or think you need. Then there are the people who have money and are miserable because just like the saying goes, “money can’t buy you love” or happiness.

Some people could have everything in the world yet be depressed. It depends on what you find that makes you happy. It could be helping others, achieving goals each day. The only person that can make you happy is you.

Looking into others’ lives and deciding that since they go out as a couple all the time or family vacations and believe they have no worries in the world is the wrong way to view people. Credit cards buy happiness for short periods of time and some people can hide being unhappy very well.

How not to be jealous of other people’s success

If you find you are envious of someone else’s success the first thing you need to do is accept that you have that envy but then do something about it. Find a way to make other people envy your drive and success.

If you can fuel yourself from something that you view as a negative half the battle is won. Below are a few tips I would use if I was envious of someone’s success and needed to find a way to boost my own.

  • Worry about your own life first
  • Set goals, realistic ones and start achieving them
  • Involve others in your happiness
  • Get out make friends and spend time with family
  • Smile
  • Network with like-minded people
  • Ask for help when you need it
  • Get rid of that negative attitude
  • Believe in yourself
  • Never give up

As you can see being envious of others successful life or what you believe is successful is really all in your head. It’s up to you to make your world the happiest, best place it can be and no one else will do that for you.

Be grateful for what you have and if you want more, well you know what you need to do and maybe you might find people are envious of something you have that they don’t.



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Photo credit: Castillo Dominici

Spring cleanup tips to keep your property looking pristine

forsythia blooms spring cleanupLET THE SUN SHINE THROUGH


Today is the first day of Spring! While it may not feel like spring in many places that are still covered in snow, the snow is going to soon start to disappear.

The bright, yellow blooms of the Forsythias I am hoping are not too far off, as many say that when the Forsythias are in bloom spring is here to stay. 

I’ve already got my spring garden prepared using odd containers I keep around the house. That’s only one step for me getting ready for the spring season.

Cleanup of my yard takes top priority this time of year and it should be on your list as well. While spring is my favourite season of the year it always starts out looking pretty yucky.

The mud and wet dull looking grass as the ground starts to thaw and reveals of all the garbage and debris that has sat under the snow all winter. A good cleanup of your property and some early maintenance will set you up for a better growing season.


Spring Cleaning Checklist


Mr. CBB has a great list of spring cleaning chores and a good list of reasons for maintaining the outside of your home as the spring season begins. While his lists include many of the spring cleaning chores inside your home he also mentions a few good ideas for giving the outside of your home a simple facelift.


Early spring maintenance


A good spring cleanup of your gardens and lawn is a smart way to save yourself some yard-work later in the year. By taking a preventative approach rather than having to backtrack and fix things that should have been done at the beginning of spring conquer at the start.

If you burlapped any bushes or plants on your property once the temperature is consistently above 5 degrees Celsius you should take it off.

If the burlap is left on once it warms up it can cause the plant to sweat causing stress to the plant. Plants that experience any stress are often more susceptible to pest damage and disease.


spring cleanupRaking your lawn and flower beds


Raking up any leaves and plant debris that has been hidden under the snow will not only help to make your property look cleaner but also removes any plant debris that may harbour disease.

A rake can also be used to clean up any debris that may be in or around shrubs including any leaves, broken branches and garbage.

You can easily store any leaves in your compost bin to break-down which would be great for the soil and save you some money.

You may need to use your hands to get right into the centre of some plants to remove the debris but that is part of the job so get used to it as a homeowner unless you plan to hire someone to do the job.

I have customers who hire me to come to their home every year in Ontario to help get their property on the go for spring, summer and fall. For various reasons they are unable to and landscaping services is what I specialize in.

If you’d like me to come take a look at your property because you have landscaping needs or if you would like a quote send me a quick email to Mr.CBB and I’d be happy to help you out.

This is also a good time to remove any annuals that you may have left in your flower beds from the previous year. Waiting until the grass has dried up considerably to rake the lawn is best to limit how much you are contributing to compacting the soil.

If you can also avoid walking on your grass until it has dried up as it will also help to decrease compaction. Aerating your lawn also helps to reduce compaction though you will likely have to call in a landscaping company to have this done unless you own an aerator.

If you are lucky you might have some door-to-door sales people come knocking who will aerate your lawn for about $20 depending on the size.

Any leaves and plant debris can be added to your compost pile.




Use a sharp pair of pruners or loppers depending how big the diameter of the branches are to cut off any winter-kill on shrubs and roses. Cutting off any dead, dying or diseased branches will help to encourage new growth.

If you have any climbing roses you can cut off the thicker, older canes to encourage new growth of younger canes that you can train to climb. Now is the time to get this started so you can sit back and enjoy the beauty during the blooming season.

Any perennials that were not cut back in the fall can now be cut back to the ground. You can also cut back any ornamental grasses although you shouldn’t cut them right to the ground. By leaving an inch or two it will ensure that you are not cutting the crowns which will kill your grass.

Summer-blooming shrubs such as Weigela and Viburnum produce their flower buds on new growth so they should be pruned in the spring.

Cutting off any winter-kill and thinning out some of the inner branches will open up the shrub for better air circulation when the shrub buds and leafs out. Air circulation throughout the shrub can have an impact on the health and susceptibility of the shrub to pests and disease.

Spring-blooming shrubs such as Spirea and Forsythia should not be pruned until after they have finished flowering. If you prune them back in the spring you may not have any blooms as you will be cutting off the flower buds that grow on old growth from the previous year.




If you are planning to replace the mulch in your gardens this year stripping the old mulch off in early spring will be one less thing you have to do before planting your spring gardens.

You can spread the new mulch once you have done your planting. If you remove mulch add it to your compost bin or start one if you do not have one.

Why pay for compost to turn into your garden when you can make your own. A good layer of mulch, about 2 inches deep, will help to stop or slow down the growth of weeds in your gardens as well help to hold in moisture and regulate soil temperature.

Turning the soil in your flower beds with a garden fork helps to relieve compaction, improve drainage and at the same time you can improve the nutrients and minerals in the soil but adding some compost.

When your soil is compacted it not only affects how well your soil will drain but also how air, nutrients and minerals reach the roots of your plants.




The bursting yellow blooms of the Forsythias are a good indicator that you are safe to put down grass seed. Rough up any areas that are bare and level the ground with a garden rake.

You may want to top dress the area with some fresh topsoil before you lay down any grass seed. I recommend this for larger areas to promote ideal growth.




Once your spring bulbs begin to emerge from the soil providing them with some fertilizer will not only help to ensure you have long-lasting blooms that year but also feeds the bulb for next year’s growth.

A spring application of fertilizer on your lawn gives you a much better chance of having less problems with weeds, pests and disease. A healthy lawn is your best defence against weeds and other pests.


Thinning out/transplanting


As the perennials in your flower beds begin to emerge from the soil it is a great time to take a look at your property to see what plants you can thin out. Such plants as hostas, day-lilies and grasses can be divided and transplanted to fill any holes or bare spots in your gardens.

You will save money by getting your plants for free or you can sell them on sites like kijiji or give them away on freecycle. Don’t wait to post the ads as the sooner the plants get back in the ground the better for the plant.


 Snow mold

snow mold pink

snow mold pink – Wikipedia source


What is Snow Mold?

Snow mold is a fungus that will show up in your lawn once the snow has melted if you have been affected by it.

Snow Mold may damage or even kill your grass so it’s important to recognize it right away.

As soon as the snow melts in spring if you see circles in your lawn that are anywhere from 3 inches to 12 inches in diameter you most likely have snow mold.

These circles can sometimes be hard to see because if you have a lot of this mold the circles often blend together so that you may just see large patches.

Snow mold is found in areas that have cold winters where the ground is consistently covered with snow. There are two types of snow mold that can attack your grass Pink Snow Mold and Grey Snow Mold.

Pink snow mold is the more severe of the two with the potential to kill the roots and crowns of the grass in your lawn. Grey snow mold typically does little damage to the roots and crown of the grass rather it affects just the blades of the grass.

Snow mold is able to survive throughout the summer although you will only see it after the snow melts. During the summer it may live in any leaves or plant debris that may be hanging around on your property. Severe snow mold may need a fungicide treatment to kill off the unwanted pathogen.


How to prevent snow mold


Snow mold pink or grey has the ability to show up in any variety of grass while Kentucky Bluegrass and fescue varieties seem to be least affected by it.

Regular cutting and raking of your grass will help to prevent snow mold from showing up in your lawn. Cutting your grass in the fall right before the first snowfall or even if there is a light dusting of snow on the ground is a good idea.

The more surface area of grass that you have when the snow falls the greater the chance that your grass may become susceptible to snow mold.


Community spring cleanup


Join your community for a spring cleanup

The garbage left behind on the sidewalks, parks and parking lots once the snow disappears contributes to the yucky look of saying goodbye to winter.

Many cities and municipalities have organized cleanup days to get a group of people together to clean up as much of the garbage as possible in one day.

If you are interested in helping with the cleanup of your city or town look into whether they have an organized event. If you find they do not possibly consider creating your own with friends, family and neighbours.

I have a long strip of grass that runs along the road between our house and our neighbours that collects garbage all summer that people decide they no longer need in their car so they chuck it out the window, on to my property. Thanks!

The kids and I walk this strip many times throughout the summer so after the winter come spring time we are guaranteed to walk with a garbage bag in hand. We do our part to keep our community clean, so give it a try to be proud of where you call home.

Are you getting prepared to give your property inside and out a good spring cleaning?




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Should you be decorating and renovating when you rent?

Decorating Paint roller and trayWATCH WHERE YOUR MONEY GOES


Decorating a living space makes the space a more inviting place to enjoy for many people. They say the rich get richer and that may be true especially when we give money away when we simply don’t have to.

We may not be literally handing over money at the time but the landlord where you rent will be all smiles when it’s not coming out of his pocket.

Sure your landlord could potentially deduct renovations to the rental from his/her taxes but why bother if you’re paying for them out of your own pocket?

We all decorate our houses from time to time when the need takes us or just a change of décor inspires us. Decorating and renovating doesn’t have to be expensive handmade screen printed wallpaper or exotic hardwood flooring.

It can be as simple as painting and that is probably the best return on investment there is. Painting will brighten any room in the home instantly and give it that brand new feeling back.

I’ve talked before about decorating your home and which renovations tend to be better than others along with which ones we’ve done to our abode.

There is however some decorating tips that I would give out that involves no decorating what so ever and it includes painting, or lack of it.




Although painting gives you that instant pop for the cheapest possible price it is possible to get zero return on investment. How? By decorating someone else’s house.

Decorating and/or renovating a rented house is throwing money down the drain. It may look great after you’ve finished but who is ultimately going to enjoy your care and attention? The landlord and they will love you for your effort.

I used to live next door to a couple of roughly the same age in the UK when I owned my first home. The difference between the two homes was I owned mine through a mortgage and they rented theirs.

My mortgage was roughly half of what they paid in rent in those days which was bad news for them. They also got the first home bug and decided to decorate from top to bottom at their expense. I’ll admit it looked better than mine, but I wasn’t the one losing out.

For everything they paid out and the hard work they put in, the ultimate winner was the landlord. When the couple left the house it was instantly rented out again, probably because it was beautifully decorated inside.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be indoor decorating either, outside the home can easily use up the same amount of money or more.

I used to know someone back in the UK that lived in a rental property and decided to re-grade the back garden and build a retaining wall believing that they would stay there for a number of years.

They also re-painted, installed new light fittings among other things. In the end life happened and things changed and they moved out a lot sooner than they had anticipated.

If you must have a garden full of flowers and bushes where you rent don’t go to a garden centre and spend your money. Why? It’s not like you are going to dig them up and take them when you leave.

Reality is most renters leave at some point or move to another location for various reasons. Think smart and find free plants and easy ways to save money on gardening by using everyday tips that most people don’t think of.

The cost of materials and the labour were all lost to the landlord who reaped the benefits of the improved garden, or should I say the new tenants.

Pots or hanging baskets would have been a better way to add that certain something to a rental property. The difference is, they have the added advantage that they can be taken with you when you leave.

Now I know that long-term renters may disagree with me as living for years in a completely bland white wall box of a house can be very dull and uninteresting. It doesn’t have to be that way if you are creative and a smart decorator.

I’ve seen some rentals in my time where the whole house could do with a coat of paint just to hide all the dirt, scrapes and damage that earlier renters have inflicted.

Some people may live in a rent-to-own home and have the opportunity to buy out the property at some point at the end of a rental agreement.

This may make a little more sense if you insist on decorating although some rent-to-own schemes have a little left to be desired.

There was a TV series broadcast on Home and Garden Television (HGTV) that was called “For Rent” where a couple or small family would look at rental options and then the presenter and the production team would redecorate or renovate.

They would ask the landlord for permission in which most were obliging mainly because they were getting a bargain out of the deal.

The one thing that got me thinking was these people were often looking for a rental property on a certain budget because money was tight.

Why would you go and blow more money on decorating or renovating the property at your expense if you’ve got a tight budget?

We know people who have renovated kitchens, bathrooms, added on a deck or finished a basement with their own money just so they could enjoy the space in their rental. Not smart investing if you ask me, but that’s just my opinion.

Of course the landlord approved it and made sure permits were in place where needed but likely went home laughing about how much money he saved because they spent theirs.


Decorate smart


There are still ways you can decorate your rental without having to lose out. Just because it’s not your own doesn’t mean you can’t make it a space you are comfortable in.

Wall hangings and/or paintings can add colour and a focal point to a room. Just check with your landlord before putting holes in the walls.

Rugs can cover over bad carpeted areas. Curtains tend to be easier to move from one house to another rather than blinds as they tend to be custom fit. Don’t rush out to buy brand new when you can try to find free decor online or shop garage sales for cheap items.

If you insist on changing out light fittings, make sure you keep the original so you can re-install it when you leave the property. Why leave your new light fixture for someone else to enjoy and reap the rewards of your hard-earned money?

Sometimes the shiny brand new effect can get the best of us and start to pull you off your path and away from your goals.

We have rented short-term before to save money because bills were included in the rental and this helped us get to where we wanted to go.

In all the time we spent there we didn’t once get the urge to decorate let alone renovate, although it needed it. Yes, it would have been much nicer to live in a better looking rental but a tight budget is what we set ourselves.

That was our choice because we knew we weren’t going to stay long-term nor would we spend the money even if we were. It did however get a very thorough cleaning before and during our stay and the day we left.

The end result of doing without enabled us to put down a larger down-payment on our house purchase. Saving on not decorating a rental apartment helped us by transferring the savings on to decorate and renovate our new house.

Even if you have the mind-set that you will never own your own home you need to stop thinking that way or you never will. Put goals into place and start saving for your down-payment today even if it takes you years of renting before you can get into a house.

If you insist on renovating or decorating a home/apartment you rent accept the fact that your money is as good as gone, no return on investment.

Our house has been decorated to a certain extent and is currently under planning for the next phase. The end result will be money in our pockets and not the landlords’ bank account.

Have you renovated somewhere you’ve rented?

Why did you make that decision and how much did you spend?

What are some other ways you can decorate where you rent for less?




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The costs of fertility treatments to create a miracle

Time for kids fertilityA  STORY OF A COUPLES STRUGGLE


Fertility treatment centers across Canada are visited every day from couples who are struggling to conceive.

Each week I find that someone is coming to the blog looking for answers on the costs of fertility treatments, ovulation tests, what infertility is, fertility calendars, fertility calculators and so on.

The reality is there are not always any real answers and the doctors will put you through a series of tests and medications that will cost you out-of-pocket if you don’t have the benefits coverage to pay.

Many couples will go into debt or use their life savings for an ounce of hope and stop at nothing from re-mortgaging their homes, borrowing money or using credit cards to fund fertility treatments.

Sadly, not every treatment has a happy ending and costs can mount up month after month, year after year.

If both your fallopian tubes are blocked In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is not covered under OHIP but the province of Ontario will cover a portion of the costs of IVF but when they say a portion it’s a small portion.

Costs can run you upwards of $12,000-$14,000  including medications depending on where you go.

A full-price list of costs from the fertility clinic at The London Health Science Centre will give you an idea of what types of expenses you will be looking at. Something is better than nothing though.

If you’ve been a long time reader of Canadian Budget Binder then today’s guest writer Jen P is no stranger to you. Jen and her husband came to me almost 2 years ago now asking for help with their budget.

I worked hard with Jen for hours on end, days on end but we finally worked out a budget that worked for them. Oddly enough she did most of the work. Sometimes we believe we can’t achieve something until we get in and do it ourselves.

Thankfully the budget was put in place because over the past year they have had their ups and downs with conception and Jen is here to share her story of tears, hope, miracles and inspire you to believe and never give up. What is meant to be, will be.

Hi Mr.CBB and Fans,

As you already know from the introduction above my name is Jen and I hope that if I can inspire any of you who read this today that miracles do happen and when they don’t we must find ways to cope with our emotions.

I was married in my early 20’s and during that time I was adamant that I didn’t want children. I was divorced in my late 20’s and then met my current husband.

Within one week of my 30th birthday I suddenly realized that I was now with the right man and I wanted to have a family. I made an appointment with my family doctor and got a referral to a genetic counsellor.

I have a family history of spina bifida so I wanted to make sure it wouldn’t be a great concern for us and a prescription for high dose folic acid prenatal vitamins. I started tracking my cycle with and ovulation calendar/calculator.

We tried to conceive for almost a year when I thought that I should seek out help (and I was tired of month after month of disappointment) and looked for answers.

My family doctor referred me to an OB-GYN. She tracked my cycle for a few months and when I still hadn’t conceived she referred me to a fertility clinic that she also worked for.


Fertility clinic


I went to the fertility clinic where they explained that they had to complete a month of several tests and cycle monitoring.

This consisted of:

  • On day one of my cycle I had to call the clinic.  At this time they book:
  • A full bladder ultrasound and a transvaginal ultrasound for either day 2, 3, 4 or 5 of my cycle.
  • 3D ultrasound between days 20 to 25 of your cycle
  • A Saline Sonohysterogram test that investigates the inside of your uterus to look for any abnormalities done between day 5 to day 11 of your cycle (I found this test extremely painful- way more so than being in labour)
  • A Hysterosalpingogram (HSG) test done in a hospital where a colourless dye is injected through your cervix and uterus.  It investigates your fallopian tubes and your uterus (I also found this test very painful).
  • Cycle monitoring – involves serial ultrasounds to assess the endometrium (lining of the uterus) and to determine how the follicles (eggs) in your ovaries are developing.  Blood work is also required to help them determine when you are most likely to ovulate.  After each ultrasound you see a doctor and are advised when to come back for follow-up ultrasounds.  This is usually done daily between day 10 to 16 of your cycle.


Cost of fertility


They also do female blood work testing hormones (including a $85 fee for a test that looks at basically whether you have enough eggs left to try to conceive) at the beginning of your cycle and infectious screening blood work (testing for Hepatitis B and C, as well as HIV). Cultures for Gonorrhea and Chlamydia are also done.

The male patient must have the infectious screening blood work and a semen analysis to make sure that everything is ok on his end something that most people put out of their minds. They always seem to think it’s the woman but in many cases it’s the man. Don’t rule it out on your own.

We were diagnosed with “unknown infertility” (basically all of my tests came out fine and all of my husband’s tests came out fine). My doctor said she would like to perform laparoscopic surgery on my uterus to see if they could find any problems and remove a polyp they found during the Saline Sonohysterogram test.

They performed the surgery and removed a polyp and I went home to recover I had a horrible reaction to the pain medication they gave me so my recovery was a little more difficult. I was in a lot of pain.

It felt like the worst cramps a woman could ever have and I vomited the whole drive home. Up to this point everything had been free (or covered under the provincial health plan).

The doctor suggested that the following month I try a cycle of Serophene AKA Clomid (a drug) and IUI (intrauterine insemination AKA artificial insemination – cost $350).

What is IUI/Artificial Insemination?

IUI/Artificial Insemination is where they have the male provide a semen sample early in the morning. It is then sent to the lab where they “wash” it, getting rid of any “defective” sperm.

They analyze what is left to make sure it is a good count with good motility. Later in the morning the female patient is inseminated in an examination room with a syringe with a tube at the end.

I felt like I wanted to try using the drug but hold off on the IUI. It was at this point that we had to pay a $300/year cycle monitoring fee that covers your ultrasounds, blood work, doctors, etc.

We just put in on our credit card and figured we’d pay that off with our credit line. The drug they prescribed was covered under my drug benefit plan at work.

So that month we decided upon using Serophene and just having regular intercourse. I went through the daily cycle monitoring and one afternoon they called and said that my hormone levels had spiked and it was time to have intercourse for the next 3 days.

We obliged and then played the waiting game.


Our miracle


ultra sound Jen

One Saturday night we went to a stag and doe for my cousin. I had a beer and some munchies and it didn’t taste that great so I left it and went on with the night while my hubby drank the night away.

I woke up around 7am and for some reason I felt compelled to do a pregnancy test (even though the fertility clinic does them for free they said I couldn’t have the test for 5 more days and I had purchased a double pack of “First Response” tests previously).

I did the test, put it on my nightstand and rolled back over to go back to sleep. I tossed and turned so I decided to check the test. It was positive! I couldn’t believe it. I rechecked the instructions to confirm. I woke my poor extremely hung over hubby up to tell him.

Obviously he didn’t react very well. We got up and drove to the fertility clinic to confirm with a blood test. They told me they’d call me in the afternoon with the results.

I couldn’t contain myself. I received the most disappointing call in the afternoon…their machine for doing blood work had broken down and I wouldn’t get my results until the next morning.

I went to a baby shower that afternoon and on my way home I picked up another pregnancy test (this one was digital with a $20 price tag but I just didn’t care at the time).

Money is no object I guess when you’re dealing with finding out you are pregnant. I know many women who have used all sorts of tests just to make sure that they weren’t seeing things or other tests were accurate.

That pregnancy test came out positive as well!

The next morning we were thrilled to receive confirmation from the clinic that I was indeed pregnant! A few days later I was in Dollarama and noticed they sold pregnancy tests. I got a little chuckle out of it and decided I try one to see how accurate they were, knowing that I was already pregnant.

Shockingly it came out positive as well and we knew it was time to get the baby budget in order or any budget for that matter. We were thrilled to conceive that very first month after the surgery. There were no more costs involved. They monitored my pregnancy until I could find a local OB-GYN.

Adam when born

Fast forward three years later…

We wanted to expand our family and started trying to conceive once again. We were feeling a little more positive this time as so many people said getting pregnant the second time around was always easier.

My naturopath referred me to a fertility doctor at another clinic she works at that specializes in thyroid conditions (which I have) to see if that was posing a problem.

He checked me out and said all looked well and he felt I’d have no trouble getting pregnant but he prescribed me a drug (Letrozole – that is known as a breast cancer drug) that could help out a little.

We tried a few months on our own and when that didn’t work I started the medication he prescribed. It had awful side effects. I had aches and pains, I was emotional, quick-tempered and just not myself.

I hated it and after 4 months of using that medication I asked that doctor to refer me back to the fertility clinic I previously used as it was a much shorter drive.

We once again went through a month of horrible tests and cycle monitoring. This time we were diagnosed with “second degree unknown infertility” (the same as before but a second time).

This time my doctor didn’t suggest surgery but did suggest IUI and Serophene again. We once again opted to use Serophene which is covered under my drug plan and hold off on the IUI.

We had to pay the $300/year cycle monitoring fee again at this time (which we once again paid for with our credit card, but this time it was just to get the rewards points.

We had the money in our savings account to pay for it. We were also told that it’s tax-deductible so we’ll try claiming it this time around).

We were unsuccessful at conceiving that month and we decided that we would try a few more months the same way. After a few more disappointing months we decided that we weren’t getting any younger so we opted for the cycle of IUI and Serophene.

This was no different from what I was used to with regular cycle monitoring however when I got to a certain point in my cycle (near ovulation).

They told me I’d have to pay $85 and go see a nurse to receive an injection pen that I would have to use that night on myself to trigger ovulation since my egg and lining had reached the size that is ideal.

I paid the $85 and went home only to receive a call that afternoon from the clinic that I did not need to use that injection that night and to put it away perhaps for another cycle (I was a little angry at that suggestion seeming as it didn’t offer a very positive outcome).

A few days later I had to go in for the IUI (which took only a few minutes) and pay $350 (paid for on credit as well for the rewards points but had the savings).

Then the waiting began. That cycle ended up being extremely disappointing to me. Not only was I not pregnant, I felt like I literally threw away $350. That was very emotional for me.

During this time I had also been regularly seeing my naturopath for acupuncture related to back pain. She also specializes in fertility so she began doing acupuncture for fertility and kept track of my results from tests at the clinic. A naturopath is also something that is covered by my benefit plan.


Preparing for surgery


I decided I’d speak to my doctor about the possibility of surgery again to see if it would help like it did last time. My doctor thought it would be a great idea to do exploratory surgery. I booked my surgery for November (we were in September at that time) and in the meantime kept trying.

November came and it was time for surgery. My sick time at work had been reduced this year so I only booked off 3 days for the surgery and recovery (plus I had Saturday and Sunday in there).

I was pretty nervous and hungry waiting for my surgery as I wasn’t allowed to eat. An emergency ended up taking over our operating room so my surgery ended up being delayed almost 8 hours!

What a nightmare.

My surgery went well and they found nothing wrong with me so we venture on. The following month the doctor once again suggested going with IUI and Serophene.

Because it was December and such an expensive month already with Christmas we decided to wait until January as Ken had lots of overtime pay coming to him.

I put a lot of hope into December’s cycle as I got pregnant following surgery last time. I went through the cycle and once again was very disappointed.

I found out on New Year’s Eve that I wasn’t pregnant (the clinic had called to tell me my test was negative). I was devastated. I had a pretty awful evening filled with tears.

I met with my doctor a few days later and we decided to try a new medication. This would be an injectable medication (Gonal F) that I would administer myself daily for 5-10 days (it is injected into the stomach every night before bed).

Price tag on this fertility medication: $998.

Thank goodness it was covered by my works benefits plan. On day 9 of my cycle I received a very disappointing call that my body was ovulating on its own and it was way too early.

They (in a roundabout way) told me to not waste my money on IUI this month, especially when I told them that Ken told me he only wanted to pay for one IUI….no more after that.

So we had to try getting pregnant with no fertility meds and that meant doing it the good old-fashioned way in January 2014. Once again, it was a very disappointing month. We decided to try it all over again in February with some minor changes to the fertility cycle.

February had to have been one of the hardest months yet. Starting on day 3 of my cycle I had to inject myself in the stomach with the medication until ovulation.

Ovulation was being delayed this cycle by another injection I had to give it to myself daily into the stomach but this time in the morning. When my egg and lining reached the size they find optimal I was given yet another medication to inject into my stomach to trigger ovulation.

The side effects of these medications at this point had really begun to take a toll on me and our relationship. All of the medications I had taken for the last year had similar side effects but they seemed to be getting worse.

At this point I had gained 17lbs and was incredibly bloated. Nothing fit. I was buying new clothes weekly so I could be more comfortable at work.

After a heart to heart with Ken he in a roundabout way told me that if I stayed on these drugs I wouldn’t get pregnant because we’d be divorced before then.

These drugs changed my personality. They made me extremely emotional and I felt like I had bi-polar disorder. The “big day” came and I did another round of IUI with another price tag of $350.

The cost of the medications and IUI this fertility cycle cost over $2000. Thank goodness for my benefits covering all but the $350 for IUI (which will be claimed on my taxes as a medical expense).

I was sure, that with this much intervention and everything working in my favour that this would be the month. The month I conceived. Unfortunately I was wrong.

I had been more devastated this month than any other month in the last year since we started trying (February had marked one year of trying).

Jen ken and AdamI thought about quitting but I paid for a year of cycle monitoring at the clinic which would take me to June.

I decided that I would quit the fertility drugs but keep monitoring my cycle at the clinic and try naturally to conceive.

I also decided that I needed a distraction from everything so I rejoined Weight Watchers to lose the 17lbs I had gained in the last year.

Budgeting made a difference this time around as we actually had savings in the bank to pay for our treatment outright.

If you remember back almost 2 years ago now we started to budget with Mr.CBB.

I’m so thankful that we did because it’s helped us throughout the savings process for our fertility treatments.

What a difference it made in so many ways. It was great to not have to stress about where the money was going to come from this time around.

It just meant using some savings and having to pass on some home improvements we had wanted to do this summer (new deck furniture and an awning or something.

In the meantime we will continue to try to conceive until June and see where it takes us. For all of you couples out there don’t give up because you never know when a miracle might happen.

I tuck my little miracle into bed every night and he wakes me up every morning to say he loves me and I love him.

-Jen P



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