Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Part 2 - Notashopaholic Unemployment Survival Guide

Use Your Points
Ever wonder to do with all those points you accumulate at the grocery store and other places? Now is the perfect time to use them. Use your Air Miles, HBC Rewards, Aeroplan, Shoppers Optimum, Scene points to redeem for gift cards, merchandise, or tickets to events. It is a great to be able to get out and do something without feeling guilty about it. Depending on the rewards program, the points may only be able to be redeemed in stored on purchases, which is fine, that saves you money as well. I used Air Miles to redeem for a $50 Cara Foods gift card. It can be used at Second Cup, Kelseys, Milestones and I few more places. It was a great way to be able to meet friends for dinner and not cost me anything.
If you currently don't have a Scene points card, get one! You receive points every time you go to the movies and only 1000 Scene points gets you free admission. Bonus-you'll get 10% off of your popcorn and drinks too!

Coupons can go along way to saving you money. You can get coupons for almost anything these days, its not just for groceries anymore. This is something you need to be dedicated too and it may take some time to find your coupons and organize them, but this can save you a great deal of money. Combine your coupon use when those items are on sale and you will see an even bigger savings. Take your search for coupons to the Internet where there are websites where you can pick and choose the coupons you want and print them out. Some great websites to look at are: SmartCanucks.ca, Save.ca (these coupons will be mailed to you), and GrocerySavings.com.
Red Flag Deals is a website you should always keep an eye on. Visitors post various sales and deals from a variety of stores, companies and websites all across Canada. If there is a deal to be had, you should be able to find it on here. Coupons for the deals will also usually be posted for printing off.
Most manufacturers or product companies will issue their own coupons and email them to those on their distribution list. If you buy a lot of products from one company, make sure you look into this. I just signed up for Alberto product emails and coupons yesterday.
Whats the best way to get free stuff? Win it! This is a good way to get free tickets to events or even free items themselves. Now be sure if you are entering a contest you know it is legitimate. Some of the contests I have entered have been from shopping malls, radio stations, magazines I subscribe to. Tim Hortons had an online contest for Roll Up The Rim where you could enter your email address for a chance to win free coffee for a year. I didn't win that one, at least I could play without having to buy the coffee!
Gift Cards
If your birthday or the holidays fall during your unfortunate loss of employment, ask for Gift Cards. There is no shortage of places you can get them from and they will come in very handy. My wonderful chiquita's gave me a Mastercard Gift Card for my birthday and Christmas. The best thing about that baby? I can use it wherever they take Mastercard, basically a Gift Card you can use anywhere!!!!! The girls did good on this one. I'm telling you its the best gift I have ever gotten. There is also a Visa Gift Card if you have a preference. The girls picked up the MC card at Shoppers Drug Mart had it activated and away I went! I'm still using it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Free Events - Not A Shopaholic Unemployment Survival Guide

Chances are wherever you live, there is something free going on that you can attend. Here in Toronto, we have Taste of the Danforth, Taste of Little Italy, Luminato, Jazz Festivals, Movies in the Park, etc. In the summer I think there is a lot more going on so Free Events should be easy to find. In the winter however, its been a bit of a challenge. I have found a few things and here they are:

1. Ice Skating-free at Nathan Philips Square and Harbourfront. If you don't have skates you can rent them (which makes this not free), but most people do have their own or could possibly borrow a pair.

2. Antique Shows/Mall Events-Sherway Gardens and other malls have Antique Shows throughout the year. Check the website of your local mall and find out when this is going on. Then head over to the mall and peruse the offerings. Grab a coffee and spend an afternoon with the antiques. You never know. You may find something you like or it may give you ideas for things to do in your house once you find yourself employed again.

3. Museums and Art Galleries-These places usually have a few hours of free admission one evening a week. Check your local establishments and find out when that is. AGO in Toronto is free Wednesday nights after 6pm. The ROM has free admission Wednesday evenings from 4:30-5:30. Bata Shoe Museum has a pay what you can night Thursdays from 5-8pm. Not free but a substantial saving from the regular $12 admission price. Check websites for the places you are interesting in visiting to see if there are discounted or free admission on certain nights.

City of Toronto lists some free events on their website at: http://www.toronto.ca/events/index.htm. Check your city website to see if they do the same.

4. Public Library-The Toronto Libraries I have been too have free events for both adults and children. Schedules can usually be found online so check your local branch today. Anything seems to go from Bookclubs to Magic shows for the young ones. Worth taking advantage off. The Toronto Library just completed their MAP program in conjunction with Sunlife. Each adult could check out a pass for different attractions around Toronto. All of the passes were good for families usually 2 adults and up to 4 children. I was lucky enough to get a couple of these and visit the Bata Shoe Museum, Textile Museum and the AGO. I'll be on the lookout next year for passes to the ROM.

Not A Shopaholic Unemployment Survival Guide

When I lost my job, the hardest thing to deal with was the change it was going to mean to my lifestyle. A very social person, I am not usually one to turn down invitations to dinners and hanging out with friends. Going out requires money and I didn't have any to spend on those things. I was worried about how I was going to pay bills and buy groceries, just living day to day was about to become an incredible challenge. It soon became apparent that I was going to have to do some kind of socializing, if for the only reason that it was going to help me keep my sanity. Being the kind of person to always find a way to do the things I want, I set out on a mission to find ways of incorporating some social aspect back into my life and to try to save money on anything in anyway that I could.
The following is a list of things that are helping me survive while making me not feel like a social misfit. This is a list that works for me and my lifestyle. Depending on your situation these things may not be suitable to you but there maybe some variation of them that is. All I know is that when you have very little money or no money at all, your ability to get creative certainly comes out. This is my survival guide for getting through this part of my life.