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Top 5 Reasons to Start Your Own Vegetable Garden

I've been thinking...

How is it that we live with all the conveniences in the world but yet we are more stressed out, anxious and depressed then any other time in human history? It is surely not because earlier times were any easier. I have pondered this question for a while now and have come up with a few different answers. One that seems to come back over and over is that we have lost our basic connection with the nature around us. At our core, we are built to nurture and care for our surroundings but, with all the advances in technology we have traded our sowing an toiling for consumption and entertainment. Most of us go about our lives chasing the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the next big thing, thinking if we can only get there our lives will be complete. The truth is that there will always be another promotion, a bigger check or something better to go after. Happiness comes from truly knowing that you are in line with your purpose and trust me; you won't find it that way. There has been a trend lately that has gained steam because people are starting to see the benefits in their daily lives. Starting your own garden, whether you live in the city, the suburbs or in a more rural community, brings a lot to your daily life. Consider for a moment; what I find are the Top 5 Reasons to Start Your Own Vegetable Garden and I know you will find solutions to some of the biggest stresses in your life.

Most of us spend over four hours a day looking at our smartphones and that is not counting the time we spend in front of our computers at work or all the other screens now seeking to push all kinds of different products or services on us. Don't get me wrong, there is certainly a need for some of it but it is important to remember to disconnect once in a while. Growing vegetables is a great way to do so. While you are out weeding, watering, pruning or harvesting, you leave all screens behind and focus all of your energy into caring for that little patch of dirt. Getting your hands in the soil is the best way to really unplug from all the devices in your life and really connect with yourself. That is reason number one: Reversing device addiction by growing vegetation. Once you start to put your devices down for a few minutes a day and replace it with reflection time in your garden, you will soon find yourself a lot calmer, less stressed and feeling a lot better about yourself. The feeling of accomplishment as you start to see things grow will soon put you in a better mood and might even make you more productive at work.

There is a certain level of security in knowing that you can grow your own food. For the longest time, humans have relied on themselves to provide their families with the food they need. Consumerism and industrialisation have atrophied our need to do so but I believe it is still part of what makes up our DNA. The second reason to start gardening is: Know you can rely on your skills instead of corporate thrills. In the world we currently live in, it is becoming increasingly important to be self-reliant. The cost of everything is going up while wages stay the same and good paying jobs are harder and harder to find. It does not take much to disrupt the corporate supply chain and, if you think about it, they always have the bigger end of the stick. We now have access to all sorts of fruits and veggies all year round but what happens when a trade war between the U.S. and Canada raises the price of your food supply by twenty or thirty percent. Developing a skill set that provides you with the piece of mind that if anything bad was to happen, you and your family would be able to make it through, has to be a priority and the proper care of a vegetable garden is an important part of that skill set.

Next, we have what I call Growing is Knowing. That means that if you grow your own vegetables, you know exactly where they came from... Simple, I know, but there is a lot of power in that. I have always found it a little unsettling how grocery stores are able to lay out all of this produce at the exact right time so that it's just ripe enough when you bring it home to eat it. There has to be some sort of chemical in use to make that happen day in and day out. When you grow your own, you can pick it right from the plant on the day you need it and enjoy it fresh. No chemicals, no doubt; you know exactly what you are feeding your family.

Which leads us directly into reason number four which is: Families who Grow Together, Grow Together. As you learn the craft of producing your own vegetables, make sure to involve your family. It can sometimes be very difficult for parents to connect with their kids but having activities you can enjoy together bridges that gap. For the longest time, skills passed down from generation to generation. In the last fifty years or so, however, that tradition has slowly been erased from human history. The problem with that is that we are creating generations of kids who have no particular skills or any will to learn them. When you introduce your kids to gardening and give them part of the responsibility for it, you are in effect growing their skill set, growing your relationship with them and growing their effectiveness as a productive, self-reliant human being.

Finally, we have reason number five: Get your Garden On and Help the Planet Move On. The industrialization of our food supply in recent years has put an excessive amount of stress on our planet. Global climate change is the most obvious sign of this fact but there are many other indicators such as the gradual but steady decline in the quality of our produce, the increasing number of diseases affecting our food sources; animals as well as plants. By growing your own garden and consuming food you have produced yourself, you can relieve ever so slightly that industrial food chain. If everyone does their part, we will force a change in policy and food production and supply.

Tessa and I have started our very first garden this year and are already seeing major changes in our attitudes, relationship and overall stress levels. So, as a little reminder, here are the Top 5 Reasons to Start Your Own Vegetable Garden:

1. Reversing device addiction by growing vegetation.
2. Know you can rely on your skills instead of corporate thrills.
3. Growing is Knowing.
4. Families who Grow Together, Grow Together.
5. Get your Garden On and Help the Planet Move On.

Give it a try, the worst that can happen is nothing grows...In that case all you need to do is reach out, send us a message and we will more than happy to help.

As always, thanks for reading!

Marc

Dog Ownership Basics – 5 Cold Weather Pet Safety Tips

I've been thinking...Having a dog in your life is, in my opinion, one of the most rewarding relationships you can get into. Whether you are having a great day or a horrible one, your little furry buddy is there wagging his tail as soon as you glance in his direction and he asks for very little in return for his unconditional love and affection. I strongly believe that the decision to bring home a pet should not be taken lightly. It will require a lot of your time, money and attention; specially in the first several months. There will be obligatory vet visits, house breaking, obedience training as well as deciding on the type of diet to feed him, time for walks, time for burning energy, grooming and so much more. The best advice I can give you is to lay it all out on paper before you actually bring a dog home and then, once you feel confident in your plan, go for it; you will not regret it. One thing you should definitely consider in that plan is how you will take care of your pal during the harsh winter months. Dogs, just like human are very sensitive to extreme temperatures. Some are a little more adapted then others but that does not mean they should be left to fend for themselves in freezing or scorching conditions. Taking on the responsibility of owning a pet of any kind should mean you will provide them with the best possible food, water, shelter, care and attention but unfortunately, that is not always true and many animals pay the price for our negligence. Provided I have not totally scared you off yet, I'm here to offer a little help when it comes to owning a pet if you live in an area where it seems like half of the year is covered in snow. Here is my list of 5 Cold Weather Pet Safety Tips.

Tip number one is to know your pet's limits. Just like us, dog's love to play in the snow. Some breeds are better adapted to it than others and depending on the coat, fat stores, size and activity level of your dog, you should be able to determine when it is time for him to come back inside. Now, I know some of you think dog's do not belong in the house and you are entitled to your opinion but I believe it is my responsibility as a pet owner to provide him with the best possible shelter and that means he gets the same treatment I do...Inside the house. So look for the signs you would recognize in yourself; shivering, tucking paws, change in demeanor and do not leave him out in the cold any longer than you have to.

Tip number two Is to check their paws. One of the most exposed areas on your dog is his paws. In extreme cold weather or if you live in an area that uses road salt and other deicers it is imperative that you protect their paws and check them often for cracks or injuries. There are several options available to protect their paws and we find the best to be a good paw wax. It can be used as prevention as well as treatment and is very easy to make at home using some very simple ingredients.  A simple google search will give you hundreds of recipes.  As an alternative, you might prefer to use commercial dog boots but be careful, most of the low-cost options will only frustrate you as your canine friend kicks them off within the first two minutes.  Look for ones that have zippered fronts and velcro strap up top, they tend to have less stretch and are usually a lot harder to catapult into the abyss...

Tip number three is to dress him up. Ok, probably not the most popular one in the list, especially for us guys but if you want to extend the length of time your pooch can stay out in the cold; dress him up. Long haired or thick coated dogs such as malamutes don't necessarily need it but if your dog has really short hair like our boxer mix does, you need to dress him up to go outside. There as so many commercial options available now it's almost as bad as shopping for kids but that is not the point. Anything you can use to keep your dog's body heat from escaping too quickly would work. You could use old sweat shirts or, if you are handy with a sewing machine, design and create your own; there is no limit to make sure your buddy stays warm.

Tip number four is to wipe down. If you live in an area that uses road salt and other deicers, your dog's feet, legs and belly will pick up some of these chemicals that can potentially be harmful and even toxic to him. When you come back from a walk or an activity where he may have come in contact with these chemicals make sure to thoroughly wipe down these areas using a damp cloth. You will be avoiding expensive vet bills as well as keeping your sanity by eliminating all kinds of dirt and sand from your floors.

Finally, tip number five is to avoid ice. One of the most common pet injuries during winter times is broken nails or bones due to bad slips on ice. As I said before, dogs love to play in the snow and sometimes that means running over a patch of ice. If you can prevent them from doing that by carefully selecting the area where they can let loose and play then you will be one step closer to having a successful outing with your buddy.

Overall, pet safety comes down to one thing; caring. If you care for your animal you will do everything in your power to make sure he is safe and comfortable. I hope these 5 Cold Weather Safety Tips help you on your journey to pet ownership and invite you to leave a comment if you have any questions.

Thanks for Reading!

Achieving your Dreams 101: The lost art of Focus

I've been thinking; how does a thirty-eight year old man who has always been full of dreams ever get to achieve any of them? There are tons of books outlining a million different strategies on the subject I am sure but how do you know they will work for you? I am no expert on achieving my dreams but I have tried a lot of techniques and out of everything I have come across, there is one that keeps coming back in one form or another and it just so happens that it is the one that always make me feel like I can almost touch my dreams. It is the lost art of Focus; the ability to ignore all distractions getting thrown at you on a daily basis and zone in on what it is you want most in your life.

The problem most of us face is that we are really good at focusing for a few hours. Some even manage to keep it for a few days or weeks, but eventually, something urgent comes up and manages to send our dreams to the back of our mind. We usually tell ourselves: "I'll come back to it after I take care of this." or "Maybe it wasn't really for me, maybe this is what I should do?" It does not matter what the reason is, if you don't Focus on your dream and make it your number one priority on the daily, you will go through your life always wanting and never satisfied.

Focus is a skill. And like any other skill, it can be improved over time with practice and determination. Start with setting yourself a small goal that you can achieve in one day and focus on it until it is complete. That way you can experience a win and start to build some confidence in yourself. Keep building on that, gradually increasing the size of the goal and the amount of time for completion. Before you know it you will find yourself in a totally different place.

Simple right? Well, if it was that easy everybody would be at their peak. Unfortunately, our lives glitter with distractions. Beeps and buzzes, emergencies, promotions, accidents, weather, etc... All very valid reasons to lose our Focus and if we do nothing about it, any one of them could be the very reason our dreams are still only dreams. Thankfully, there is something to be done. No one should go through life reacting to every distraction that comes along and all that is required is to make a conscious decision to be proactive instead of reactive. If you accept the fact that distractions will come your way and plan accordingly, focusing on your dreams and prioritizing your time; you will soon become unstoppable.

Focus by definition, means having clear visual definition. It is imperative that you have a clear vision of where or what you want if you are ever going to be able to Focus on it. It is impossible for anyone to Focus on fog, but you would be hard pressed to find someone who could tell you at a moments notice what they want out of their lives. Having a clear visual definition implies that you know exactly what you want, how it smells, what it sounds like, what it tastes like and how much it costs. Write it down, draw it out, collect magazine clippings,  do your research, but more importantly; keep it in your face.  In today's world, distractions are everywhere so it just goes hand in hand that your dream should also be everywhere.  Specially with all the technology that is available.  If you can learn to harness that technology and make it work for you, you will come out ahead of the game.  Mobile apps like Pinterest make it easy and even "cool" to create vision boards. Others can help you connect with like-minded people; on or offline. It is important to remember however that these are tools and like any other tool, they are meant to be used in a certain way. Don't get lost in a never-ending spiral of YouTube videos or looking at pictures for 3 hours. Prioritize your time and allow yourself some time to build up your vision but don't get stuck in the vision building process.

All of these things are meant to help you get to your dreams.  They are tips that work but only if you are willing to put in the work.  Focus is one thing but it means noting if you do nothing.  It is simply a key that unlocks the power of action.  Take some time to clearly define what it is that you want, give  the lost art of Focus a chance and get to work.

 

 

Car Ownership Basics – Top 10 Things to Know Before You Hit the Road

I've been thinking...One of the most appealing characteristics of urban living has to be how everything is so accessible. It does however, create unhealthy habits of consumerism. So many people coast through their life having no clue of how the things they use on a daily basis work. Personally,  I have always been the curious type, taking things apart to see how they work and putting them back together is who I am to my core. Consequently, I have developed a passion for cars and lately, it seems to me that more and more people are driving around oblivious of their cars basic functions.   All around me I see people with no headlights on after dark or with their windshields full of condensation from the A/C.  My intention is that this be the start of a series on car ownership basics where I can share with you some of the knowledge I have accumulated over the years. 

When it comes to owning a car, your most important resource is your owner's manual. Everything you need to know about your car is hidden somewhere in there. The first thing you should do then, is to get familiar with it. You will find great information on how to program your radio, how to turn your lights on, where the power outlets are situated and you'll also learn how your A/C and heater work. But that's not it; in this amazing piece of literature, there is also everything you ever need to know about the proper maintenance of your vehicle, what the manufacturer suggests for oil change intervals and the correct tire size for your vehicle. I have always found it crazy how people will read the instruction manual to build a $300 BBQ but when it comes to their $40 000 car they just "wing it"

Having worked in the automotive industry for over 20 years now, I think it is safe for me to say that I have driven many different cars. I have a ton of experience with them but when I purchased my new car a few months ago, the first thing I did was to go through my owner's manual. My wife was mocking me about it but I can assure you that I found things in there I didn't know were possible with my car.  She has since stopped the teasing because I was able to show her how she can automatically tilt the passenger side mirror while parking in reverse.  A feature she uses regularly.    So don't wait until you are driving down the road at ninety kilometres an hour before you need to figure out how your wipers work. There are enough things that require your attention that  you don't need to do these things while driving. Take a few minutes and go through my list for the top ten things you should know about your car before hitting the road.  The answers to these questions can be found in your Owner's Manual and having this list will make it a lot easier for you to do so.

1. How do you adjust the driver's seat and seat-belt?
2. How do you adjust the side mirrors?
3. How do you adjust the steering wheel?
4. How do you turn the lights ON and OFF?
5. How do you turn the wipers ON and OFF?
6. How do you use the A/C and Heater controls?
7. How do you apply and release the emergency/parking brake?
8. How do you lock and unlock your doors?
9. How do you turn the hazard and turn signals ON and OFF?
10. How do you start your engine?

I recommend that you sit in your car as you familiarize yourself with these ten things. That way you can put into practice as you read and commit it to memory a lot better. Once you are comfortable with these things then you are ready to move on to the fun stuff; Driving! Do keep in mind however that driving is a privilege and not a right and if you don't obey the rules then that privilege can very easily be taken away. Just to be clear, I am not getting up on my soap box and condemning everyone as if I have no faults. I am merely speaking from very difficult experience. I learned this lesson the hard way and I hope to help you avoid this long and very expensive journey. There are too many people driving the roads today who believe they somehow own it and can do whatever they want on it. I assure you this is not the case, and sooner or later they will either get caught or hurt someone.

I hope I am not being too harsh but I feel like driving should be relaxing and enjoyable not make me want to pull my hair out. That being said, I realize people have places to go and that sometimes we are running a little late. That is no reason to be unsafe and pull crazy manoeuvres and put everybody else's life in danger. Too many times, I have seen people weaving in and out of traffic, burning through red lights, using turning lanes or the shoulder to get ahead.  It is dangerous and irresponsible. Take your time, get to know your car, leave a little earlier and respect the rules as well as the other drivers. That way, nobody gets hurt, your wallet is a little happier at the gas pump and the police doesn't have to chase you to give you a ticket or even worse, take away your driving privilege and even possibly your freedom.

As I said in the beginning of this post, I want to make this into a series of posts about car ownership basics where we can dive a little deeper into the subject.  So keep an eye out over the coming weeks for these and much more.

Thanks for reading!

7 No-Nonsense Tips for Saving Money

7 No-Nonsense Tips for Saving Money

I’ve been thinking...The idea of saving money is great but where do you start?  Most of us live our lives two weeks at a time,  and we usually run out of money before we run out of days to the next paycheck.  The reality is that the average Canadian household spends more than they make.  In fact, statistics Canada shows that in 2015, the average Canadian household income was $80940.00 while the average expenses sat around $82697.00.  No wonder more and more people are worried about their retirement.  I know that for us, this was unacceptable so we set out to look for a few no-nonsense ways for saving money.

Let me just start with a warning.  None of these money saving tips are considered sexy.  To be honest they will make some of you cringe in disdain but if you think about it, when is saving money ever fun or sexy?  In today’s society, it seems everything has to be bigger, better and faster and unfortunately,  saving money is at the very bottom of most people’s priority list.  We would rather go in debt then miss out on the new smartphone or that second car.  What if I told you that the main reason we buy all these things is so we can impress our friends or even worse, our neighbors who we usually don’t even know or like.  

To that point, the first and probably best money saving tip has to be:  Stop buying things to impress other people.  None of these people really care about what you wear or if you buy brand name foods at the grocery store.  All they care about is buying things to impress you!  This might seem like an over-simplification but I assure you it is the truth.  Saving money starts with buying things you actually need instead of buying for the sake of buying.  None of your neighbours will be there for you on your retirement day to give you a handout. You need to take care of yourself and your family so stop buying things to impress your neighbours.

With that in mind, saving money becomes a lot easier.  The second tip I would suggest is: Do you really need that second car?  One of the biggest status symbols in our society today is the cars we drive.  So many people are drowning in debt because they have to have those two cars in the driveway.  All I am saying is take a serious look at your situation and decide if you really need the second car.  If you do, then by all means keep it but do you really need those two?  Maybe you could get away with selling one and getting a used car instead.  Brand new cars are such a bad investment for the simple fact that they depreciate so much in the first year.  If you buy a slightly used car you can let someone else pay for the depreciation and still get all the benefits of driving a new car, like a factory warranty and peace of mind.

Third money saving tip:  Buy generic brand foods instead of the highly overpriced brand name foods.  This one usually gets a lot of push-back.  For some reason, we seem to think that buying brand name food is a sign that we “made it”.  Now, I know some of you are thinking that the brand name stuff tastes better and in some cases you might be right but, a large part of that has to do with advertising.  The reason you are paying so much more for these brand name foods is because they spend enormous amounts of time and money selling it to you. The generic food is just as good, if not better and you’re not paying for the company’s marketing budget.  Tessa and I had to have this discussion very early in our relationship.  She is an avid user of ketchup, she puts that stuff on everything but she would only want to buy the brand name stuff.  After a few years of trying, I finally convinced her to try the generic brands at half the price and low and behold, she liked it! Sometimes you just need to give it a chance.  Think past all the marketing and buy what you need not what conglomerates are stuffing into your shopping cart.

On the other hand, buying generic brands does not always translate into savings.  Tip number four is: When buying clothes, look for the best quality at the lowest price.  Personally, I hate shopping for clothes.  With that in mind, I always look for the highest wear per dollar as possible.  What I mean by that is, if I purchase a t-shirt, I will look for one that is high quality so I can wear it often but it also has to be at a great price.  A $10 shirt that I can only wear wear five times before it starts to look worn out costs me  $2 per wear but if I can find a $20 shirt and wear it forty times then it costs me $0.50 per wear.  That being said, it does not mean that I always buy new clothes.  More often than not I will buy very high quality second hand clothing from thrift shops.  A lot of the items I purchase usually still have the tags from the store attached so they have never been worn.

Tip number five would then have to be: Learn some basic skills to avoid paying someone else.  There are a few things in this world that should be left to the professionals.  Conversely, there are a lot of skills you can pick up either from friends or even YouTube that can end up saving you a ton of money.  Changing the oil in your car, basic car repairs, basic home appliance repairs, sewing, cooking, fixing cell phones and computers are all skills that can be learned fairly easily.  I taught myself to pick locks by watching YouTube videos and practising on locks I had laying around the house.  This one skill has probably saved me close to $1000 in locksmith fees since learning it.  The possibilities are endless if you can just put a little bit of time and effort into it.

In the sixth spot, I recommend that you: cut your paid T.V. service subscription.  “But what will we do for entertainment?”  Don’t worry about it.  Tessa and I have not had a paid T.V. service subscription in over ten years  now and believe me, you will find better ways to entertain yourself.  There are so many things you can occupy your time with and I guarantee you that all of them are better than getting your mind blasted by advertising for a few hours a night.  Our entertainment of choice is usually reading a good book.  We bundle up in our favourite chairs with a hot cup of coffee and actually feed our minds with great material that helps us grow instead of pushing us to buy more stuff we don’t need.  You should definitely try it out, it’s amazing what it does for your wallet, your thinking and your relationship.

Rounding up this list is tip number seven:  add up the little things.  We all know what they are, the twice daily coffee shop addiction, the fast food lunches, the impromptu gas bar treats and I am even going to go as far as calling out the tobacco, drug and alcohol addictions. All of these things are financial cancers, some actually give you cancer but that’s not the focus here.  The best financial piece of advice we ever received is to take one month out of the year and track all of our expenses on one sheet of paper.  It does not matter how big or small it is, if it is money out, it goes on the list.  This is where you identify spending trends that you can get a handle on or even get rid of all together.  The first time Tessa and I did this we found out that we were paying over $200 a year in bank fees.  With a little research, we found a bank that offers no fee checking accounts and switched all of our daily banking.  There are literally thousands of tiny expenses hiding in your daily habits and putting them down on paper over a month is the starting point to a growing savings account.

To sum it all up, saving money is not difficult but it won’t happen without sacrifice.  Our ancestors were able to accumulate wealth because they didn’t have so many things competing for their bottom dollar.  If a growing savings account is what you are looking for, give some serious thought to the tips we’ve just been through.  I assure you that if you do, you will be in a better position next year.  It is important to always be looking for new no-nonsense ways for saving money and  I am constantly looking into our finances to make sure I am not missing anything. That being said, if you have some tips you use in your finances, please don’t hesitate to drop it in the comments.

Thank you for reading!

Top Three Lifestyle Changes to Fund Your Dreams

I've been thinking...One of the biggest reasons we decided to get on this journey to self-sufficiency is so we don't have to depend on a particular system or another for our survival. Our current state of affairs is no longer acceptable to us and has been for a while now so instead of accepting the status quo we focus more on action and now make daily decisions that will eventually take us to the lifestyle we want. The first major hurdle for us, as for many other people, I am sure is how do you fund your dreams. How can we gather up the capital necessary to actually go out and purchase that piece of land so we can start living a cleaner, simpler life? Sure, we could go to the bank and borrow the funds but that would mean enslaving ourselves to said bank for the next ten or fifteen years and that is unacceptable to us. Tessa and I once again went back to our roots on this one and opted to embrace the lost art of saving! I know, it's not the sexiest idea in the world, specially in a society of instant gratification where people finance their fast-food. It is however, the soundest way of getting what you want in life. If you are still with me and not totally closed to the idea, keep reading. I will go through the top three changes we had to make to be able to keep paying our bills and yet put enough money away to achieve our goals.

Life has a way of getting in your way when you don't live it on purpose. There is nothing easier than to drift through your days with no particular direction. Every time you hit a snag you react, but soon you realise that these snags are getting harder and harder to handle and before you know it you are stuck in a corner with nowhere to go. The only way to avoid this is to have a plan; To that point, if you don't have one, you should definitely take a minute to figure out where you want your life to go because once you do, the rest suddenly becomes crystal clear. With your destination in mind, you can forecast all kinds of things; what will the cost be, how much time you will need to get there, how many rests will you need to take along the way... You get the idea.

For us, that destination is living a self-sufficient life on a fifty acre piece of land, in an unorganised township and with all the surface, lumber and mineral rights attached so that there is no way anyone could interfere with our vision. We would like to be in a position to purchase this land within the next two or three years so we can start to build our homestead and free ourselves from the chains of urban living. We want the house to be roughly eight-hundred square feet and be powered off-grid by solar and wind generation. Oh, and we want to do all that without getting into any debt. A tall order by many standards but like I said, when you have a destination, the path suddenly becomes a lot clearer.

We have to make a lot of adjustments to our current lifestyle if we ever want this vision to become reality. Here are the top three changes we made so far. To begin, we are taking home less than sixty thousand dollars a year combined. We have been able to make it so that our expenses account for roughly fifty percent of that so about thirty thousand a year. This means that, if we save the rest, we can pile up ninety thousand dollars over three years. Not bad right? The only issue is that if you don't have that destination in mind all the time, you will never save anywhere near that much. Without a goal to keep you on track, you will tell yourself; "It's alright to eat out, we'll make it up next week..." or "Sure, we can totally buy this t.v." The fact is, people don't like saving money for no reason so the number one change we made is: Have a clear and precise end goal and write it down.Additionally, we have to remind ourselves daily of that goal. Keep it in our faces so that we never forget why we are making all those sacrifices. Trust me when I say this, you will have moments of weakness but if you have a picture of your goal stuck to your front door, it will be a lot easier to stay home instead of going out to the movies.

The second change we had to make, is to set ourselves up with a strict buying limit of twenty dollars. This means that, anytime we want to buy anything that is not in our budget and is over twenty dollars we have to go home, discuss it and then sleep on the decision first. If we still feel like buying it in the morning then we go out and get it but most of the time, we will end up either not buying it at all or including it in the next budget in a way that does not affect our number one priority ; the homestead. Incidentally, this brings up the third change which is have a budget and stick to it. Before all this, we never had a budget. The simple mention of making one almost made me gag but I believe it is probably one of the biggest difference makers in our arsenal today. Knowing what comes in and out of your pocket is imperative if you are ever going to achieve any financial goal.

These three seemingly small changes will make all the difference in the world when it comes time to fund your dreams. Just to clarify, they are:

1. Have a goal, write it down in as much detail as possible and keep it in your face.
2. Set yourself a strict buying limit and never make a purchase without first sleeping on it.
3. Have a budget and stick to it.

I strongly believe in these three principles and I am willing to bet that if you decide to implement them into your life, you will start to see great things happen to your savings account. My wife and I are in this run together and hope we inspire you to get going. Life is too short to simply drift through it all. Set yourself a goal and give everything you have to achieve it, we will be at the finish line to cheer you on!

As always, Thank you for reading!

Marc

Safe and Fun DIY Dog Toys for the Frugal Pet Owner

Get your dog engaged

I've been thinking...One of the joys of having a pet is spending countless hours in playtime.  It is very important for your dog's mental health and behaviour to have at his disposal a great arsenal of safe, fun and challenging toys.  The problem, however, is that you can easily end up in a situation where you are spending more on play time than on meal time.  DIY Dog Toys are a homemade solution that will often hit two or even three birds with one stone.

dangerous dog toyThe first advantage of making your own dog toys is that you know exactly what your dog is chewing on and can have complete peace of mind that he won't hurt himself.  A lot of  manufacturers make sensory appealing dog toys that, if you are not careful, could end up severely injuring your pup.  The lack of regulation and an increasing level of consumerism allows these companies to get away with what I am starting to find out is a blatant disregard for our animal's health and well-being.  We were recently gifted a commercial dog toy for Kai.  Being a true toy lover, Kai immediately started tearing into it and within half an hour had the thing torn apart.  We are very careful about leaving Kai with commercial toys so we caught this one in the nick of time but if we weren't paying attention, he could have easily swallowed a three-inch piece of wire that I am sure would have seen us rush to the vet clinic.

Second, DIY Dog Toys are usually a great way to clean out your closet.  How? Easy, simply by using up homemade t-shirt braidsome old, unwanted clothes.  All you need to do is go through your closet or chest drawers, find some clothes that you don't particularly like anymore and cut them up into various size strands of material.  Different materials will give you  a multitude of options as to what type toy you can make.  I love making t-shirt braids that Kai can chew on and play tug-o-war with.  They are super easy to make and usually require one or two shirts per toy.  You can also make some great toys by putting an empty water bottle into an old sock.  The options are endless.  There are a ton of ideas online but we have found a great resource on Amazon that you can buy by clicking here.

Finally, because you are now making your own toys, you are not only saving money but you are also getting to know what kind of toy engages your pet more as his personality comes through in play time.  Any time where you can strengthen the bond you have with your pup is a good time and I truly feel that DIY Dog Toys enhance that experience.  You have a better connection with your animal because you took the time and effort to make his toy and you get to discover it together.  As usual, if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to send us a comment.  It will be our pleasure to guide you as you make your first dog toy.

Thanks for reading!