Thursday, July 29, 2010

How to Save Money on Your Cable / Phone / Internet

After 4 years, I finally entered the 21st Century with Digital Cable. Having never watched a lot of TV, I do realize I'm now paying a premium for a few channels. Some (including my conscience) might also suggest my disposable income would be better invested in a tax-free savings account or RRSP's. For now, I'm enjoying the luxary that is HGTV, Food Network and Discovery. That works for me.

I'm actually considering my digital as a free upgrade. Hence, the subject of this post.

My July bill was $30 more expensive with no service change. I was annoyed because I thought it was HST, then annoyed when I wasn't. What can I say? I wanted to blame HST.

Customer Service explained the promotional pricing I had expired. Oh right. I thought, A year ago, I called to cancel my TV and they discounted my rates so it was essentially free.

Coincidentally, Bell has been calling harassing me for several weeks. If you're not a Bell customer, you know what I'm talking about. They want me to 'come back to Bell' . My interest was piqued... except they failed to notice I never left. Not only have I never been a residential customer, but to this day, I am still a corporate wireless customer. I was never there, and yet, I have never left. Confused? I guess they are too.

Anyway, I managed to copy down the details of their deal and use some aggressive tactics of my own to buy some 'thinking time'. I relayed the offer back to my current company and noted that I expect the same pricing, if not better, if I keep my services and upgrade my cable. The rest is history. My bill is still higher than it was, but I had essentially been getting cable for free, so I am okay with the increase. Not to mention, I don't have to switch companies.

So, I've seen several bloggers cover this topic, and there are lots of good tips out there if you do a quick google search. Here's my advice:

Call Customer Service and explain your situation or what you want. Suggest you'll have to cancel your service(s) or you may switch to X Company. In my experience, providers can't stand the thought to lose you. Casually threatening to cancel or switching providers seems to open the doors for negotiation. What's the worse thing that can happen? They say no. If you have a better deal elsewhere, then say 'see ya'!

2) Don't get angry. Be nice. Avoid calling when the unexpected, hippo-sized bill comes. Wait a few days, so you can cool down and collect your thoughts. Then you can also decide what you actually want from the provider.

3) Do your research. What is everyone else offering? Are there other features you could use, which they may be able to add into your service for free. Again, it's about knowing what you want, before you call.

4) Pay attention to the fine print. How long is the contract? Is there a cancellation fee? If you switch companies, sometimes there are hidden installation costs or fees to keep your old number. Ask about these, and ask for them to be waived. Switching can be enough hassle; why pay for it?

5) Password protect your wireless router! This will ensure you pay just for YOUR use. A neighbour was using my wireless connection and the data charges were delayed by almost 2 months. By the time it showed up on my bill, I was on the third month of exceeding my bandwidth limit. I called my provider, and this was the first thing she suggested. I set up a password that evening, and I haven't had a problem since.

Good luck!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My House Tour is Updated!

I dug up my photos from my home's MLS listing over the weekend, and I've loaded them onto my House Tour. Check out the blue wall that was in my living room. Is that an accent wall or what??!

I can't wait to get my craft room done, get the boxes out of the spare bedroom and post those photos. The little boy blue room is probably one of my proudest transformations. A little paint, some used furniture and cheap art has made it a lovely guestroom!


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Office / Craft Room Inspiration

For the second time in six months, my office is empty again and ready to begin renovating / redecorating. I'm a tad embarrassed to admit I have not yet finished this project. Remember when I first mentioned it here?


In hindsight, I'm actually glad I didn't finish this project immediately after starting. I have come to realize I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do with this room. I had intended to add a desk in the closet and leave the room as an office with a small bed if I needed space for company.

Since then, I've come to realize I'd benefit more from a craft room than an office. The likelihood I would sit at the desk and work is about one in twenty. This led me to wonder why I was going to invest money and time to makeover a room I would barely use. A craft room, on the other hand, would come in far more useful. 

Currently, my craft projects end up spread across the kitchen counter, and I used to do my scrapbooking on my coffee table. I haven't scrapbooked in a year though, because I don't like getting everything out and having to pack it up again. It's one of those hobbies I enjoy in small doses, but having a space to spread everything out and leave it would be far more valuable in my house. 

This led me to start hunting for some ideas... 

I love the blue cabinet in this photo. The colour fits right in with palate I'm planning.

I have a large patio door to deal with in this room, and I couldn't help but notice the huge window in this room. I love how it drowns the room in natural light.

Then, I flipped through my collection of home magazines, and came across a "working den" in House and Home's March 2007 edition, very similar to the photo below from their website.  I love the randomness of the round table. It would give me ample space and flexibility to do crafts or scrapbooking. The shelving also could put supplies close at hand, but out of the way.

So many options! I am getting closer to a plan though, and I have started some floorplans. I'm using . With the exception of a hiccup placing windows and doors, it's been pretty intuitive. Look for some floorplan options soon!

In the meantime, does anyone else have craft room photos or tips to share?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Wonderful Discovery

While helping bf move into his new place last weekend, we came across the following, too wonderful not to share!!

Some of you may be thinking- 'That really is rough-looking'. You are correct. But........................

It's a child's table and chair set. Or misplaced from the Mad Hatter's tea party. Either way, I don't need these for some time. I totally called them though.

Bf totally kept the haul in his basement a secret. I had no idea what treasures were held beneath the recently-renovated laminate on the main floor. Like this clock and side table.

This is a 'real' clock, complete with the clockworks inside, the face that opens and key to wind it. It seems as if it may even work. Doesn't the table look equally lovely?

We also pulled out chairs, shelving units and a worn, wash table screaming for some tee elle see (yes, another possible project). To think, only weeks ago, bf and I considered snatching up some chair cushions at GT Boutique for some Asian-inspired floor seating. Who knew there were at least half a dozen chairs in his basement, well matched to his kitchen table? 

In addition to Christmas decorations, including an artificial tree, a basement of tired, old furniture is also sure to warrant a few 'unique' items. Like this creature....

It would appear this stool had a bad run-in with the abominal snowman and a staple gun. Pulling this stool out may actually have been a highlight for me, because it's just so ridiculous! I enjoyed a feel-good laugh at the blue fleece' expense.

Outfitting bf's house will be considerably easier now. I am excited to put Young House Love's window treatment advice to the test soon!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Meet My Twin, Check Out My House Tour

This week, I came across my blogger 'twin'. You know how you see people from time to time, who could be a twin to someone you know? It was that kind of experience, but I was online. I was checking out Thrifty Little Blog's Home links and Hip House Girl caught my eye.

Whoa! I thought. Could this be? Are we blog twins? We have strangely similar blogs. And we both likely thought we were unique! Well, I did... kind of. Well, at least until I started blogging and realized there are hundreds of blogging homeowners out there.

Needless to say, HHG has inspired me to post my House Tour page. Why didn't I think of that?! It's a work in progress, not unlike my house. Unfortunately, my Macbook harddrive crashed 2 weeks ago, and I have lost several photos. Luckily, some of the oldies were backed up, and I'm pretty confident I can dig up the photos from my home's 2007 MLS listing. Some of the others will come as I get time to tidy and snap more in the coming weeks. Hopefully you'll get a reno'd office pic one day soon too. Hopefully.

I haven't included a yard timeline, because I plan to dedicate my yard a page all its own. It's changed more than anything in 2 1/2 years! Hmmm Maybe this should be Savvy Yardgirl!

I came across one more "Then & Now" photo for you to enjoy. Remember these two

They were so little back then!

"The times, they are a changing.."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Cut Flower Garden

I try to keep work out of my blog. For the most part, it's easy. By nature of what I do, however, there are times when there is a crossover. Like when I appear on the country's biggest morning show. Or when I can share travelling tips, because who doesn't want tips from a seasoned veteren? This is another one of those crossovers.
Our March Homestead magazine inspired my plant selection this year. The bright-coloured cover caught my attention in the office, and I brought a copy home to browse. I made my flower list based off the article's recommendations and my own personal quest to grow perennial Sweet Williams. As I added flowers to my flowerbeds, I looked for those which would not only add beauty to my yard, but also my home in a bouquet. I was lucky to already have wonderful cone flowers and lilies, so it's been easy to build on the existing perennials.

This is one of the first bouquets I picked. Lots of purples. Guess what the white flowers at the top left of the photo are? Not your typical perrenial...
They're ONIONS! I never pulled them out last year and they came back this year with vengeance. I can't eat that many green onions, so I left most of them to flower. They make great filler in a bouquet!

My sunflowers were also a surprise return to my flowerbed. In fact, I wasn't totally happy when they came up, because the dahlia I planted is now severely stunted in growth in the middle of a sunflower forest. They do make amazing bouquets when mixed with a few coneflowers and sedum!

I haven't yet been able to find the tall Sweet William variety that makes a great bouquet. When I worked in St. Jacob's, I used to drive by Mennonite farms, where you could buy cut bouquets of Sweet William for a couple dollars. Does anyone know what this variety is called? Maybe the Mennonites have cornered this market.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

First Tie-Dye Adventures - The Reveal

My follower, fellow tweep and real-life friend has been all about tie-dye lately. Purely by coincidence, but my rowing team has also discussed tie-dying our team shirts now for several weeks.

Well, I'd rather do than discuss, so I joined Alliebagel for a tie-dye session last week. Not bad for a first-timer, if I do say so myself.

Rit Dye Powder - ScarletIn my past, I've used RIT dye (comes in a box you can buy at Wal-Mart or Zellars) in a pot of hot water on the stove. I have used this dye to colour Halloween costumes accessories in the past and it's very cheap and easy to use.

When tie-dying, this will dye your entire shirt, leaving the 'tied' parts white. It also stains VERY easily, so you will want to cover every surface and use a stainless steel pot and old spoons, for the same reason.

Jacquard Tie Dye Kit - Funky & GroovyThis time around, we used bottles of dye, which you can buy in tie-dye kits at Wal-Mart or Michael's. Overall, the experience was more fun. I had more control over the dye and a greater variety of colour with which to work. Following the directions in the kit, we wrapped our creations (some of which looked like giant donuts) in saran wrap to 'cure' overnight. A quick rinse in the morning, until the water ran clear, then washed in hot water and my inaugural tie-dye masterpieces are complete!!

Here's another closeup of the starburst (this is what the 'donut' shirt turned out like), and me sporting my oh-so-cool shirt!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Christmas in July

Well, maybe not quite but arn't these two cute? Bf suggested a trip to Value Village on the weekend, and I developed an immediately grew fond of these little salt & pepper shakers. For $3, they were mine! They're tacky, paint is chipped, and it's not the right season at all, but I couldn't leave them on the shelf. Besides, maybe they'll bring more Christmas-like weather to the area.

35 degree scorcher without humidex today. YIKES! My air conditioner is working overtime, and I fear it's only burning electricity. My house was 84 when I arrived home from work today and the thermastat is set to 80. I think I hear the money being withdrawn from my bank account now!

My poor plants are hurting too. I missed watering them last night, and my garden has wilted terribly. My once-vibrant cherry tomato is a hurting unit, and my flowers look so sad. [This is where I wish I had the talent to draw a cartoon flower with the most sorrowful sad-face you have ever seen.] I put a succulent outside on the weekend and also forgot sunscreen. It's burnt to a crisp. What's the verdict? Do you think it's dead?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Weekend Wrap Up

First, a much delayed Happy Canada Day!! For those of you south of the border, Happy Fourth of July!

True, north, strong and free spirit means donning your red on Canada Day. My cherry tomato didn't miss a beat!

I hope you were able to spend as much time outside this past weekend as I did. Partly because you would not have missed my posts, but largely because the weather was pretty much perfect! With Canada Day on Thursday, I took vacation Friday for an extra-long, long weekend. With no special plans, I managed to get in all the little, summer luxaries I love; golf, a campfire, fireworks, relaxing with a cold drink and hanging by a pool made for a fulfilling, yet relaxing weekend.

I even squeezed some small (oh, so small!) chores in there! I tidied my basement, moved the boxes from my (hopefully, soon-to-be-reno'd) office, thoroughly vacuumed and weeded my garden. After two hot days, I broke down and turned on the A/C again today. I could tolerate the heat and sweat when I was cleaning and suncreen-sticky from being outside. Now, working on dinner for bf, it's not so cool (no pun intended), and I'm taking comfort over saving money. Of course, turning the A/C on means all my windows and screen doors are sealed up tight, which means Ferg & Penny no longer have free rein between the house and backyard. I caught someone longing to be back outside earlier today! Hope your holiday weekend was (is) super!