Cut back, way back.

I used to watch financial shows in order to get tips on how to save money. I found that the people on the show usually had a lot in common: not bringing lunch/eating out, luxuries like shows and cabs, cigarettes, coffee etc..

I don’t do any of that on a regular basis. I consider it a balancing act. If I don’t buy an expensive cup of coffee everyday, and drink the free coffee from work, that’s money that can go towards… Well let’s be honest, more clothes!

I recently still felt the need to cut back even more – and I took the hit with my beauty products. Since I was using relatively high-end products I took it down a few notches. (Okay, more than a few in some cases, but that’s what I tell myself!)


Joico shampoo and conditioner: $40

Nars bronzer: $45

MAC eyeliner: $18

Lip InFATuation lip gloss:$38


Herbal Essences shampoo and conditioner: $8 with coupons

Sephora bronzer: $18

Rimmel eyeliner (FREE with mascara):$0

Lise Watier lip gloss: $20

And HELLO: $95 in my bank account every 4 months.

Staying pretty still, but maybe not so poor.



Putting the pretty back in prettylittlepoorgirl pt 1.

A poor girl knows it isn’t always cheap to be a pretty girl. Let’s take getting a mani-pedi for example. When you get your nails done, you are paying mostly for a service, not for those ten milliletres of polish. Doing the job yourself means that you skip paying for the service, plus when you buy nail polish, you get to keep it!
Yes, when you first try, it may not look as pretty as a pro job, but consider it learning a skill! Practice makes perfect!  
Tools of the trade (that you might not already have!)
A nail buffer – like this
Item Salon Brand (OPI) Drugstore brand (Revlon) Drugstore Brand (Sally Hansen, Hard as Nails)
Basecoat $8.99 $4.96 $2.47
Colour $8.99 $4.96 $2.47
Topcoat $8.99 $4.96 $2.47
Total (including nail buffer and tax) $31.82 $18.16 $9.71
The reason I included the third option is because you can use the same brands that the salon uses, but often I find (and of course this varies) that the drugstore kinds are just as good and last as long.
A really key trick to a lasting manicure is using a topcoat. Danielle prefers Essie, while I actually have a supply-store brand that my sister used in her nail salon. I’ve heard reviews raving about Deborah Lipman’s topcoat, so if you’re willing to shell out the $22, let me know how it goes!
Remember – topcoat to the rescue!: Always use a basecoat and a topcoat. A basecoat will help the colour adhere to your nail and the topcoat will help prevent chipping. A topcoat is key for that shiny, salon-done look. If you’ve made a minor mistake, a good topcoat will mask that. To freshen up a manicure, add another topcoat!

You won’t be a pro overnight, but it’s not rocket science. Just think of all the money you’re saving:

12/week for a manicure=$48/month
25/ twice a month for a pedicure=$50/month

=90/month! And that doesn’t include tip! That’s a minimum savings of $27.71! And that’s if you buy a new salon-brand polish colour every week of the month! 
What do you think about those savings, pretty little poor girls?

Use your friends to save you money

In one attempt to save money, I decided I was going to bike everywhere.

And not because I was not imagining myself in a floral maxi dress with a fish-tail side-braid cycling on a dutch-style bike  with a baguette in my front basket, a bottle of Pinot Grigio in my left hand on my way to an afternoon picnic in the park.

Truly, I wasn’t. I lived in Belgium for a year: been there, done that.

Rather then indulging some soft-focus hipster fantasy, it was a practical decision to save money on transportation.

Where I live, an unlimited monthly transit pass is $100 and it costs $3 to take the bus or subway. To me, it’s just not worth it unless I’m going somewhere more than a 40 min walk away. Since I live downtown, in an apartment that is a 6 min. walk to school and a 15 min. walk to work, it’s pointless for me to buy a monthly transit pass since it won’t be cost effective. But sometimes, like when I want to go to the library, or go buy groceries in Chinatown, or go browse at all the lovely boutiques on the west-end of town, it just takes too long to walk there and I end up giving in and taking the streetcar. That’s at least $6 for a round-trip, which I’d rather spend on three coffees, frankly.

That’s where my  bike comes in. I bought it last summer at Canadian Tire for under $150 and it’s been sitting in my parents garage uptown since September. Finally, after weeks of trying to motivating myself to ride it downtown, I did it one evening. I was so happy. Now I could run errands in a faster time AND get fit doing it, all  for FREE. Win-win-win situation.

Of course, the SECOND day it was downtown, locked up to a post outside la apartment,someone tried to steal it. I guess when they were trying to steal it they got caught or something, but they (the bastards!) kicked my fenders in and punctured my wheel as well as stealing one of my locks.

So I had a completely flat tire (so flat it fell of the rim) and was thus unable to even wheel it to a bike repair shop because it wouldn’t roll.

Life sucked.

I also couldn’t drive it to a bike repair shop because I had no money to pay for it to be fixed! “Whatever”, I thought, “I’ll just continue to walk places”.

“Now”, you ask, “Danielle, don’t you know anyone who can fix a freakin tire?”

No, readers, no I do not.

You see, I grew up in a big city, all my friends grew up in a city, my parents grew up in a city, we can’t do things like that. My dad hires pays handyman $80 an hour to change light bulbs in our house practically.

I scrolled through my BlackBerry wondering who I could call. Now would be the perfect time to get  a country-boy boyfriend.


A few months ago I met a boy at a bar from the country. We hung out for a bit and he ended up putting up some shelves in my room. But we had lost touch over the last few months and I didn’t want to seem awkward or weird by calling him up to ask him to fix my bike since we hadn’t spoken for about four months.

But I also didn’t have money to fix my bike.

Long story short? I got over it, decided money was more important to me and I should at least just ask. The worst he would say was no.

But he said yes!! (after asking me if I deleted him off nooo I just got a new phone..he totally did not buy that, but that’s irrelevant).

Now I have a bike that will save me money because I can ride to No Frills to get cheap groceries, and to the library so I won’t have to buy books, and maybe even to my parents house if I’m feeling super fit adventurous (where they will give me free food and free laundry!) And I saved like $50 by getting him to do it rather then a bike shop.

Moral of this story? Use your friends.


How to save on being a wedding guest

Wedding season is upon us. Rosy-cheeked brides, nervous grooms, the smell of  thousands of dollars worth of floral arrangements is in the air.  But forget how much the couple is spending, we’re more concerned about your finances.

If you’re invited to tones of weddings this summer, don’t let it blow your budget.

Going to weddings can be expensive. Therefore, the first step in saving money as a wedding guest if you’re on a tight budget is…don’t be a yes person. You don’t have to go to your mailman’s daughter’s wedding. Really, you don’t. You should, yes, and  you’ll probably have a great time, but if you’re super strapped for cash and invited to five weddings this summer, sometimes, you’re just going to have to say “no” to one of the people who don’t mean as much to you. So if you feel comfortable doing so,  RSVP in the negative for those people to whom you aren’t so close.

For the weddings you do decide to attend, remember that the wedding itself isn’t the only party these days. Oh no, there’s all the parties leading up to the wedding including the engagement party, the wedding shower, and bachelor/bachelorette party. If you don’t feel comfortable saying no to the wedding, consider not attending at least one of the pre-parties. It will save you transportation and also having to buy a gift and contribute towards entertainment.

For example, I’m invited to a bachelorette party this weekend. The bridesmaid is renting a hotel room in downtown Toronto, going to dinner at a Summerlicious restaurant, buying t-shirts for all of us, going to a night out at a bar, buying the bride a gift card to a clothing store, and having brunch the next morning.

Oy vey!

That is some serious cash! I can’t afford all of it, so I told the bridesmaid that I would only be able to attend the night out at the bar, buy a t-shirt and contribute some to the gift card, but would have to skip the rest of the festivities. Thankfully, she’s not a bridesmaidzilla, and she completely understood.

Me at my friend's wedding last weekend–wearing a BCBG dress I bought on sale for $112 down from $350!!

For the actual event, the wedding itself, a gift can be the largest expenditure of the night. If giving a cash gift will put too much stress on your budget, consider buying something from the registry that is slightly cheaper. You could also buy one of the more inexpensive items on the registry, like a nice salad bowl, and then supplement it by adding in kitchen items, like wooden spoons and forks, that you find at a discount kitchen store, like HomeSense. You could also try adding a homemade gift.  For example, if you buy an inexpensive handheld mixer off the registry, you could add in two, beautifully decorated jars of homemade cake mix with instructions on how to bake it. You can find great homemade gift ideas on the Martha Stewart website.

Another way to save on attending a wedding is by transportation. Although you want to have a good time, taking a cab to and from the event might not be worth it. If you can carpool, and if not, assign your partner as a designated driver so that you can take your own vehicle.

And finally, although this may be a no-brainer…you do not, not, need that new $465 dress from BCBG (unless you can afford it). You can make one work all wedding season, especially if it’s in a neutral colour, by adding a blazer, making it strapless, adding a belt, switching shoes, and pairing it with bright accessories.

When is buying the brand name worth it?

A major tip that personal finance experts give is “don’t buy brand-name food, you’re just paying for the marketing.” And while I largely agree that you’re just throwing your money out the window if you opt for brand-name rice cakes over no-name rice cakes, there is one grocery store item I refuse to save on.

Maybe it’s something about being born in the decade in which it was produced, but I’m mildly addicted and truly believe nothing tastes like the real thing.  I’ve tried President’s Choice diet cola and I’ve tried RC diet cola and I’ve even tried  random European brands of the  brown stuff, but nothing comes close to the authentic stuff.

There’s just something about the refreshing feel of the icy can in my hand. The sound the can make when I crack the tab open with my index finger. The crackling of the carbonation rising to the surface. But all of that can be replicated with any brand. But what can’t be so easily replicated is the crisp taste of the first sip.

I’ll shell out whatever I need to pay to get it and don’t even bother looking at the price of the no-name competitors because it simply isn’t relevant to me–whatever mark-up I’m paying for the name, is 100% worth it to me. I’d rather eliminate the drink entirely (as I have for my $100/month food budget challenge) than bother going cheap.

What’s the one item that you simply can’t buy the no-name version of?

Welcome to our PF Journey


We’re Danielle and Jenn. We’re no experts in personal finance– but you’re probably not either. So teach us and learn from us as we detail our financial adventures from saving and budgeting, to choosing between sushi and a haircut.  Since no one taught us in school (and judging by the fact that Canadians have record-high level debt, they would have done a bad job anyways) we want to learn how to make the funds we have go the farthest, while still enjoying our 20-something lives.

Danielle is a journalism grad student and likes to intern for free in her spare time. She pays her rent and feeds herself by taking every random part-time job she can find such as: teaching assistant, bartending, tutoring, stuffing envelopes and freelance writing. She regularly dips into her savings, which she earned during her year “on” between undergrad and grad.   Thankfully, she is out of debt, but desperately wants to stay that way. This is difficult since her income is close to zero and she has a penchant for expensive bronzers, lattes, cotton dresses and free-range eggs.


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