Versus: Edmonton Food Delivery Services

The four current food delivery platforms in Edmonton.

Admittedly, I wasn’t the first to jump on the food delivery band wagon. For a while, I was aware of Just Eat or Nomme, but I never made the foray into using their services until players like SkipTheDishes, Uber Eats, DoorDash and Foodora joined the game in Edmonton. I dabbled with them just a little bit starting in 2015, and slowly increased my usage over the past few years.

Nowadays, UK-based Just Eat has actually bought out SkipTheDishes, originally a Winnipeg-born enterprise, in order to expand their territory. However, instead of shifting business over to Just Eat, they’ve kept the SkipTheDishes brand, continuing to offer delivery under that umbrella. Nomme, on the other hand, has joined forces with food ordering platform DoorDash, headquartered out of San Francisco. Users of Nomme are now redirected to the DoorDash site.

That recently left me with four apps to test. You may ask why I decided I needed to do a compare and contrast between them. The answer is that exceedingly worse service and one bad experience in particular with SkipTheDishes made me wonder if the others were also declining.

Here’s the background. At work on a Thursday (when we got our first official snowfall of the season), I convinced our manager to order our team pizza. He told us to arrange it and we could expense our lunch. Instead of getting the typical Pizza 73 or Panago, we decided to try Famoso Jasper Ave (just a 6 minute drive away). They deliver exclusively through SkipTheDishes, so I input our selections and submitted our order by 11:24am. The tracking information updated and provided a very standard expected delivery time of 30 to 40 minutes. Great.

About 30 minutes later, I received an automated message from SkipTheDishes informing me that there was high demand for delivery that day and a delay was expected. Fine. Next thing I know, another 5 to 10 minutes go by and I get a phone call from Famoso. Their culinary supervisor wanted to inform me that our food was prepared 20 minutes ago, but no courier had shown up. I let him know that we did get a notification from SkipTheDishes, so I was aware, and we were willing to wait it out. After all, how much longer could it take?

Really? Almost an hour into our wait and still another 75 minutes to go…at least?

Well, I pulled up the tracking information at 12:10pm. It showed a new delivery time of 75 minutes and it was stuck at “Famoso is preparing your order.” I knew that was a lie. I had spoken to someone at Famoso and they clearly had our food ready to go, which meant the problem didn’t lie with them. What’s most interesting is that I’d been watching the courier name change over and over again over the past 50 minutes. At least a dozen or more drivers had been assigned at this point. I was thinking, what gives?

Most emails sent to businesses typically aren’t responded to for at least 24 hours. So, I figured that my best bet was to try to reach out to SkipTheDishes for help through their app chat function. The problem with using chat is that it takes you out of the tracker and eventually, if you exit the chat function for too long, it boots you back out and the message you typed disappears. Should you attempt to begin another chat, you go to the back of the queue once more. On this particular day, there were around 160 people ahead of me all three times I tried to contact someone that way. This went on until about 12:50pm. That’s when I decided a phone call might be best. I ended up on hold for over 30 minutes. If you’re counting, we were pretty much at the 2 hour mark.

In the meantime, I had phoned Famoso’s culinary supervisor back. He let me know that there was no courier in sight and he felt terrible about sending off cold food to us by the time a driver would be available. I asked if there was any way to cancel the order with SkipTheDishes. He was a bit apprehensive at first because a cancellation placed on my end meant they’d still get charged by SkipTheDishes on their end. I didn’t want that to happen. It wasn’t Famoso’s fault and they shouldn’t have to take a hit because SkipTheDishes couldn’t meet the demand. Ultimately, Famoso phoned in the cancellation for me. I was grateful that they managed to get through to the restaurant customer service line much quicker than I could get a hold of anyone.

I was eventually phoned by a SkipTheDishes agent (at the same time someone finally picked up that 30 minute call I was on). My order was stricken and a refund would be issued to my credit card. Okay. No food yet, but I was going to get my money back. Famoso was nice enough to remake our order on the spot. We ended up sending a team member to pick up our pizzas from the restaurant and we paid them directly. The last I had seen on the SkipTheDishes tracker before everything was cancelled was that it would be at least another 40 to 50 minutes. If that was the case, we probably wouldn’t have had our food for another hour or more.

Speaking to the SkipTheDishes agent, they really had no explanation for why this happened. All I can chalk it up to is that they’re expanding much too quickly without the necessary structure in place. Colleagues and friends that I’ve discussed this with have also noted more frequent delays with the service at SkipTheDishes, so I don’t think it’s uncommon. Is it always as awful as this incident? I certainly hope no one else has had to deal with this.

I followed up with SkipTheDishes by email the next day, and didn’t receive an answer from them until a week later. That was only after I prompted them a second time. It was then that I realized they never issued a refund to my credit card, but they actually only provided me with a Skip Credit for the Famoso order. It took approximately another week for them to reply and rectify that. There was no way I was going to have my hard earned money tethered to SkipTheDishes when they hadn’t done anything to deserve it. The way that this was handled, I can’t say I’m likely to utilize SkipTheDishes anymore. Not soon, anyway. My confidence in them is shattered, which is unfortunate.

That’s when I decided to test run the other players in the city. Next up was DoorDash. I placed my order on another particularly wet and miserable day. It went in at 12:10pm at the peak of lunch service. I had selected Joey Restaurant Bell Tower to order food from, which is actually much closer than Famoso to our office (just 2 minutes by car), so I took that into account. Nevertheless, it didn’t matter. Everything was prepared and delivered to my door within 30 minutes. DoorDash had no problem assigning a courier to bring my food to me. It was quick and simple. Their app is designed to keep you up-to-date through the whole process using text messages.

DoorDash is probably the next largest service available in Edmonton. For quite a time, they were the only one to offer delivery from Splash Poke. Although, recently Splash Poke decided to join SkipTheDishes, too, due to overwhelming demand from customers. Thankfully, for now, they are sticking with both platforms. Had they opted to leave DoorDash, I would have been utterly heartbroken. Not just because they’re one of my favourites, but because DoorDash has a more reasonable delivery fee of $1.99 versus $3.45 between my office and their 109 Street location. The only downside to DoorDash is that they don’t have as many restaurants available in the southwest corner of the city, so my options are kind of limited when I’m home. But, downtown workers and residents have a lot to choose from.

Foodora’s app is similar to the rest. Unlike SkipTheDishes, they made it in about 30 minutes.

Foodora was test case number three. This is a business based out of Berlin. They expanded into Edmonton last year, basically taking over the social media pages of local influencers. Couriers carry bright pink delivery packs and can arrive either by car or bike. Their branding was definitely on point. But, I’ve noticed that they haven’t grown as quickly as the other delivery services. Regardless, they have some decent options for the downtown area (don’t bother if you’re far south as they don’t do delivery there; the only choice is to pre-order for pick up).

My order from Nosh Cafe on 124 Street was placed at 11:30am. This was, thus far, the furthest location from my office with an estimated 9 minute drive. Again, distance didn’t seem to matter. My lunch showed up at our office doors by noon and I was eating butter chicken at my desk five minutes later. No issues with the food or the courier.

A few days later, I put Uber Eats up to the challenge. I will state that I had fully intended to order my lunch from Let’s Grill Sushi & Izakaya (107 Street and Jasper Avenue); however, come time to order, their business sat greyed out and listed as “unavailable” in the app. I thought it was odd since it had previously listed an opening of 11:30am (so I waited), but I let it go when it didn’t work and I found an alternative. My second choice was Parlour Italian Kitchen (108 Street and 103 Avenue), which had a drive time of 4 to 5 minutes through Google Maps. Holding true to what I expected, Uber Eats followed suit with DoorDash and Foodora by delivering my Veal Parmigiana at 12:07pm. A total of 27 minutes, 10 minutes less than the initial estimate.

My only complaint was that the item the restaurant prepared was incorrect. Parlour had made a similar, but different dish off of the menu. Additionally, the veal was so tough that I found it to be entirely inedible and had to throw the whole piece away. I noted these issues with the food in the app. By the next day, I had received responses from their help desk, including an apology and a notice that the order had been refunded in full directly to my credit card. I didn’t have to fight them about it, they simply did it. The customer service from Uber Eats far exceeded my experience with SkipTheDishes the week prior.

I should also mention that Uber Eats doesn’t ask for a courier tip on top of the standard delivery fees prior to arrival. It’s optional to add one after your food has arrived, but it’s not mandatory. I suspect they get paid pretty well from their cut of the delivery fees alone since the driver said he was happy to have so many orders coming through that day and I hadn’t even tipped him yet. Also, on occasion, Uber Eats offers some great promos. You just have to keep an eye out for them. The following week, I happened to be looking on the app in the morning when I noticed that they were advertising free burgers from McDonald’s. I managed to snag one of the limited codes and I got to try the Creamy Black Pepper Angus burger for just $2.09 after fees. It made for a decent, inexpensive lunch that day, so it can certainly pay off to keep the Uber Eats platform as well.

I know that this was a very lengthy post, but I felt like it had to be written. I’m no newspaper, and I’m well aware that I didn’t test all of the platforms multiple times in a short span to see if service with each is consistent to what I mentioned above (sorry, I’m not rich enough to order delivery every day). But, I’ve used all of them long enough to realize that service through SkipTheDishes has been steadily diminishing. I’ve heard horror stories of orders having to be made and remade by restaurants because it sits too long while they’re waiting for a courier to come. So, what are your thoughts? Have any of you experienced the same thing as me? Or, do I have bad luck? So many people seem to be on the SkipTheDishes bandwagon (as seen in a poll published on Splash Poke’s Instagram stories last week), but they put me through the ringer and I just can’t support them like I used to.

Online Dating: Desperate or Genius?

Not wanting to come across as a desperate single woman, but really spurred on by the feedback I received from family, friends and followers after writing my post about speed dating about a month ago, I thought I’d take this time to continue on this path and broach the subject of online dating. I would say that ten years ago when I was still eighteen, that was seen as taboo. Who needs to find friends or love on the Internet? We all thought we would have no problem getting dates. After all, our parents did it the old-fashioned way. We could do it, too.

Well, fast forward to the 2010s and these services that I thought I would never use are now somewhat of a phenomenon. As the human race has become busier in general, we seem to devote less time to meeting new people in-person and more time towards things like work (careers are where it’s at). Don’t get me wrong, it is important to educate yourself – either through school or life – and to make sure you know who you are as an independent person while ensuring you can provide for yourself no matter what. But, maybe that drive gets in the way of exploring the traditional avenues of making new acquaintances that could potentially lead to a significant other.

Verging on thirty years of age, I am at a crossroads. Being that I’m no longer in school, the possibility of sitting next to a guy who could become my next boyfriend is gone. Most of my girlfriends know a dozen other single friends who want to be set up, yet don’t have any single guys to recommend. My married friend’s friends are already wed or engaged, so whenever I go to group events or house parties, I’m basically the only single person there. Short of going to the bar, where else can I turn?

I’ll go where everyone else goes nowadays. ONLINE.

An amazing Single Girl's Guide to Online Dating graph created by Joanne Chao. Grabbed from Graph.net.

An amazing Single Girl’s Guide to Online Dating graph created by Joanne Chao. Grabbed from Graphs.net.

I’m no expert. So far, this hasn’t worked out that well for me. However, I do believe that sharing my experiences may be a form of therapy and also be helpful to anyone else who’s currently in the same boat.

Over the last few years, I’ve tried five sites including eHarmony, Plenty of Fish (POF), eVow, OkCupid and Zoosk with basically the same results, meaning nothing long-term has come out of using them. Sometimes I get frustrated, wanting to quit using them all together, but there’s always the question of “what if?” That’s not to say all these sites are made equal. Some are definitely better than others. Here’s a rundown of my observations from each.

eHarmony

A screenshot of eHarmony's login page.

A screenshot of eHarmony’s login page.

The biggest thing with this site is that it can seem like a daunting process to fill out every aspect of your profile. It’s a lot to get through at the beginning and if you opt to fill out the Q & A questions – there are close to a thousand – you’ll probably be devoting hours or a couple of days, time that not all of us necessarily have.

What I disliked most about eHarmony when I signed up for it a few years ago, as well as right now, is that going through the Quick Questions, Makes or Breaks and Dig Deeper steps before you even hit eH Mail – the site’s own e-mail type system – is extremely time-consuming if both parties aren’t quick to respond. I always find that, part way through, someone typically disengages and disappears during guided communication (what is wrong with them?), which can be disheartening because you had hoped to make even the smallest connection and that’s lost before you truly have a chance to get to know them.

This is why I always ask those I’m interested in if they would consider going the eH Mail route first – skip all the questions and let’s meet as soon as possible – and sometimes it works. My friend (the one who convinced me to try the site out again this time around) is now seeing where it might go with a guy who opted to do just that. If the guy doesn’t want to skip ahead and they prefer to go with the guided questions, that’s completely fine with me, but at least have the decency to see it through to the point where you can message freely and just be honest – either you’re still interested or not – and go from there. No one wants to be left hanging and wondering where the other went and why they just stopped replying. Perhaps the flightiness comes from the prevalent idea nowadays that there is always something better for you out there.

Another thing I wish I could see is how frequently your so-called matches visit their profile (I couldn’t find a spot on any of the profiles I was given that showed me that information); I have no idea if they have signed in within the last day, week, month or longer, so you might try to reach out and not hear back for a good while. The same goes for knowing if they are subscribers or free users because that will give me a better sense of how quickly we might be able to develop a conversation. If your match is waiting for the next free weekend before he can respond, it’s going to take a whole lot longer.

This site has made me doubtful that paid dating sites (an expensive one at that – try looking for promo codes online before signing up) are better as I have yet to actually meet one of these men in real life. Nevertheless, I now have a yearlong membership and I’ll continue to put it to use. You never know what can happen in that amount of time. I’ll keep trying.

Plenty of Fish (POF)

A screenshot of POF's login page.

A screenshot of POF’s login page.

According to some, it’s the hook up dating site of the Internet, not at all my intentions. But, it’s free and, if you’re willing to stick it out, there are, I’m sure, some decent guys, men, or manboys on there. It gets a bad reputation because there are a lot of people simply seeking out casual relationships as well as those that post inappropriate or provocative pictures (no, we really don’t want to be scrolling through profiles and all of a sudden see a picture of your package) or basically ask for a booty call as soon as you send a response (just because I said hello back, it does not mean I want to sleep with you…I don’t know you!).

The guys on there also tend to refrain from fully reading what you’ve written and tend to send messages that used absolutely no effort. I hate to say it, but, as humans, we base a lot on appearance and image, so I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little picky. It goes both ways though. I just wish that everyone using this service at least absorb the whole profile a person has decided to share, not just a portion of it before making a decision as to whether or not to respond. It also still frustrates me to no end when people say they want to meet you (stupid “meet me” function) and don’t bother sending you a message (have the balls to say something) or replying when you take the first step and put yourself out there.

There are success stories to be found. My good childhood friend had great luck and found a wonderful man on POF and they’re now engaged to be married this coming summer, so there’s hope!

Although, how long do you hold onto that hope for? I’ve been on my fair share of dates with people I’ve met on this site and, while I wouldn’t say any have been outright terrible, none have been amazing either. Just for fun though, I’ll tell you about the first guy I met from this site. He took me out for brunch on the weekend. We had a good time and great conversation, even mentioning things we might be able to do later in the year when festivals and such rolled around. I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t really that attracted to him physically, but he was very nice and I could picture hanging out with him again. But, guess what? I never heard from him after that date. Quite a bit of time passed by and he saw that I still had a profile on POF, so he messaged me. Do you know what he said? He told me that he didn’t understand why I was still on the site. He thought I was so awesome and was surprised that someone hadn’t already snapped me up. I didn’t feel like having that discussion with him, but, in the back of my mind, I thought to myself, “what a weird guy; if you thought I was such a great catch, why didn’t you pursue anything further.”

I do not understand how guys think. They don’t seem to get us either. Therein lies the problem.

Zoosk

A screenshot of one of the main pages before logging into or signing up for Zoosk.

A screenshot of one of the main pages before logging into or signing up for Zoosk.

This site is a bit like POF. They tout themselves as being free, but there are certain aspects that you need to pay to use. For example, every day you are sent an e-mail with one SmartPick. You have 24 hours to tell Zoosk whether or not you are interested in this person. If you are, and the match is as well, the site puts you in touch with one another. However, there’s a cost associated with that service and without putting out the money, you’re left unable to indicate your feelings towards the profile you’ve been given. The same goes with them notifying you of people who have viewed your profile. You can see who looked at your page, but to view their profile requires that you pay. Of course, there are ways to bypass these issues. You can always sit there scrolling through hundreds of profiles until you find that person again and just message them yourself.

The site seems to overlook the fact that most people are smart enough to use the site within the boundaries of the free features. The extras aren’t really that great. Yes, I cannot message others without paying, but I can download their chat function and converse with someone for free that way.

Regardless of those basic problems with Zoosk, I just found the caliber of people to not be what I was looking for. Also, it seems like they have some sort of built-in preset messages for people to choose from, including some of the cheesiest pick-up lines I have ever heard. Here are some of the ones I received:

Are you a parking ticket? Because you have fine written all over you.

I’m a thief, and I’m here to steal your heart.

I lost my phone number. Can I borrow yours?

Is your dad an astronaut? Because someone took the stars from the sky and put them in your eyes.

Why aren’t you in jail? It’s illegal to look that good.

Are you a leprechaun? Because I think you’re my lucky charm.

I think you’re all capable of being a little more original than that. I’d much rather have someone just say hello and ask me how my day was than be subjected to this, even if it provided a good laugh in the process. I nixed this site quickly because it wasn’t what I thought it would be.

eVow

A screenshot of eVow's main page.

A screenshot of eVow’s main page.

This is brought to you by the creators of POF and it is their version of a serious dating site. It’s not meant for hooking up, casual dating or friendships. You’re meant to find someone who wants to seriously date or get married within the next few years.

That may very well be the intention of some people on there, but, to me, it still seems like a mishmash of people. Also, from observation, it tends to be filled with divorced single dads (nothing against any of you; good on you for taking care of your kids, but I always worry about suddenly finding myself with an instant family or the possibility of it not working out yet there being additional attachments with the children) and a lot more smokers (on POF no one is a smoker, on eVow a lot more people are – they’re being more honest I guess), neither of which are my thing or what I currently want.

Perhaps if you’re okay with the idea of starting a family sooner as opposed to later, this may be the place for you.

OkCupid 

A screenshot of the OkCupid.com on my desktop, which encourages you to start building your profile immediately.

A screenshot of the OkCupid.com on my desktop, which encourages you to start building your profile immediately.

A friend of a friend told me that she met her boyfriend on OkCupid and that she had the best results on this site, so, naturally, I went home and signed up for it right away.

I found it really interesting to find that while it’s free, it is quite similar to eHarmony. There are hundreds of questions (or more) that you can answer and your responses are compared to those of other users. Your compatibility with them is then calculated – you can see how good you’d be as a couple or as friends and even if you’re more likely to be enemies. It’s almost more refined, in a way, than eHarmony is. The fact that they used your similarities to decide whether or not you would get along with a person is common sense. We gravitate towards those who share the same values and likes as us, but there is also the notion of opposites being attracted to one another. How does that fit in? So, I was looking at this with a healthy dose of skepticism.

There is also a lot of crossover on all of these dating sites. You can see I’ve tried almost all of the major ones and I can tell you that you will see duplicate profiles. Here’s another story of mine.

I started seeing this one guy that I met on POF. He was sweet, well-educated, but also socially awkward in that he was extremely shy and never really knew what to say or how to keep his side of the conversation flowing. He happened to also have a profile on OkCupid that I found after our first meeting. Based on OkCupid’s system, what was our likelihood of being a good match, you ask? Not great. According to the site, we were only about 42 percent compatible. I did find it harder to talk to him because it usually came down to me having to come up with things to do or discuss, but I wasn’t giving up so easily. There were moments when I could see him being more open and loosening up, so we went out several times. However, periodically I would see that he’d viewed my profile on OkCupid again and that the percentage shown for our likelihood of being a good couple would have changed slightly. He’s in school doing a PhD to become a mathematician, so maybe he wasn’t satisfied with the low score we originally received and thought that by answering more questions or altering his responses, we might be a great match after all. Being that his life revolved around numbers, it probably would have meant a great deal to him if the site told us we would work out. Ultimately, we didn’t and I had seen the signs.

Currently, I’m not using the site anymore, but based off of that situation, maybe OkCupid is on the right track.

Online Dating Tips:

  • Use current photos where you’re clearly visible so people know what you actually look like (you’re not a blurry head in real life) – maybe it can be viewed as a bit shallow, but, I think, it’s also a precaution in the online world. Also, please don’t steal some model’s photo from the Internet.
  • Don’t have every picture of yourself being a mirror selfie. I am certain that you know someone who is willing to take a proper photo of you.
  • Show yourself doing things that interest you.
  • Avoid posting only pictures of all your trucks, motorbikes and your pets (although the pets are probably adorable). We want to see who you are.
  • Show yourself at your best, not your worst – no one’s dream date is the guy who looks absolutely hammered on his profile. The same goes for when you meet in-person.
  • Don’t copy and paste some generic text into your description because we notice when we read the same thing from one profile to the next.
  • Pay attention to your spelling and grammar. You’ll come across better if you take the time to write proper sentences and paragraphs.
  • Do take a bit of time (not a lot, just a little) to write something interesting about yourself, so we can work with something to get conversation going.
  • Don’t just say “hey,” “you fine,” etc. Obviously, we’re all on here for different reasons, but if I clearly say I’m looking for a relationship, not stating that I want something casual, the online equivalent of a wolf whistle, if you will, is not going to capture my attention.
  • Follow through with messages and meetings – if you took the time to reach out to me and I actually respond, do yourself a favour and reply or make real plans to get together.

These sites can work. Although, they’re not for everybody. You do almost feel like you’re shopping, and there is a certain amount of trust involved. I always say people can lie easily online, but they can also lie to your face. You just have to be smart and go with your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. But, sometimes, I think the hardest part about going the online dating route is syncing what you see on the screen with who you meet face-to-face. Conversation in e-mail might go really well because you both have plenty of time to craft the appropriate things to say (not that most guys do), but once you have nothing to hide behind and you are literally with that person, it can be an intimidating situation for some. That’s when you can tell for sure whether or not a relationship will move along.

This clip with Kristen Wigg having a date with someone she met online while on Jimmy Kimmel Live! is obviously a joke, but it is hilarious and a great amplification of the awkwardness that can happen during a first meeting with someone as well as the weirdness that can follow.

I certainly won’t count this out as an option because it has become so commonplace. People I know seem to be more open to talking about their knowledge of the sites or how they met their significant other through these means. The stigma that society once placed on online dating is slowly dissipating. By refusing to put myself out there in this way, I feel like I might be limiting my chances.

If you happen to still be on the lookout for someone who will be your best friend and who makes you feel loved and happy, you owe it to yourself to give this a try. Like speed dating, the worst case is that you go on some bad or awkward dates, but get some practice and come out with some good stories to tell. Maybe you just make a few friends (you never know, new contacts can increase your probability of meeting people the “normal” way). Or, the best outcome is that it works for you and you find exactly what you’re looking for. Like life, timing is everything. This might be your time. So, take a deep breath and a leap of faith because this could potentially be the start of a brand new day!

 

Toshl: Be a Budget Maven

We are now into the second month of 2014 and I’ve been thinking more about the things I choose to spend my money on. January is a time when we all tend to tighten the belt when it comes to our wallets. However, once we pass that point, and we’ve paid off our holiday bills, does it return to normal? Do we go back to buying our daily Starbucks coffees, purchasing the latest version of Apple’s iPhone, watching movies every weekend at the theatre?

I’m pretty good for the most part. I own my home, so I make sure to pay my mortgage and all my bills in full every month, but I also like to indulge by eating out with friends, going to concerts, and traveling. I certainly don’t think that’s a terrible thing. As the saying goes, you only live once. You’re also only young once. Why hoard all my money away for retirement? It’s still important to have some fun while I can enjoy it.

I’m responsible with my money though. If I can’t afford something, I don’t buy it. But, I guess, I’m also lucky that I can pretty much do whatever I want. I don’t have a husband or kids that rely on me. As long as I am able to provide for myself, I’m in good hands.

Even so, I still think that my spending requires a bit of an overhaul. For several years now, I’ve kept track of my monthly expenses by listing it out on paper or on my phone in my Colornote app. And, while it’s great to write it down, I don’t necessarily know what specifically my money is spent on in terms of percentages. I’m aware that I’m spending and of the total, but, at the same time, I’m not aware of the details.

Recently, I came across the fantastic Toshl app and started using their website (changes made on your phone or on the computer should sync up). Although the free program is a little more limited than the pro version (you can only create one budget and enter one income every month), it still really allows you to drill down on your expenses and see where your money is going.

From what I can tell so far, you can add as many expense lines as you need to per month and each cost can be tagged – either general or really refined (i.e. meals vs. gum) – and those tags can then be grouped, so you can see a breakdown of how much you spent on the essentials, such as housing, utilities and groceries, as well as the amount used on extraneous purchases like clothes, music, or lottery tickets.

The breakdown of my January 2014 expenses. Tagged into categories and shown based on percentage of the month's total spending. Grabbed from my Toshl account.

The breakdown of my January 2014 expenses. Tagged into categories and shown based on percentage of the month’s total spending. Screenshot grabbed from my Toshl account.

I won’t tell you how much of my monthly income was used in January, but I can tell you I was shocked to see how little of it I actually managed to save for a rainy day.

So, how am I going to change that? I don’t necessarily believe that I have to cut out all the fun things I fill my time with by becoming a complete hermit. Yet, I can probably find a smarter way to fit those things in without breaking the bank.

Rather than hitting up every concert that comes to town, pick just a few where I’m dying to see that artist live. Pack my lunch or snacks to work most days and eat out less. Learn to cook some new recipes at home rather than dining at a restaurant. Set aside a chunk of change annually for travel and split up the amount however I see fit. Invite friends over for a meal, movie or games and just talk. If I want to go out, look for vouchers on sites like Groupon or LivingSocial that can provide me with discounts on lunch, dinner, entertainment, travel, etc.

I’ve read about the debt that many people find themselves in nowadays. Banks let customers take out small loans with big interest rates that they know most of their clients can’t actually pay back and many people are paying just the minimum on their credit card bills, but it doesn’t have to be that way for many of you.

Whichever way you choose to monitor or curb your spending, it is something I would highly recommend to everyone. All it takes are a few small steps at a time.

I want to be able to experience what I can at this moment and save for my future. This new year and new perspective of my personal finances will hopefully lead to that.

Feeling Nostalgic

1950’s Oceanic Surcouf French Valve Radio

I am currently the teaching assistant for a course about using and managing communication technologies. Essentially the class covers the history of the subject and a couple of weeks ago the topic up for discussion was the radio. The professor asked each of the students to share their memories of the technology in the hopes of finding someone else who related to the medium on an ethereal and intimate level just as he had as a child.

Growing up in a time when television played a larger role in my childhood and the computer was becoming the norm, I didn’t quite fit the bill of a radio listener. In fact, I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the format. You can’t choose what you listen to and the advertisements bothered me to no end because it seemed like when one station had them on, every other station did as well. But, after reading some of the responses from the students, I saw how important the radio was to them. It presented an escape for them when there was nothing else at their disposal. The radio triggered their imagination with one student recalling how they listened to hockey games and the play-by-plays made them feel like they were actually there seeing the game live and in-person.

This discussion made me think about how I sometimes long for a previous time in my life. I’m feeling more and more lately like we’re inundated with too much information and that we’re too accessible. We’re constantly tethered to devices and people. Instead of separating personal and work lives, we’re available through our smart phones at all times. Since when did it become okay for work to seep into evenings and weekends?

I wish I still had the time to sit in my living room creating the perfect mix tapes like I did when I was a teenager. I’d pick out the songs and time it all so that I could get the most out of both sides. How many of you remember doing that?

When I didn’t have a care in the world, I would re-watch a movie over and over again until I memorized all the lines. I did that with Legally Blonde and Zoolander. But, then you grow up and there never seems to be enough time to do the laundry and the dishes, fit a workout in, pay the bills, run your errands or walk the dog, among a million other things. For many people, that carefree feeling that we used to have somehow goes out the door as we get older.

My memories of being a kid running around at recess, sitting on the school steps playing with pogs, walking to the neighbourhood general store with a friend to pick up a slushie or some five cent candies feel like they happened forever ago.

I think, in the end, what I’m trying to say here is that we can’t forget how we grew up and what made us happy when we were younger. When you feel nostalgic, call up your best friend and ask them to take a walk with you to the corner store like you did when you were kids or make yourself the perfect mix CD for your next road trip. You deserve to take the time out for yourself, to go back to a time when you had no obligations, even if only for an hour, an afternoon or a day.

I’d love to hear about what makes you feel nostalgic. Please share in the comments section below.

Photo source: http://thebakeliteradio.com