I received this story from a reader, Margaret, and I thought it would be an encouraging read for some of you.
We are a family of 5. At the end of October 2010, my husband took what we expected to be a 4 week layoff from his construction job. I was not working, and anyone who knows EI (Employment Insurance) knows our income dropped about 60%. We had funds set aside but when the layoff lasted 6 weeks, I started looking for work. I did land a part time on-call job and that helped to fill the gap, and with hubby at home, child care cost us nothing.
The layoff lasted a little over 7 months. During those 7 months we made changes galore in our priorities. Losing the house was never an option, so of course I started to pay much closer attention to MapleMoney.com. I am no extreme couponer by any means, yet, but I have managed to change the way we buy, to get the most we can for the least amount of money.
Hubby returned to work just as school was ending. After careful thought and planning, I asked for less hours through the summer and spent the summer enjoying my kids. Our first goal is to rebuild the emergency fund, so my frugal lifestyle has to continue.
Looking at our situation with really open eyes, I realized that this might be the last year that we will be able to do something as a family. What 16+ yr old is going to want to do the same things as the younger ones? With needing to rebuild the emergency fund, I will be able to work more come September. We did make it 7 months on about 50% of what hubby makes when he is working, we are not paying for child care… so I started considering what I could realistically afford to spend in terms of a vacation, and looking into trips within Ontario.
So I started to look. Lion Safari, beaches, Canada’s Wonderland, Colassante’s. The kids wanted to go to Marineland, and I wanted to go to Toronto and see the Zoo and the Science Center. Marineland did not have any really good deals, but it turns out that the Toronto City Pass (admission to Toronto Zoo, Ontario Science Center, Casa Loma and the ROM) ended up being only a bit more than we would spend at just the two attractions. Careful surfing landed me on Costco.ca, where the City Passes are a really good price.
That is where my plan got serious. The hotel was next. Where would be the best area to stay so we could go to all the different attractions and not be doubling back? I picked the 401 and DVP area. I finally found Priceline.ca. I was not aware that they offer cancellation insurance for just $5 a night. For me that sealed it – I was ready to low-ball them with a 50% discount offer and take my chances. Location was far more important than comfort, so I bid $60/night. Within minutes I was able to comfirm a booking for that price at the Radisson East Toronto. Nothing fancy but it met our needs for sure. With the insurance and taxes I spent $151 for 2 nights for our family of 5.
So I have already saved on the attractions and the hotel, why stop now? I took advantage of a Shoppers Drug Mart “spend $75, get $20 in gas” day, and cashed in our credit card points for another $50. Totally free gas for our trip.
My husband sold a brand new cell phone he paid $150 for on kijiji for $300. Viola – spending money!
So far our trip was costing us $280 for tickets, $150 for hotel…total $430. Free gas and $150 for incidentals like parking and momentos.
Total cost for 2 nights and 4 attractions for a family of 5 in Toronto, Ont. = $589. I consider this a total win for us. Not only in the pocketbook, but on the great memories we created for with our children.
Do you have an inspiring story to share? Send me an email!