The Best Websites For Holiday Savings (Cyber Monday Deals Included)

Debt Free Deals

Hate the pulsing crowds and bumper to bumper traffic that are characteristic of holiday shopping season?

Perfect! Skip the insanity and shop online this year.

Tomorrow is Cyber Monday. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this term, Cyber Monday is the online equivalent of Black Friday: deals and savings are abundant in online shops across North America.

Here are a few of my favourite websites for online gift shopping. While all of these websites offer (or connect with distributors who offer) Cyber Monday discounts, these sites can help you score great deals year round!

PriceGrabber and Shopzilla

Best For: Comparing online deals when you have a specific item in mind.

The Scoop: Both PriceGrabber and Shopzilla are convenient online comparison tools that enable you to figure out which website offers the best deal on specific items.

Pro Tip: Read up on shipping deals before finalizing purchases; while individual items may be cheaper on various websites, streamlining your purchases by ordering from only a few websites can often result in larger overall savings as many sites offer free shipping on lump sum purchases over a specific price.



Best For: Snagging additional last minute savings on local products and services.

The Scoop: Groupon offers up to a 90% discount on items and services by locality. Some of these deals may be able to work in combination with or trump Cyber Monday offers.

Pro Tip: Be wary of expiry dates on gift cards and deals- Groupon is literally a combination of the words ‘group’ and ‘coupon,’ and like coupons, Groupon discounts have fairly firm time frames.


Best For: Being a Cyber Monday deal guide for retail shops.

The Scoop: Bigmall can help you hack Cyber Monday by providing you with quick links to various websites for many of your favourite retail locations. Cyber Monday is kind of a big deal; even if your favourite shop is only a ten minute walk away you might be surprised to find that their online outlet has some sweet saving opportunities that are not paralleled in-house.

Pro Tip: Check store flyers and compare deals- many retail outlets have separate online and in store sales.

Don’t forget to check for additional saving codes and promotions on store websites before finalizing your purchases to double up on savings.


Free Shipping Deals Canada

Best For: Helping you figure out how to avoid hefty shipping and importation fees that make for horrible last minute surprises when you’ve finally found the perfect gift online.

The Scoop: Free Shipping Deals Canada offers a compilation of links to online shopping websites that ship to Canada for free.

Pro Tip: Shipping can be really expensive: use this website.



Best For: The budget conscious bid shark who already knows what to get.

The Scoop: You probably already know about Ebay, but if you don’t, it acts like an online auction site. While you can select a ‘buy it now’ option and pay a set price you can get the best deals by bidding on products.

Pro Tip: Beware of added shipping fees and make sure to keep on top of your bids.

Best For: Someone who already knows what they’re getting who also get stressed out by bidding.

The Scoop: The main difference between Amazon and Ebay is that Amazon acts like a moderator between a third party seller and a client. This makes for pretty solid deals without the hassle of bidding.

Pro Tip: Check the ‘buy it now’ option on Ebay before finalizing your purchase; I’ve found that these two websites can be quite competitive in terms of pricing so it’s always worth the extra minute of searching to make sure you find a top notch deal.


Best For: Unique homemade and vintage gifts & the option to shop local online!

The Scoop: Etsy is basically like an online coop. Sellers from all localities offer unique vintage and handmade products for very reasonable prices.

Pro Tip: Check out the Gifts For Him Under $30 and Gifts For Her Under $30 categories for tons of budget friendly gift options.

Check out Etsy Local to connect with local Etsy sellers or discover upcoming local craft markets featuring Etsy sellers.


This is Why I’m Broke

Best For: Helping you find a perfect one of a kind gift

The Scoop: This is Why I’m Broke complies the coolest products on the internet into one big archive. Click on the ‘Check it Out’ link to be transported to the product’s posting.

Pro Tip: Set prices within your budget and search away, lest you should have your heart smashed into a million little pieces by a $46,000 hover bike or a $4,000 hanging trampoline bed (seriously, don’t worry about it- there are tons of cool gifts under $20)




Six Tricks for Making the Most of Black Friday: Canucks’ Edition

Debt Free Deals, Debt-Free Finances

Black Friday: the all-American savings event that has migrated to Canada.

  1. Make a List and Check it Twice

Prepare for the chaos in advance by organizing yourself as much as possible. While you won’t likely need a full suit of armor to battle Canadian Black Friday mania, it is a good idea to have a short list to keep your purchases on track and on itinerary on route.

Trust me: a list will help you avoid spending (‘saving’ you will insist to yourself, teeth clenched and eyes wide, your hard earned money raining down around you as you stand at the checkout) a whole bunch of money on ‘great deals’ you have no use for.


  1. Compare Prices Ahead of Time Using Online Resources

Here are a few websites to help you strategize like a savings guru:



  1. Download an App to Take Deal Checking and Tracking on The Go

Try any one of these apps to maximize Black Friday savings:

  1. Don’t Expect to Price Match.

Price match guarantees are not applicable during Black Friday sales in many stores. If your strategy relies on making the most of a price match guarantee triple check by calling ahead to ensure you aren’t let down at the checkout.


  1. Go Out Early

Black Friday fast fact: it begins on Thursday!

Black Friday sales have already begun. Many stores have sales starting on Thursday and extending until Sunday. Shops will often rotate deals throughout these days, so check for the hot ticket items you’re looking for in advance and show up to the store early (before open if you’re looking for something really rare like the legendarily impossible to snatch Hatchimal) in order to make sure to get what you came for.


  1. Don’t be Afraid to Hold Out For Cyber Monday

Love online shopping? Hate crowded shops?

Perfect! Cyber Monday is the Black Friday of scooping up deals on the internet.


Stay tuned to Debt-Free Darlin’ for an upcoming Cyber Monday Post!

Debt-Free DIY Holiday Gift Ideas

Debt Free Deals, Debt-Free University

There are no two ways about it: December is an expensive month. Fortunately, with some craft supplies and just a little bit of know how virtually anyone can pull off awesome seasonal savings by crafting up a storm, and creating unique holiday gifts for friends, family members, and coworkers.

I know, I know, it’s not December yet.

Guess what? The best way to save money over the holidays is to start purchasing and making gifts ASAP.

Don’t get stuck spending a whole bunch of money on a hectic last minute shopping spree: go home-made for the holidays. Check out these nifty diy gifties and start crafting!

1. Oh So Original Ornament Wreath

This ornament wreath is super cheap and easy to make. The best part about it? It doesn’t look cheap or easy to make at all once you’ve finished it.


What You Need:

  •  A Pool Noodle ($2 at Canadian Tire or Walmart- you may have to ask if any are in the back)
  • Ornaments ($3-$6 for a whole bunch at Dollarama, or use old ones)
  • Hot Glue Sticks ($2 at Dollarama for a pack of 12 or $10 for a 100 pack at Walmart)
  • A Glue Gun ($3-$6 at Walmart or Dollarama)

Click here for a quick tutorial on how to assemble this cool craft by Hometalk.

Total cost: about $6 to make (not including cost of glue gun which you can use time and time again)

Who to give it to: a Christmas crazy friend or family member who loves home decor.

2. Breathtaking Brownie Mix in a Jar

This quick gift is a timeless classic. Simply layer all of the dry ingredients for mouth watering brownies in a nice jar, add a decorative tag and gift away!


What you need: 

  • 1 1/4 Cups of Flour ($0.50)
  • 1 Tsp Baking Powder ($0.10)
  • 1 Tsp Salt ($0.01)
  • 2/3 Cup of Cocoa ($1.20)
  • 2 1/4 Cups of White Sugar ($0.50)
  • optional: 1/2 Cup of Chopped Nuts ($1.00) or Chocolate Chips ($0.50)
  • A Jar ($0.50)
  • Tag and Thread ($0.10)

Click here for assembly instructions from All Recipes.

Total Cost: $2-$3 per jar depending on add-ins

Who to give it to: Someone with a sweet tooth and no time for baking from scratch or an awkward secret Santa that you know nothing about.

3. Nifty Arm Knit Infinity Scarf

Not only is this ultra chic scarf gorgeous, even a beginner can make it in as little as 20 minutes. Arm knitting is super quick and it requires no needles or additional materials, just you, your arms, some wool, and a little time.


What you need: 

  • Yarn ($4 and up at Walmart)

Click here for a quick tutorial by CICO Books.

Total Cost: $4

Who to give it to: your favourite fashionista.

4. Awe-Inspiring Infinity Bracelet

The infinity symbol is on a bit of a hot streak. If you go into local jewelry stores you can probably find an infinity bracelet for $20-$40, or you can make one for only a few dollars for an even more personalized gift.


What you need: 

  • S Hook ($1 for a pack at Home Depot, Rona or pretty well any hardware store)
  • Leather or Suede Cord ($8 for a giant pack at Michael’s, $2-$3 at Dollarama for a smaller pack)
  • Jump Rings ($3 for a pack of 85 at Michael’s)

Click here for a diy tutorial by The Sorry Girls.

Total Cost: $1-$2 per bracelet depending on how much cord you use.

Who to give it to: someone who you’ll hold dear until the end of time.

5. Easy DIY Journal/ Sketch Book

As an English major, I have a natural predisposition to obsessively hoaring journals and writing pads. Although I am a little finicky with what I choose to write on these ultra cute journals pass the test.


What you need:

  • Regular Printer Paper ($0.25 or less for the 7 sheets you need)
  • Crop-a-Dile Punch Tool ($10 at Walmart if you don’t have one- this is a hole making tool so you can try to make your own holes if money’s really tight)
  • String or Twine ($1 at Dollarama)
  • Paper Trimmer or Scissors ($2 at Dollarama)
  • Embellishments for the Cover (Stamps/ Ink available for $1 or less at Dollarama, or paint or draw your own)
  • Paper, Leather, Faux Leather, Oil Cloth or Fabric for Cover (free if you’re using left over material)

Click here for a how to guide by A Beautiful Mess

Total Cost: $1-$2 per journal, can be more depending on cover materials.

Who to give it to: your favourite literature lover.

6. Dashing DIY Bow Tie

This diy bow tie is a great gift for stylish fellows. Help him look perfect in holiday pictures and give him a one of a kind accessory that he won’t soon forget.

tie-809378_960_720What you need:

  • 1/4 Yard of Fabric (thrift it up for only a few cents per tie)
  • 1/4 Yard of Pellon 950F ShirTailor Interfacing (about $0.50 as Pellon is about $2/yard at most fabric stores)
  • Matching Thread (only a few cents for the amount you’ll use)

Click here for a tutorial guide by Sew Like My Mom.

Total Cost: $1 or less per tie (can be more depending on material)

Who to give it to: the classic gentleman on your list.

7. Super Sweet Sock Monkey

One of the many weird jobs I held down during my college days involved sewing sock monkeys and teaching children to sew them as well. I can say with great confidence that this craft is so easy that even a kid can do it (although they should be supervised and old enough be left with a needle and buttons if you are going to get a kid to help you).


What you need: 

  • Pair of Socks ($1-$5 … pro tip: check out Ardene to find really funky patterns)
  • Thread ($0.05)
  • Cotton or Polyester Stuffing ($0-$3, you can get this at Walmart or cut open cushions from Dollarama)
  • Buttons ($0.25)

Click here for a diy tutorial by Urban Threads.

Total Cost: $5 or less

Who to give it to: a young family member or young-at-heart friend, family member, or coworker.

8. Gorgeous Galaxy Bath Bomb

Avoid lineups at Lush and the mania of the mall by making your own diy bath bomb.


What you need:

  • Epsom Salt ($0.50 at Bulk Barn)
  • Lemon Juice ($0.10)
  • Baking Soda ($0.05)
  • Water (Free)
  • Food Coloring ($0.50)
  • Optional- Fragrance
  • Optional- Glitter Or Eye Shadow
  • Spray Bottle (use an old hairspray bottle to save)
  • Tupperware or a Plastic Easter Egg for a Mold
  • Bowl and Spoon for Mixing

Click here for a tutorial by Bustle.

Total Cost: $2 (can be way more especially if you use expensive eye shadow or fragrance… if you’re on a budget don’t use expensive eye shadow or fragrance)

Who to give it to: your favourite stress case or hard worker who really needs a home spa self care day.

Happy making!

A Vegan’s Guide to Cheap Complete Proteins (Gluten-Free Options Included)

Debt-Free Dining


I have to be honest with you: I’m not a vegan… I’m not even a vegetarian.

I fall into this weird little subset of people who toe the line of vegetarianism known as ‘pescetarians.’ This word means that I consume seafood, eggs and dairy products. I don’t eat animals that live on land or in the air. As I’ve mentioned in earlier blog posts, my eating habits are utilitarian- several foods (including meat) make me sick, so I don’t eat them (sorry, not sorry).Although I’m not a vegan I am a huge fan of vegan dishes.

Contrary to popular belief, vegan foods can be extremely inexpensive, super easy to make and totally delicious.

Moving on…

A Complete (Whole) Protein is a protein source that has an adequate proportion of all nine essential amino acids.



If you’re a human being and you’re reading this, you need to eat complete proteins in order to stay healthy, happy and alive.

Most meat eaters don’t need to worry about complete proteins as animal proteins are almost always complete in nature. Fish and seafood are also typically complete proteins, meaning pescetarian options are usually not a cause for protein related concern. Finally, eggs and dairy products are generally considered complete proteins, making it easier for vegetarians to meet their protein requirements.

Sorry vegans: nuts, grains, vegetables and legumes do not constitute complete proteins on their own.

They can be combined, however, to form Complementary Proteins, or two separate proteins that combine to form a complete amino acid profile.

One final thing before we get down to the basics- it’s actually really easy to make vegan meals work with a gluten-free diet. As an individual who has been put through the wringer by dietary restrictions, I totally understand how mind-numbingly frustrating it can be to try to balance  a budget and a whole list of food related prohibitions simultaneous. Don’t worry- I’m here for you!


Stand Alone Complete Proteins


Okay, so this is by far the most expensive option on the list but I figured I’d put it on here anyway. You can pick buckwheat up at most health stores and big box grocery stores. I usually buy it at Bulk Barn or Walmart. While $4-6 per bag may seem like a lot, it’s still cheaper to buy buckwheat and make your own recipes than it is to eat out, especially if you’re trying to do so with two serious restrictions.

Soba noodles are made with buckwheat flour, making them a convenient base for vegan meals. They’re quite affordable and widely available at most grocery outlets (about $2-$3 per package). Most varieties of soba noodles are vegan, though you should read the package to make sure that they don’t contain trace amounts of milk or egg from cross contamination.


Gluten-free friends fear not! Although buckwheat contains the word ‘wheat’ in its title this super food is more closely related to rhubarb and is totally g-free. It is possible to get 100% buckwheat flour soba noodles, but these will normally be more expensive. Most soba noodles are cut with wheat flour because it makes for cheaper manufacturing. If you’re having a tough time finding g-free soba, follow this recipe and make your own. 



Cheap vegan soy options include tofu, textured vegetable protein (TVP) and soy beans (also sometimes found as bean curd in Chinese dishes or in the form of miso).

My favourite and the mot versatile of these options is likely TVP. It’s amazingly cheap at Bulk Barn (like $2 for a big bag), and it absorbs the flavor of whatever you put it in.

Once upon a time, a long time ago I actually though tofu was boring. In reality I just didn’t know what to do with it. At under $3 for 4 servings, it’s worth your time to check out this list of awesome tofu recipes and commit to super cheap complete protein.


For gluten-free options check packages and buy accordingly. Soy proteins are naturally g-free but if you’re buying pre-packaged options the sauces or flavorings added may contain wheat.

Complementary Complete Protein Combinations

Rice and Beans

Rice and beans are a killer combination. They come together to form an amazingly cheap, incredibly delicious complete protein (often costing $1 or less per serving). To make this dish even cheaper buy dry beans and soak them overnight.


Both rice and beans are naturally gluten-free, so as long as you make sure you’re choosing products that aren’t cross-contaminated and you’re preparing the sauces and seasonings yourself you shouldn’t have a problem.

Here’s a short list of easy recipes that take advantage of how versatile rice and bean dishes can be.


Peanut butter and Toast

This is one of the easiest complete proteins to make. You can try making a peanut butter and banana sandwich for a sweet and nutty vegan option or you can throw together peanut butter and basil for a more savory (and surprisingly fantastic) combination.


Don’t worry gluten-free readers, I haven’t forgotten about you. Try making yourself a pb sandwich on this cheap homemade gluten-free bread– unlike the g-free bread in grocery stores, this option is cheap, fluffy and delicious.


 Hummus and Pita Bread

If you’ve been buying prepackaged hummus you’ve been getting ripped off. Hummus costs about $2 to make and can be ready in 5 minutes or less. Don’t believe me? Try this recipe for yourself.


Try cutting your g-free bread into strips and toasting them to dip in this awesome hummus, or whip up a batch of reasonably priced g-free pita bread and then head down to chow town.


Vegan Black Bean Burgers

Pair this simple vegan black bean patty with a whole grain bun for a healthy complete vegan protein.


Substitute all purpose flour for gluten-free flour at a 1:1 ratio in the recipe, and use gluten-free bread or pita for a bun or crumble the patty over a bed of rice for a g-free alternative.


Remember: if you’re in a pinch, making a complete vegan protein is basically as easy as combining a legume (black beans, lentils, chic peas) with a whole grain (corn, rice or oats)- feel free to experiment with combinations and seasonings. Let me know your favourite vegan protein options in the comments section below.


Four Places Where Students Save on Groceries

Debt-Free Dining

Grocery shopping and food budgeting are two tasks that can make or break your bank account. As stressful as it can be to try to squeeze a trip to the super market into your hectic student schedule, buying your own groceries is way cheaper than eating out. Here is a short list of some stellar discounts offered at local grocery stores. Get to know these four student discount offering franchises and you too will become a grocery savings guru.


Sobeys offers a 10% student discount on Tuesdays. You need to present your Air Miles card  and student ID to a cashier in order to take advantage of this awesome deal.

Be advised that self-serve checkouts do not currently have an option for redeeming student discounts at Sobeys, so you will have to go to a cashier checkout in order to have this discount applied to your purchase.


Like Sobeys, Superstore offers a 10% student discount on Tuesdays that you can take advantage of by displaying a student ID to the cashier. Unlike Sobeys, Superstore does not require Air Miles in order to redeem this purchase.

Please note that this deal is scheduled to change on May 3, 2016, at which point the 10% student discount will be abolished and replaced with up to 10% extra PC Plus Reward points on select student purchases.

Click here for more information on PC Plus Rewards.


Bulk Barn

Bulk Barn offers a 10% discount to students and seniors on Wednesdays. If you’re not already shopping here regularly, you should try Bulk Barn for spices and baking ingredients that you don’t frequently use, as well as bulk dried fruit and candy.


Lawtons is unique in that the student discount it offers includes both high school (grade 10-12) and post secondary students. Simply show a student ID to take advantage of this savings program, which excludes drug prescriptions, soda pop in 1 litre or less, infant formula and diapers, mobility products, tobacco products and lottery tickets, gift cards, bus passes/tickets, and milk. While this may seem like a pretty extensive list of exceptions, you can still get great deals on over the counter medicine and grocery items. Since Lawtons is not primarily considered a grocery store you can often find really great deals on quick-sale food products, making this discount even more worthwhile.

The best part of this discount? It’s offered every day!


Find a Food Bank in Halifax, NS

Debt-Free Dining

The truth is out: as Maclean’s has reported, 4 in 10 Canadian university students lack food security.

While it’s hard to imagine putting work on hold to pursue a post secondary education without adequate food security, this problem extends beyond universities.

In fact, according to The Canadian Journal of Public Health, Nova Scotia and Halifax have the highest rates of food insecurity in the country.

It is because of the pressing relevance of the issue of food insecurity that I’m taking a moment to step away from budgeting hacks to address food bank availability. In spite of the aforementioned statistics there seems to be a level of stigmatization and reservation surrounding food bank usage. All too often people feel that if they are working (even if they are underemployed, making less than a living wage, or supporting dependents) they are somehow unqualified to access the food bank; far too many students believe that simply because they’ve forked over tuition or textbook money, or treated themselves to brunch that one time last month, they don’t deserve to access food bank assistance. In reality, food banks function to provide individuals who face food insecurity with a moderate amount of food in order to reduce the burden of the high cost of groceries, while breakfast programs, soup kitchens and shelters strive to provide critical support and nutritious meals to individuals requiring immediate attention.

The simple fact of the matter is that all people deserve to eat and deserve to eat a well rounded diet. If you don’t eat a well balanced diet- even for a couple of days or a few weeks- your body weakens and you become susceptible to both physical and mental illness. Malnutrition sets you up for failure: you cannot work, or study, or live to your full potential.

Repeat after me: living off Ramen noodles or cat food is not good enough.


Student Food Banks

Dalhousie University

The Dalhousie Student Union Food Bank is an option for students who attend both Dal and other universities in HRM, just make sure to bring your student ID with you. Food bank hours are as follows:

  • Monday: 9-11am & 12-6pm
  • Tuesday: 8:30am-2:30pm & 5:30-7:30pm
  • Wednesday:  9-11am & 12-5:30pm
  • Thursday: 11am-8pm
  • Friday: 8:30am-4pm
  • Saturday: 1-5pm

Mount Saint Vincent University

Students can access the Mount Saint Vincent University Wellness Pantry at Student Union Building (Rosaria) room 106 or at Student Union Offices Room 118 near the HUB. The Wellness Pantry is stocked with free food, personal hygiene and care products, and sexual health products. As hours for this food bank vary please call 902-457-5536 to ensure that it is open during your visit.

If you’re caught between paychecks or loans and want to give back to the pantry at a later time and date you can do so by making donations at the MSVU library and receive $3-$5 off overdue fines.

You can also frequently find sample size versions of feminine hygiene products in the Health Office and at the gym.


Nova Scotia College of Art and Design

NSCAD’s food bank is supplied by Feed Nova Scotia. It’s located in the school’s Fountain campus (5163 Duke Street), just around the corner from the NSCAD Student Union office, and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Check out NSCAD Food Bank on Instagram for up to date photos of the fresh produce and assorted basic home and personal care products available.

Nova Scotia Community College

NSCC’s Institute of Technology campus (5685 Leeds Street, Halifax) and Waterfront campus (80 Mawiomi Place, Dartmouth) have food banks to serve students with valid NSCC identification. For information on the hours and availability of these food banks contact NSCC’s IT campus at or Waterfront campus at

Saint Mary’s University

The SMU Community Food Room is located at room 526 in the university’s Student Centre. It is open as follows:

  • Monday and Thursday from 1:00 pm until 4:00 pm
  • Tuesday from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm
  • Wednesday from 3:00 pm until 5:30 pm.

As of February 12, 2016 this food bank will be bag-less so make sure to byo bag.


Community Food Banks

Community food banks operate with assistance from Feed Nova Scotia. In order to make sure that local food banks are used fairly these organizations typically require you to bring identification and proof of of your address in order to sign up with the Feed Nova Scotia database.

Bayers Westwood Food Bank

This food bank is open on Thursdays from 11 am- 1pm located at 3495 McAlpine Avenue. With birth date baring identification and proof of your address you can access one full hamper of food once per month and vegetables once per week. You will be asked to complete an application form upon your first visit.

Brunswick Street Mission Food Bank

Feed Nova Scotia delivers food to Brunswick Street Mission Food Bank (2107 Brunswick Street) on Thursdays. In order to use this food bank you have to call ahead to pre-register on Wednesday at 902-423-4605. The food bank will provide food items as available: it is designed to supplement your grocery budget.


If you are in critical need of food check out some of Brunswick Street Mission’s other programs, which include a breakfast program and a Christmas dinner program.

Parker Street Food Bank

Located at 2415 Maynard St., Parker Street Food Bank is open Monday, Wednesday and Fridays from 8:30 am -11 am, with registration starting at 8 am. A valid government issued Canadian Health Card Number, a Canadian Immigration Card Number (if applicable), photo ID, proof of Canadian Citizenship or Landed Immigrant Status (as applicable) and proof of your address are required to access the food bank. You can place an order with the Parker Street Food Bank every three weeks; the size of orders depends on need.

Parker Street Food Bank also offers several community programs including a furniture bank, an emergency service for bills you absolutely can’t cover and a Christmas dinner program.

Salvation Army Food Bank

Salvation Army Food Bank is located at 2038 Gottingen Street and is open from 9 am until 12 pm on Tuesday and Friday, with the exception of holidays. An identification card with the date of birth for all members of the household and proof of address are required to access this food bank. An application form must also be filled out during your first trip to Salvation Army Food Bank. According to 211 Nova Scotia, clients can access 3-5 days worth of food once a month at this food bank.


In Closing,

If you’re reading this and you’re facing food insecurity, please do not hesitate to seek help.

If you’re reading this and you have any extra to give please consider donating food, wellness products or money to local food banks (money is frequently used to purchase perishable items). You can also contact the above food banks or Feed Nova Scotia and ask about volunteering your time or participating in a local donation drives if you are tight on cash and want to help out!


Four Things Not to Buy at Dollarama

Debt Free Deals

I’m on a bit of a dollar store dish right now. Last week I informed you all about why you can get such great deals at Dollarama and filled you in on six things to buy at Dollarama. While I totally love this franchise and can’t understate how awesome it can be for those of us sticking to a tight budget, some items are simply not worth it. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered here as well: here are four things you shouldn’t buy at Dollarama.

1. Sticky Tack

Sticky Tack is a non-toxic way to hang posters and photos without leaving holes in the wall. It’s a perfect product for students, people who move around a lot, and frequent redecoration divas. Although Sticky Tack is an all around great product the Dollarama version of Sticky Tack is  totally not worthwhile: it doesn’t hold and to make matters worse it will stain your wall blue. Do yourself a favour and spend the extra two dollars to get a better quality product from Wal-Mart or Staples.


2. Electronics

With the exception of some quick sale disposable cameras, I’ve given up on purchasing Dollarama technology. Headphones, charging cords and internet cables from Dollarama have all failed me in the past. If these products work to begin with they quickly break and need to be replaced frequently. Save the time and money and pick up electronics from Wal-Mart or Winners.


3. Vacuum Sealed Corn on the Cob

Okay, so you hopefully wouldn’t buy this to begin with and honestly I haven’t either. At two dollars for two ears of corn this isn’t a very good deal to begin with (corn goes for as little as $0.25 per ear fresh and in season). From what I’ve heard, the corn itself doesn’t taste very good and is underwhelming to say the least. It won’t kill you per se (the vacuum sealing and preparation process is similar to canning in terms of safety), but the sight of prepared, unrefrigerated whole ears of corn is unsettling at best. Go with canned corn or frozen corn or try microwaving a single un-shucked ear of fresh corn for 3 minutes if you don’t have time to boil corn at home.


 4. Footwear

Dollarama frequently carries cheap flip-flops and slip on shoes. You should always have dependable footwear: it’s so important for your health and your comfort. If you need new shoes and are on a tight budget try thrift shopping at Salvation Army, Value Village, Guy’s Frenchy’s or your favourite local secondhand shop. You can also search Kijiji for footwear in your local area.


Six Things to Buy at Dollarama

Debt Free Deals

Earlier this week I made a post summarizing a business school perspective on how Dollarama manages to sell quality products for low prices. In keeping with the dazzling deals at Dollarama I’ve compiled this short list of six awesome products that are totally worth buying.

1. Activity Books

Crossword puzzle, word searches, Sudoku, adult and child colouring books- Dollarama has it all, and since the pages of these books are only good for one use you may as well save money by picking up these nifty activities up at Dollarama.

Price in bookstores: $7-$15
Total savings: $4- $14


2. Disposable Dinnerware

As you already know, I’m a huge fan of potlucks. They’re super fun, ultra frugal, and an awesome way to eat and socialize for cheap. Cleaning up after an evening of hosting can be exhausting unless you go disposable. Dollarama offers a wide variety of cups, plates, bowls, napkins and cutlery on the cheap. There are often Styrofoam, plastic and compostable options so you can typically find your preference.

Price in grocery and big box stores: $3-$10
Total Savings: $0.50-$9


3. Craft Supplies

Liquid and hot glue, glue sticks, cotton balls, feathers, wooden structures, mirrors, buttons, wire, thread, craft kits, construction paper, Bristol board, crayons, wax, markers… Dollarama has it all.

Big box price: $2-$10
Total savings: $0-$9


4. Art Supplies

Dollarama has ultra cheap canvases, low priced paints and pallets, affordable aprons and an assortment of brushes that won’t break the bank. You can also pick up pencil sharpeners, pencils, pens and sketch pads for next to nothing. When I was in high school my art teacher and life guru was able to stretch out her meager teaching budget by purchasing an assortment of Dollarama makeup brushes, which worked wonders for water colour painting. I also had great success with fashioning assorted sculptures from various odds and ends picked up in the art and hardware isles of this store while living on a student budget.

Art Store Price: $$$$$$$$$$$
Total Savings: Trust me on this one (easily $3-$20)


5. Holiday Decorations

Few things make a house or an apartment feel like a home quite like decorating for the holidays. For people operating on a tight budget, holiday decorations can be made easy at Dollarama. They carry a wide range of seasonal decorations for holidays such as Halloween, Christmas and Easter for very reasonable prices. They even have tiny holiday pet costumes!

Big Box Price: $5-$20
Total Savings: $2-$19


6. Cards and Party Supplies

Balloons, cards for birthdays and special occasions, gift wrap and bags, the disposable cutlery we’ve already covered, candles, lighters and matches, party favours and gift bags: the Dollarama could easily be renamed ‘Party Planning Planet’ (unless that’s already copyrighted).

Big Box Price: $3-$10
Total Savings: $0-$9


The Deal With Dollarama

Debt Free Deals, Debt-Free Finances

During my short stint as a business student at Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) I had an instructor who was obsessed with Dollarama. He was well paid as a  faculty member at the college who also contracted with other major businesses and yet he would frequently start off class with an enthusiastic recap of a great item or deal offered at the local dollar store.

Here’s why Dollarama deals are worth the hype (as he explained it):

Dollarama Buys Surplus. 

Dollarama is a treasure trove of great deals that buys up surplus stock, especially when products are re-branded or companies (both producers and distributors) go under.

Surplus can be caused by changes in demand …

For example, if a chain store that usually sells a mascara, let’s call it Mascara L, decides to sell the competing Mascara B instead, or if the chain store suddenly reduces its order or even closes, it could leave the company that manufactures Mascara L with a whole bunch of mascara in its warehouse. Since the shelf-life of unopened mascara is only about a year the Mascara L that is left over will either have to be sold really quickly or thrown out. As you can probably guess, less money is way better than no money, so Mascara L will be sold to a store like Dollarama.


Or seasonal trends …

This could also happen if, say, baby blue mascara is a seasonal trend that Mascara L caters to. By winter the fad may have died out causing an overstock in baby blue Mascara L, so maybe only this shade of the name-brand product will appear in Dollarama for a reduced price of $2, while other shades of the product will continue to be sold in drugstores and big box stores for a retail price of $8.

Or expiring promotions…

It might also happen that a product like a soda pop, let’s call it Gulp, decides to run a short promotional campaign for a new movie release and brands the can with a character from the movie, including free movie tickets in 6 random cases of pop. Although Gulp might have a shelf life of three years, the promotional might only happen two months before the movie. Big brand stores usually won’t sell a product with an outdated marketing campaign or expired promotional tickets unless they already have it in stock, so distributors like Dollarama might buy the product from the distributor directly for cheap if they have a whole bunch of it left over in the warehouse.


Or re-branding…

Similar to the expiring promotion deal many companies will re-brand their products. They may decide, for instance, that their brand of mascara should cater to a higher class market and decide to make their product and its casing look sleeker and come in the colour black to appeal to this market. Although the formula may stay the same the producer will try to get rid of all overstock with the older product design so that consumers do not see both packaging options and become confused about the nature of the product or their perception of the brand. This sort of re-branding will often result in a mass clear out of overstock which can mean a whole bunch of the (perfectly usable) product ending up in Dollarama.

Or by a company going under or struggling with competition…

In the age of the international economy competition is fierce. Frequently companies from around the world fall prey to low market prices and trade agreements. Although Dollarama products may get a bad rap for being cheap knockoffs with questionable origins, many of the products that you will find in Dollarama are from countries that struggle with international competition because of their strict production standards. I’ve heard from many people that they will not trust food from Dollarama and yet I’ve found several food products that are actually made in Canada by companies that don’t fare well enough internationally to thrive in big box stores like Walmart, along side imported competitors.

Dollarama Also Saves Big on Advertising.

Essentially  you not only get things for a dollar, but you also get more for your dollar since Dollarama also saves big on advertising costs (seriously think about it, when was the last time you saw a Dollarama ad or received a Dollarama flyer?). Sometimes a single store will advertise on the radio if it really needs to but the whole franchise itself does not advertise regularly, resulting in mass savings for Dollarama and better deals for you.


Basically there are a whole bunch of reasons why a perfectly good product will be on sale for really cheap at Dollarama. As long as you check expiration dates, ingredients lists and country origins you can rest easy knowing you’re getting great products for way less!