Maple Alps

Money

Creative Ideas for a Budget-Friendly Date Night

MoneyAmanda Walter | Maple Alps2 Comments

Frugal is a word we like to use in our home. It extends from using up everything in our pantry before a long trip all the way to using our socks until they have holes in them. We make sure to get the best deal on everything. We haven't starved yet, and our toes are still warm, so we count ourselves blessed.

Not wanting a penny to go to waste is a priority for us. Trying to pay off student loans and being good stewards are both important things in this house. It doesn't stop us from having fun though, so I thought we could discuss some ways to have fun without spending a lot of money.

 

Really creative ideas for a budget-friendly date night! | www.maplealps.com

Enjoy a Staycation // Stay in Your Own Hotel

If you have one, convert your guest room into a luxury hotel room by making the bed fancy and using all the best sheets that only your visitors get to use. Add some candles and snacks and a mini "bar," and you will feel like you're on a fun getaway, without even leaving your house!

 

Cook Together // Cook Off

In an attempt to lower grocery costs or avoid eating out, make a fun dinner with things you already have - try an iron chef challenge, and use one ingredient in several creative ways. Or, just choose to work together to make whatever happens to be on the meal plan for that night. It will be fun either way.

 

Movie Night // Blanket Palace

Pick a movie you already have or rent from iTunes - which is much cheaper than going out to the theatre. Unlike the theatre, however, you will get to wear your sweatpants and bring your own water. Win! Make up some snacks or set up a blanket fort. The possibilities and creativity are endless!

 

Board Games // Trivia Night

How fun to pull out some of those dusty board games and challenge each other to win! You could spice up the night by adding house rules or adding stakes like extra chores for the loser - or just play as it's supposed to. Whatever you like. For a fun twist, make your own game!

 

Find a Hot tub to Soak in

Fantastic for you if you have a hot tub of your own. The YMCA or your public pool might have inexpensive options if you don't. In the worst case, you could also ask a friend! 

 

Go to a State Park

State parks are wonderful places! We buy an annual pass for our license plate registration that costs us a mere $11/year and it is so worth it! See what kinds of things your State offers. Getting out in nature and seeing some beautiful parks is something that is good for the soul. Try visiting different parks each time!

 

Use Groupon

We have had some crazy fun date nights by using Groupon. It's fun to find some local things that you would have never even thought about doing! One highlight was definitely going rollerskating at a roller rink one night - what a blast - and really inexpensive!

 


How are some of the ways you have fun on date nights on a budget?I would love to hear your ideas!


 

 

How Living Intentionally Can Help You Save Money

MoneyAmanda Walter | Maple Alps4 Comments

Last week, my husband and I went shopping. When I say shopping, I mean that we went to our favourite stores and browsed, and when I say browsed, I mean just that. After two hours, we walked back into our house with not one bag in tow and the same amount of money in our account that we had when we left. I was not terribly shocked, but I am certain that just a few years ago, that would not have been as easy to accomplish.

Living mindfully has naturally resulted in thinking about where our money goes. It is amazing how just thinking about it changes buying habits that sometimes leads to spending what one does not have. Instead of collecting things in our home, we have been discarding. Instead of noticing our money disappear, we have been saving, and instead of always thinking about spending money, we think about giving.

I decided to share today just a few of the reasons we believe being intentional and mindful has helped us save money.

How Living Intentionally Can Help You Save Money | www.maplealps.com

 

Have Only What You Need

I lived in the same house my entire life. When I decided to live abroad, I packed two suitcases and that is what I lived with the entire time. I came back to a full closet and drawers and realized that over half of the things I owned and had collected over time, I didn’t even need. I had just survived three years with what could fit into two suitcases. This opened my eyes greatly. I now need more than what can just fit in two suitcases (having a kitchen will do that), but I still have everything I need and love while avoiding excess.

 

Being Content With What You Have

I never realized the release I needed from material things. Because I had collected so much over the years and kept everything organized, I was not aware of each item I had. This was far from mindful. As I cleaned out closets and drawers and boxes, I finally saw the amount of useless possessions that was drowning me.

How Living Intentionally Can Help You Save Money | www.maplealps.com

 

Find Pleasure in the Simple Things

Because spending money is not on my radar, I get to enjoy more simple pleasure and realize the value of the things that cannot be bought. Once in a while I still love browsing through the mall to see the sights, but urges to purchase anything unless I need them hardly occur. If it does happen where I see something I like, it automatically comes to mind that I don’t need it and I leave the store quite content without whatever it was.

 

Free From Consumerism

I don’t feel the need to have the newest and best things anymore. Everything in my home has a place and a purpose, and I have no intentions to let that slide. I have experienced such a release and rest after getting rid of “stuff,” and I don’t want that frustration anymore. My spiritual life has been strengthened and I am able to think freely without inhibition. Thinking about giving generously to those in need or causes I believe in has become more natural (and more doable!).

 

Have you found that saving money is just one awesome perk of living intentionally?
Tell us about your journey to intentional living!


 
 



 

10 Apps and Extensions I Use to Save Money

MoneyAmanda Walter | Maple Alps21 Comments

I’ve been seeing articles all over the internet about apps that save you money. If you know me, or have been reading this blog for a while, you know I like saving money, so I’ve been guilty of having a lot of “money-saving” apps on my phone’s home screen. Over the years, however, I have weeded out and chosen my favourites, and today I decided to share with you my tried and true apps that I use almost every day. No one has paid me to share this with you, and even if they did, I only share things I truly love and think will enhance your life. I have included some referral links that will benefit you, however!

[updated February 2019]

Great apps to use to save money! So glad I came across this article! | www.maplealps.com
 

Ibotta

Ibotta has been a great money-saver for me! I always check it before heading out to shop - and even when I get home. The best part is that it doesn’t only qualify for groceries: since there are so many different stores and offers available, I can support my yarn addiction and my husband gets his electronic fix while we save money! Check out Ibotta here and use my referral link to get $10!

 

Target

Cartwheel is now included in the Target app. On it, you’ll find coupons in every category and as of late, you can collect points that go toward some pretty fabulous prizes [update: this was a trial and no longer available]. If you have a RED card, the savings add to the extra 5% you get off, so I think it’s a win. What you can also do is scan items to find out if the products are offered on the Target website for cheaper. Target price matches to their website. Why the prices are different, I do not understand, but it is worth it to check - I’ve saved several dollars per trip taking a few seconds to do this!

Shopkick

Shopkick offers several ways to earn points (called kicks) that you can redeem for a variety of gift cards. You can earn kicks by simply walking into a store (literally walking in) and scanning items. Earn more by submitting receipts with eligible items purchased on them. There are also ways to earn kicks online. I have been using it and love it! We'll both get 250 points toward a free gift card when you try it. Use code GIFT461377 or download it here.

 

Checkout51

Similar to Ibotta, Checkout51 is a rebate app. You scan your receipt after you are done shopping, and you’re good to go. This one takes longer for me to collect money since I do not buy a lot of processed food, but I still slowly collect on produce. So far, I have gotten a few cheques from this app, so I know it’s legit, and an extra $20 here and there isn’t too bad either.

Drop

I started using drop and now I don’t know why I didn’t start sooner! With Drop, all you have to do is connect your credit card or debit cards and earn points whenever you spend money at certain stores. You can choose the stores you frequent and there are certain bonus stores to get offers for as well. It is pretty constantly working in the background and you can redeem points for gift cards! Use my code urew6 to get $5 when you try it today! Or use this link here.

 

GasBuddy

GasBuddy has saved me a lot of money on gas. With a quick tap of the screen, you can find all the gas stations nearby with current prices updated by other users. I like helping to keep the app updated and accurate by verifying gas prices and fixing the ones that have changed.

Amazon

Who knew the Amazon app could save you money as you shop?! It’s easy to scan barcodes on products while in the store and see if the exact same thing I cheaper on Amazon. Some stores, like Target, even price match as long as Amazon is the seller. This has saved me money so many times!

 

Honey

Honey is a Chrome extension that has seriously changed my life. Instead of googling online coupons (that may or may not work), Honey automatically finds them for you. Not only that, but they also have a cashback rewards program that can be used to redeem Amazon gift cards. I never found an Amazon gift card I couldn’t use! Try Honey today by using my referral link: here.

 

Ebates

This one is not a new one, but it’s new to me. It took me a while to figure out, but once I did, I was really happy I had, and wished I would have taken it more seriously sooner! You can also have this as a chrome extension. Find rebates on almost everything you buy on the internet - from Amazon and Etsy purchases to booking hotels and rental cars (that’s where I make the most of the money!). The extension will automatically recognize the page you’re on, and ask if you would like to use the cash back options. It’s great, especially when you were going to spend the money anyway. Why not get some back? Check out Ebates here and use my referral link here to get a bonus $10!

 

Swagbucks

I started using Swagbucks my freshman year in college. It's basically a search engine that wins you money. Honestly, it used to be more awesome than it is now and I used it to get hundreds of dollars worth of Amazon gift cards. Though I don't use it as much now, I do use some of the features, like searching and the occasional survey when I want. They also have a ton of great informative videos to watch, and I check those out once in a while to get some points. It's my default search engine that wins me free money! They also have a similar program like Ebates to get rebates on certain deals. If you're going to buy something anyway, why not get some money back? Use my referral link to try it for free today!

 

Do you use any apps or extensions to save you money? Any of these ones? I'm always looking for more ways to save, so tell me in the comments below about your favourite apps to save you money!


 

How Not To Go Broke From Buying Groceries

MoneyAmanda Walter | Maple Alps35 Comments

Food is one of those things that you need to survive. I have not yet met anyone who does not require it in some capacity; it’s just not how we’re made. Unfortunately, groceries are not always the cheapest, and it seems that every time I go out, prices have escalated! With not much extra money to spare, a lot of planning and strategizing goes into our grocery shopping. Being intentional about our purchases translates into our necessities as well, so I decided to share a few of the things we do (and one we hope to do soon) to keep our food bill down.

How Not To Go Broke From Buying Groceries | www.maplealps.com

 

Check your fridge and pantry first!

Shop your own home! On occasion, we have done a “no-spend” month, where we try to use up our staples in the fridge, freezer, and pantry. We will allow ourselves fresh produce because we need it, but it has almost become a game to see how little we can spend.

 

Meal plan

I talked about why I meal plan here and more about my process here. We’ve since added a giant chalkboard in our kitchen where the meals for the week are outlined so that everyone can see. If we need to switch it up or swap some meals, it’s not a big deal! Meal planning is definitely one thing that keeps our grocery bill down.

Make a list - and stick to it

This is so important! So many times I’m tempted to get waylaid by the specials or see items that aren’t on my list that I want to get. Most of the time, if I do get them, they don’t get eaten, which results in wasted money. It is so much better to stick to your list. This is also why I usually do the grocery shopping by myself and leave the husband at home :)

 

Get Creative + Embrace Leftovers

If you have looked through your crisper and see some carrots and celery, think about what kind of meal would use those ingredients. Voilà! One of the meals for the week! You're welcome. Also, embrace leftovers. Don't let food go to waste! Get creative with this too; make new meals out of existing ones, or designate a day in the week where you tackle leftovers (or take them to work for lunch). 

 

Buy in bulk

Depending on the store and product, it is usually cheaper to buy in bulk. Explore your area’s stores and prices, and you will likely be pleasantly surprised! We like buying my spices, nuts, beans and flours in bulk. This has saved us a lot.

 

Use Coupons Responsibly

Use coupons only for the items you are going to buy anyway (and make sure they are actually the best price!). This goes along with sticking to your list! You will end up spending more if you buy according to what coupons are available. Coupons are great, but use them wisely!

 

Related: 10 Apps and Extensions We Use to Save Money

Use Rebate/Coupon Apps

I use a few rebate/coupon apps for my grocery and other shopping. One of my favourites is Ibotta. As I said with the point above, use these rebates responsibly as well. No use buying something only because you have a rebate. When you do that, you are not saving. You are spending extra. PS: Use my referral link to download Ibotta and get a $10 welcome bonus!

 

Grow your own food

We are working on planning our own little garden in our yard. I cannot wait to grow some of our favourite produce and save a bit of cash!

save money on groceries | www.maplealps.com

Check out the farmer's market

Local food is usually cheaper and good for you too! Don't be intimidated; I promise you'll love going to the farmer's market once you try! 

 

Do Your Research + Consider Unit Prices

I had a spreadsheet where I had all of the local stores I frequented (Aldi is a favourite!) and the unit prices for each product or staple we buy listed. I also have the sales prices and vague dates, so I know exactly where to shop, and when to buy what. We have since moved and I haven't updated my list, though we have mostly the same stores to choose from. You can try this too! Opt for a simple notebook and pen to keep track if you don't want to mess with a spreadsheet. You can also keep a photo folder on your phone (taking snapshots of price labels).  Comparing prices can be a great money saver - plus, there is a certain satisfaction you receive when you know you bought something at the best possible price for you. 

 

Take Your Calculator to the Store

Just in case your store doesn't display unit prices and your mental math doesn't go that quick.

 

Learn How To Store Food Properly

If you do not store your food properly, chances are it will go bad before it has to. Increase the life of your groceries by learning what is best kept where and how.

 

How do you save money on groceries? I would love to hear your tips, and I hope you have been able to add to them with this post!


 

12 Necessities We Are Intentional About Spending Money On

MoneyAmanda Walter | Maple Alps24 Comments

The biggest discussion in our house at the moment is definitely the topic of my student loans. It’s a struggle I don’t even want to think about, but here I am, pouring out my heart and soul on the internet. Go figure.

You see, when I went to school, no one ever told me that student loans were not a good idea for me to get involved with. The only thing we were ever warned about in school were credit cards and bounced cheques, so I always made sure to stay on top of those. However, no one ever showed me math or gave me any reason to be wary of student loans. There are definitely some cases in which these types of loans are beneficial, but in my case, they were not. If I could do it over, I would do things differently, but all I can do now is buckle down and conquer these loans and become debt-free as soon as possible. We have come up with a long-term plan for getting rid of them which requires a bit of sacrifice now but will benefit us in the future. 

I do use the word sacrifice loosely. We are not starving or wearing clothes ridden with holes. We are, however, very mindful of what we spend money on, and cut costs when we can. Here are 12 things we are intentional about when it comes to spending money

cessities We Are Intentional About Spending Money On | www.maplealps.com

Eating 

Save money by meal planning and reduce the amount you eat out. I went a long time without ever eating out, and even though it cost me socially, my bank account was thankful. I’m okay with eating out once in a while now but avoid it when possible. Pack a lunch for work. Make your own bread and other staples. Find a cheaper grocery store. Use Ibotta or other rebate and coupon apps. There are many ways to save on groceries.

Utilities

Be mindful about the utilities you use. Do you really need every light in the house on when you’re only in one room? Should you really keep the tap going as you’re brushing your teeth? Are 20 minutes in the shower completely necessary? When is washing just one shirt in the washing machine a good idea? Can clothes be hung to dry? Think about these things and be creative when saving on utilities. We make it a game every month to see if we can get utility bills lower!

Clothing

I have so much to say about this topic but I’ll leave you just with ideas to save like I promised! While basic clothing is a definite necessity, I found myself with much more than I needed (or could wear!). Now that I've purged and have what I need and love wearing, I don't feel the urge to buy more. Try selling newer clothes in good condition that you no longer wear or look at. When you have an event or a theme party to go to, before shelling out extra cash for items you’ll likely only wear once, try being creative with what you already have. You could also borrow something from a friend! I’ve been known to wear things until they have holes...you do you. If you get totally bored with the clothes you have, why not try having a clothing swap with some friends? Chances are they have some great pieces to exchange.

Toiletries

Since learning about the harmful substances in toothpaste and many other toiletry items, I have taken to making a lot of our products. This has not only reduced the chemicals in our home, it has also proven to be much more affordable! Check out some of my natural living posts here. 

Fuel

Carpool, combine trips and get a fuel-saving car. This has drastically saved our fuel costs and the extra money goes right into loan repayments.

Phone Bill

Reevaluate your phone bill and find a cheaper one that works. Research pays off - especially when you're brutally honest with yourself about your phone usage. You would be surprised what kinds of deals are out there! 

Credit Cards

Do not to spend what you don’t have. Many credit cards have interest rates of 18% or higher, which is a lot! Pay your credit card off in full every month, or don’t use it at all. Because we get cash back on our credit card, we primarily use it. However, after over one year of use, we have never paid interest because we pay it in full every month. Free money? Yes, please! Do what works for you, but avoid credit card interest like the plague.

10 Every-Day Things You Can Start Saving On Today! | www.maplealps.com

Bank Statements

Check and balance your bank statements monthly to make sure that every purchase was made by you or whoever has access to your account.  Unfortunately, fraudulent purchases occur. This has happened to me; foreign purchases were made with my credit or debit card and I was able to get money back that I never spent in the first place. I would have never noticed, had I not been checking my account regularly.

ATM Charges

Don’t ever pay for these. Just, please don’t. Not necessary.

Home Decor

A fresh paint of coat or removable decals go a long way in making your home feel new. Instead of buying expensive furniture or decorations to add to your dusting pile, DIY some projects or put out some fresh flowers and candles. There are inexpensive ways to decorate your house to your liking and personally, I think less is more!

Hobbies

I know it's weird I consider hobbies as a necessity...but, everyone has their thing. It’s hard when one has expensive hobbies. I sure do. If your hobby requires supplies, try using everything in your stockpile before getting something new. The best is when your hobby can make you money. Sell handcrafted goods or stock photography. You could even create a course or blog to teach others. Your hobby can serve you!

Cable/Subscription Costs

Re-evaluate what is important to you; this is a huge part of living intentionally. We choose not to have a TV in our house, so naturally, we do not have cable or satellite to pay for.  Since we are also very particular with what we choose to spend our time watching, renting a movie on iTunes every once in a while is much cheaper for us than paying for a Netflix or Hulu subscription.

 

What are some of the ways you save money on necessities? We would LOVE to read about them! Leave a comment with your tips - we read every single one!