Article 20: Summer Adventure Savings Challenge

Jodi Johnson

It was a beautiful May morning, and Daisy Povey’s alarm abruptly interrupted her peaceful dream. It was time for her to start the day.   She had a quick shower, got herself dressed and made breakfast for her three children before it was time to wake them. She quietly tip-toed into each of their rooms and woke them up by opening their curtains and gently rubbing their backs while humming a quiet tune to them.  As the children began to emerge from their rooms, welcomed by the smell of pancakes wafting through the house, Daisy’s smile began to grow, seeing each of their sweet bed-heads emerge from their rooms.

           Daisy could not believe how fast time seemed to have passed as her days were filled with her children’s activities. She started with dropping them off at school, getting settled in to work from home, picking the children up from school, feeding them a snack, and then heading to the arena where all three of her children had different times they were scheduled to be on the ice. By the time they arrived home for the evening, they had a quick family meal and then the children were off to do their homework and go to bed. As the saying goes, the days are long, but the years are short. Daisy thought this was an understatement to how she felt about her own family.

           Daisy recalled the few memories that she held of her childhood, as she grew up in a family that struggled to make ends meet. So, the memories that she did have were extraordinary. She spent many summers at her grandparent’s summer cottage when her cousins would come from out of town to visit. They spent countless hours splashing around in the water, creating new games and going on adventures. She knew as a child that her friends were able to go on family trips to amusement parks or museums, and she vowed that when she was older and had her own children, she would try her best to give them great childhood memories.

           After collecting her thoughts and tidying up her kitchen while her children played around the house, Daisy thought about how she could give her children their best childhoods chalked full of life-lasting memories. So, as a self-proclaimed nerd, she grabbed her laptop and searched on the internet. Key phrases such as “Cheap family vacations” and “things to do for families in Winnipeg” started her deep internet search spiral. After being lost in the internet vortex, Daisy realized it was already lunchtime, and she began to make lunch for her children. While lost in the steps of assembling their meal, Daisy realized one crucial factor in her search these options would all cost a lot of money. So, throughout the day, Daisy decided that she needed to look at her budget and make a point to start saving money for a fun adventure for her family.

           That night, after the kids had gone to bed, Daisy had a talk with her husband, Cameron. “Cameron, I had an epiphany today that the kids are growing so fast. We should take them on a trip this summer. We should find something fun to do with them to make memories that they will reflect on when they get older. I was doing some trip research online today and I think we can have a fun trip, but it will cost us about five thousand dollars for all five of us to go for about a week. So I am going to take a look at our budget and see where we have some flexibility to start saving.”

Cameron looked at his wife, and he knew by the determined arch in her forehead that she was earnest. He said to his wife, “That sounds like a very great idea. Let me know how I can help because I think this will have a great impact on our family.”

With Cameron’s encouragement, Daisy quickly opened up her laptop and analyzed her budget spreadsheet. Daisy’s fingers were flying on her keyboard, the numbers were moving, cells were cut and pasted, and she was determined. However, she hit a roadblock when she realized how much her debt payments were costing her family. They had two vehicles that they were paying for, a line of credit owed to the bank for some renovations that they had done to their house, and their mortgage payment. After seeing the reality, she felt she could not balance her budget. She felt defeated. How would she save some money after they had paid their bills, all of their existing accounts, and their recurrent debts? Finally, Daisy decided to put her computer away and sleep on it.

           Her sleep was anything but restful; her unconscious mind was still full of numbers and spreadsheets. When she awoke, her mind still felt full and exhausted. She decided that since it was a Saturday and her local library was open, she and her kids would visit the library to borrow some books. Undoubtedly, the library would have some books on balancing a personal budget. When they got to the library, the children ran to the chalked shelves full of stories about dinosaurs, fairies, and kindness. After the children picked out their books, Daisy asked the librarian where she could find the books about budgeting. The kids were restless; so, Daisy sat them all in a corner and set up her oldest daughter, Ann, to read to her younger sister, Mae, and to her little brother, James. With the children occupied, Daisy found the option of budgeting books. There were so many of them; where should she start. She stood and looked at the options, frozen with her inability to select. Finally, she typed “Canadian Budgeting Books” on her phone and found a few available options through the library. She picked her books, took her children to the checkout, and returned home.

           Daisy decided that the afternoon quiet time in her house would be perfect to set up on her couch and dive into her reading.  Before she knew it, two hours of reading had passed, and her children were surrounding her and asking for a snack. She had been so engrossed in her reading; but, she discovered that the journey to financial wellness might be more fun than dreadful. She put her book down, tended to her children, and started to prepare their dinner. After the children had gone to bed in the evening, she sat down on the couch again and picked up her book where she left off. She finished her first book and felt more prepared to tackle her household budget. After looking over her budget, she determined that one of their biggest expenses as a household had been groceries. They were a family of five, after all, with three growing children to feed. It was no wonder they spent so much money on groceries. Daisy determined that this would be an area that she would have to pay close attention to in her goal to limit their spending. But, how would Daisy limit their grocery spending? She decided to look on the internet for some resources. After researching “groceries on a budget” she determined it might be a little bit more challenging to do in Canada.

           In Daisy’s internet searches, she came across the application for her phone called “Flipp.” It shows all of the local flyers available in the area, and it also has the option of searching for anything specific, or if there was on sale anywhere. Daisy also learned that it works best to make a meal plan for the week based on what is available in her pantry, and then do her grocery shopping for any additional ingredients. Daisy looked back on her spending history and realized that she had been spending upwards of $400 per week for groceries and takeout for her family. That seemed outrageous to Daisy. How did her family spend so much money on food? In reviewing her statements, she noticed she or Cameron would stop at the store for a quick shop to pick up milk or bread, and they would be on their way home from work and hungry, they would spot something that looked tasty and buy it spontaneously. She looked through her pantry and noticed many half bags of items that were now stale or expired; she knew that they needed to stop the spontaneous purchases and make sure their purchases were intentional and meaningful. She decided with her new knowledge on the “Flipp” app, menu planning, and shopping her pantry first, and she was going to start with a budget of $200 per week on groceries for her family, which was half the amount that they were spending. Another piece of helpful information that she discovered was that one would be more likely to stick to one’s budget by using cash at the store instead of having one’s credit card or debit card to fall back on if one went over budget. If she could stick to her plan, she would be saving her family $200 a week on groceries alone. That amount of money could go a long way to saving for her family’s summer vacation.

           Daisy told Cameron about the new plan that she had set. “We aren’t making any additional money, but we are spending our existing money differently. I will go to the bank every week to take out my $200 for grocery money, and that will be all that I can spend when I go for our groceries. We will do our grocery shopping once a week, and we will have to try to eliminate our daily trips to the grocery store for essential items. If we don’t have it, we will have to wait until we return the following week. We need to be intentional and purposeful with our grocery store trips.”

Cameron was highly skeptical about Daisy’s new optimism “Daisy, I am proud of the research that you have done. But, do you think that $200 is a realistic amount for our family of five to spend on groceries every week while feeling like we aren’t eating beans and rice for every meal?”

Daisy looked at her husband with a smirk on her face and said, “there is only one way to find out.”

           Daisy decided that Friday mornings would become her grocery shopping time. She would drop off her children at school, head over to the bank machine to withdraw her weekly $200 budget, and then head to the grocery store. Daisy felt confident in her plan and was eager to start. On Thursday evening, she and Cameron sat down, looked through the “Flipp” app on their iPad, and made the menu plan to begin on Friday. Daisy and Cameron reviewed the flyers at the three grocery stores within driving distance from their house. Daisy decided to use the “notepad” app on her phone to keep track of the items on their shopping list and which store to buy them at.

On Friday morning, with the sense of a new beginning, Daisy marched through her morning tasks with a purpose. After dropping off her kids at school, she withdrew her cash from the ATM, and ventured off to the grocery store. Following her list was easy, and after the first two stores, she was well within her budget and had $110 left to spend at the last grocery store, which would be her largest shopping haul. While walking through the aisles of the grocery store Daisy came across some sales that were not identified in the flyer. She found some of her children’s favourite school snacks on sale and decided she would stock up on them. When she walked through the hygiene aisle, she noticed that Cameron’s favourite shampoo and soap were on sale, so she decided to purchase them.

           When Daisy went through the checkout, she kept an eye on the total amount owing and noticed it was creeping close to the amount she had left for her budget. Her mind started racing and wondering what option she would need to use if she happened to go over her budget. The cashier told Daisy that her total was $116.98. Shoot! She was over budget! What should she do?

“Actually, I don’t think I will need this shampoo and soap. Could I please cancel these items?”

“Absolutely! Your new total will be $107.45”.

Daisy paid for her items and left the store. As she was loading up the vehicle, she thought about how she had been so distracted by the sale items that it caused her to deviate from her detailed list. She knew that she was on the right track, but she needed to adjust her plan a little bit. She decided to look back on some of the internet resources that she had previously found. She discovered an article where the author referenced using a calculator to keep a running total of their bill to stay within their budget. Daisy did not want to bring a calculator with her, and she was not sure how trustworthy her cellphone calculator would be, as her screen was a little touchy. She decided to estimate the cost of the grocery haul by each store, with an itemized list of each item she needed to purchase. As she was the primary grocery shopper in their household, she figured she had a good grasp of what each grocery item would cost, so it would be worth a shot to try for her next grocery shop. Hopefully, she thought, this would keep her within her budget a little more closely than the first week. 

The following Thursday, Daisy opened her notepad app on her phone and started to look through the “Flipp” app on her iPad. With each item she added to her list, she started to add a bullet point so that she could check off when she had added the item to her cart. She also added the approximate cost of the item and totalled up what she estimated her total for each store would be. On the morning of her second budgeted shopping trip, she felt more skeptical than optimistic. She dropped her children off and then went to withdraw her cash. She did her grocery shop at her first stop, she had budgeted $40 for the trip, and it had cost $34. She felt a slight sense of relief. At the next grocery store, she had budgeted $30, and her total was $27. On her way to the third and final grocery store, where she had a projected total of $130, she was already going in $9 under budget. When it came time to cash out, Daisy was feeling a sense of anxiety after her previous weeks experience.

Nevertheless, she kept an eye on the total, and the final amount was $112. At the end of the day, she was $27 under budget, which was still $227 less than what she would spend on food and groceries before reworking her budget.

Daisy decided that the $200 difference she saved from her previous unbudgeted grocery shopping would now be moved each pay period to her savings for her family’s summer vacation. The change remaining from weekly grocery spending would be put into a mason jar. And when the jar was full, she would deposit it to her savings account. Daisy realized that saving money wasn’t really as hard as it seemed, but it was more about adapting her spending and having a plan for her money.

When the following summer rolled around, Daisy and Cameron had been able to save $5600 in cash for their family summer vacation simply by planning their groceries and paying attention to their shopping. Daisy and her family travelled western Canada, saw the Calgary Zoo, visited the Enchanted Forest in Revelstoke, and went to the Kinsmen Water Park in Prince Albert. Daisy felt like she was finally in control of her finances, and this was just the first of many summer adventures she would be able to take her family on, fully paid for with cash.

Authors’ Bio: Jodi Johnson was born and raised in The Pas, Manitoba. She completed her Business Administration Diploma at UCN in 2011 and decided to further her studies and start the Bachelor of Business Administration Degree program part-time in 2016 while still working as a full-time employee at UCN. Jodi is currently enrolled in the final course of the program and will be graduating in 2022. The self-proclaimed ‘nerd’ has found a personal passion in financial health; hence, in her free time, she enjoys reading about the latest budgeting and investing techniques. As a business student, she decided to take a creative writing course as her final humanity elective. When she was given the assignment to write a creative story, she decided to share some of the basic information she has learned and to spin it in a way that make story interesting and informative for her audience. Jodi’s future goals include high annual returns on her investments and retiring to a comfortable life.

Instructor Remarks: It is not every term that I am blessed with a student in the business program showing up in my ENG.1002 course. So, it was amazing to have had Jodi in my class in the fall term of 2021. Her creative writing submission reflects her academic and professional background. In this “Summer Adventure Saving Challenge,” Jodi is able to produce a creative work with lessons on financial literacy. The reader will find this story both entertaining and instructive—Dr. Joseph Atoyebi.