Having kids on the cheap

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Living in Vancouver is expensive. It is ranked at 65th most expensive city in the world, third in North America (after NYC and Toronto)*. Add that to living in one of the most expensive areas in Vancouver: UBC. Add that to the fact that we have lived on almost  non-existent income for the last five years. Add to that we have two (hungry, growing) kids – and apparently kids can cost around $10,000 a year (there’s even a kid cost calculator, can you believe it?!) I”m not calling for a pity party, quite the opposite. I was inspired by my friend Kendra who like many of our other no-kids-yet friends posed the question, ” How DO you do it?” So, here are my tips on how to live in Vancouver with kids and a very tight budget.

1. Being second hand savvy. Over the last five years, craigslist and I have become good friends. Did you know it even has an iphone app? (I am probably the only blogger in the world still with a flip-phone – but for those of you who do… check it out) Craigslist has provided us with a never been used jogging stroller, toys, a stunning wooden kitchen (below), stroller accessories, cloth diapers, clothes, shoes, bedroom furniture, baby monitor….the list goes on.

2. Being a smart clothes shopper. So when craigslist isn’t handy (I actually don’t find it the best source of clothes as am VERY picky about what my kids wear), then try swapmeets. Swapmeets are like your local farmers markets – without the farmers and without the food. Basically behind the stalls are other thrifty Moms (sometimes including myself) who have washed their kids clothes carefully and kept them in good shape and are selling them for pretty decent prices (although in my opinion some people ask WAY too much for a scuffed ski jacket…), check out kidsvancouver for the swapmeet listings, mark them down on the calendar, get there early and have fun. I generally go to my local ones but sometimes I venture out the the mammoth Cloverdale swapmeet for some extra good savings. If not swap meets head to your local kids consignment store. Thankfully living in the westside, I have all the weathly Moms dropping off their designer clothes at consignment stores (my favourites are here, here and here) and if you time it right, they have wonderful end of season sales (50-70%) and I stock up on things for years (and I mean years) ahead. If you don’t have a problem with storage consider this! And if not consignment stores, head to H&M and Zara during sale periods and you can get some reasonable discounts on some lovely pieces. Apart from that if you have friends who have kids a bit older than yours always offer to help them out by taking clothes off their hands when their kids grow out of them and more than often people are pretty willing. Thankfully in our student housing area we also have laundry room drop boxes where not only do I get some fine pieces (eg. a Chloe dress!) for myself, but I’ve managed to score some decent finds for my kids too.

3. Scrimping on the neccessities. Use cloth diapers if you can. Some people can’t stand washing out poop or having the smell of urine soaked diapers hanging around. Fair enough. Or if your kids have super sensitive skin and whatever all-natural product you use, the diaper rashes don’t disappear. Again, fair enough. BUT if this isn’t the case, scope out craigslist, do your research online and get yourself some 2nd hand CLEAN cloth diapers and if the idea of cleaning them freaks you out, use a cloth diaper cleaning service: it is still cheaper (and better for the environment) than purchasing disposables (I can vouch for these, these and these brands of diapers). As for food, if you can and if you’re willing: breastfeed. This is a great money saver as formula is super expensive. But again, only if you can and if you’re willing. When they’ve completed the boobie phase, save money by doing bulk shopping at Costco and Superstore (don’t be afraid to buy no name products!) and then raid the $1 bins at your local produce market. Find out the discount days at your local super markets (eg. my local Safeway has 10% off on the 1st Tuesday of each month) and use coupons if you have the energy. Cook seasonal fruits and veggies as they’re cheaper and cut down on meat (my husband is a carnivore so we still eat white meat and fish, but have pretty much cut out red meat from our diet). For more tips on saving money on food in Vancouver, check out my friend Katie’s post.

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4. Find free or cheap extra curricular activities. We can’t afford music, gym or sports programs instead, #1 goes to an excellent preschool that has music/gymnastics/cooking/swimming programs so the money I earn from my part-time job covers his preschool fees (and is cheaper than purchasing all those activities separately). Libraries, parks, beaches and trails are plentiful in Vancouver and thanks to our transit system (we don’t have a car: another way to save $!) this city is easy to navigate with a stroller and kid or two in tow. Local community centres and churches also have playgroups, bible camps, drop in times that are inexpensive or free. Again, do your research and you’ll find some in your area.

5. Spend $ on the important things ie. safety and your sanity. Car-seats and strollers are a must spend for me (car seats should only be purchased brand new and if you don’t own a car I reckon your stroller needs to be as good as a car, so invest in a good quality, practical stroller, but not one that looks like it’s from the space age) As your sanity, spend money on date nights, girl nights and me-time (pedicures, solo coffee shop visits etc). When your child is 20 they are not going to resent you for putting them in 2nd hand clothes but you will resent them if you haven’t given yourself enough special time away from them over the years. Date nights are a MUST. Baby-sit swap with neighbours or friends and make a point of having regular one-on-one time with your partner. This is imperative and even if we don’t go out we make sure one night a week is dedicated to chatting and hanging out together, rather than sitting on our respective laptops! You don’t need to spend much – get a dvd, make dinner at home, light some candles or go for a walk.

Additionally, other tips include minimising take-out foods/purchasing snacks, making your own coffee rather than purchasing it from Starbucks, having a pre-paid cell phone rather than a plan, not having a car or using your car sparingly. I could go on forever…but I’m handing this over to you:

Do you have any extra tips to share on how to live cheaply in an expensive city? 

* Since writing this post, this news came out… uhoh….

images c/o google

Guest Post: How to be a Hip Mom on the Go

Hello Simply Stylish Mom, friends! My name is Kate and you can find me over at Daffodils, blogging about life in Monterey, CA with my two sweet boys and handsome husband. I am so excited to be swapping Friday Fancies with Anna today.
After exchanging a few emails with Anna, I decided to create a look for a stylish mom on the go. I’ll be honest, before I had children I never understood how some woman just seemed to give up looking their best, but now, I am starting to get it. Y’all, it is hard to get two kids and a husband out the door. As a mom, you are constantly thinking about everyone and everything before yourself, it is just part of the job. So if your hair isn’t done or you accidentally wore slippers in public again, it is ok, as long as your kids have their shirts on the right way and you remembered to feed them.
However, as I get better at balancing my life as domestic goddess and my life as, well, me, I few a few tips for keeping myself together despite a busy schedule.

Mom on the G

1. Let’s start with a chic, but practical sweater like this one: Cowl neck top, $88. I love the forgiving fabric and how the draping looks elegant, but also how it could easily hide the slobbery shoulder your little one left on your Tshirt underneath it this morning.
 2. A good pair of jeans: Citizens of Humanity boot cut jeans, $160. So shopping for yourself might not be the number one priority anymore, but no one wants to see Momma in cheaply made, stretched out jeans that make your hinny sag.
3. Avoid the curse of the sneakers (and the slippers in public..) and get some boots! Golden Goose western boots, £340. My cowboy boots look cute with jeans, skirts and dresses, but they are comfortable and allow me to run as fast as I can to catch a falling toddler from a ladder at the playground. Invest in some shoes that look good, but can get dirty too.
4. A big ol bag: Longchamp tote bag, $125. Just because it is not called a diaper bag, doesn’t mean you can’t hold diapers in it. You’ll thank me later when your purse isn’t made from crunchy plastic and bedazzled flowers. 5. Babies love jewelry. It hurts when babies pull on jewelry. Start buying fun studs. Gold jewelry

6. Take a 5 minute break once a week and keep those nails painted. I love a dark color because it really looks like I put the effort in. O.P.I Lincoln Park After Dark Nail Lacquer, £11
7. Coffee. I don’t think I need to explain this one.
So there you have, my tips to keeping your style while not losing your mind.
What are some of your favorite easy styling tips?
Thanks for having me Anna!

Shy baby

Do you have a shy child? Where you shy when you were little? Are you still shy now? I was such a shy child. I have vivid memories of crawling under my Mom’s long skirts while she was chatting with a neighbour or sitting on her lap with my face in her chest when friends or relatives visited. My #2 son is very shy and as an extrovert, it is at times frustrating and difficult to deal with. According to research, 10-15% of children are born shy.

People often see shy children as rude and stand offish but it’s a normal thing. Just because a child tends to be shy doesn’t mean that he or she is destined to be lonely or unhappy. However, shyness can be a serious problem if it becomes an obstacle to the child’s social and emotional development. You shouldn’t expect a shy child to suddenly become a social butterfly and seek out the spotlight. But you don’t want your child to be a recluse either. What can we do for our shy children?

Firstly, we have to be patient and respect their temperament and help them develop confidence and social skills. We can’t be too pushy nor too protective with our child nor create unnecessary anxiety. Secondly, we need to provide balance for our child. We need to find the middle path that respects their shyness but encourages them to meet challenges, take risks, and develop social skills at their own pace. Don’t label your child or be embarrassed but let people know they need their time to warm up to new people and new situations. Previous to meeting up with ‘new’ people let them know what your child is into (sports, books, hobbies) so that they have topics to break the ice with your child. Thirdly, make sure you have outside support. This can be relatives, friends, teachers – people other than you who your child feels comfortable with and can help ease them out of their shell. Prep your child before attending events, telling them what to expect. Tell them who will be there, what will be going on and some affirming things other people there have said about them. Finally, help them develop friendships with peers. Often shy children will have less friends but the friendships they have will be strong. Be supportive and encourage friends that they feel comfortable with inviting them over for playdates.

Do you have a shy child? What are your parenting strategies?

Information from Raising great Kids: Ages 6 to 12 by Christine Langlois. Image from google.

Top 12 in 2012: Essential Pairs of Shoes

As you well know, I may not have a lot of clothes, but I make up for it in the shoe department. I LOVE shoes. I have a size 6 1/2 – 7, narrow foot so I can always find shoes I like at amazing prices. My love for shoes began when I worked at Nine West for 4 years while I was at university and due to the 40% discount I acquired quite a collection. Since then I’ve enjoyed finding shoes at thrift stores, swap parties as well as on sale in high street stores. And from time to time, I’ve purchased shoes brand new (before sale) – shock horror! So I feel I have full authority to share my top twelve (yes that many) pairs that a SSM needs in her wardrobe!

1. Ballet Flats

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2. Wedges

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3. Nude Pumps

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4. Leather Sandals

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5. Classic Black heel

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6. Knee High boot

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7. Strappy evening shoe

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8. Rain Boots

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9. Everyday Mom flats (eg. Toms/Native/Converse)

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10. Kitten heels

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11. Ankle Booties

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12. Flip flops

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images c/o googleimages

Jeans with a gender agenda

Do you dress to impress your friends or to impress your partner? I think I balance between the two. I love the whole boyfriend look but my husband absolutely does not. He doesn’t mind me borrowing his sweaters (although unfortunately he’s a size large and me, an extra small, so there isn’t much clothes borrowing) but he isn’t the biggest fan of my boyfriend jeans. So I only really wear them when a) I really need comfort over style or b) he’s either away or not spending much time with me on that day (aren’t I a good wife?!) I do love the casual comfort and simplicity of the boyfriend jean.

Garage boyfriend jeans (swapped), Gap sweater (swapped), Witchery shoes, Bueno Style necklace, gifted bangles

Darling husband: Look how Blair does the boyfriend jean, surely that is sexy to the man’s eye?

Monday Musings: Faux Fur

Faux Fur is a favourite this winter. While originally dubious about this trend, I have secured a couple of faux fur pieces which I have really enjoyed – aside from the obvious warmth, I love how luxurious and dressy they can make an otherwise simple – and boring – outfit be. Some of my favourite faux fux pieces this season are fur collars and fur vests.

pics c/o googleimages