Travelling on a budget and getting more than I bargained for

Guest blog alert! This year’s Saskatchewander, Leah Mertz, has travelled all across the province during a challenging year and has picked up some travel tips along the way. From spending and budgeting tips to the best spots in Saskatchewan to check out, Leah has some great advice for what to check out in the province’s own backyard (when it is safe to do so) and how to save some coin while doing it. 

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Hi, I’m Leah!

For the past 10 years, the Government of Saskatchewan has selected a ‘Saskatchewanderer’ to explore the province—showcasing its hidden gems and best kept secrets. To my surprise and excitement, I became the 2020 Wanderer after applying last fall. But within weeks of being on the job, things quickly shifted as the pandemic took hold. However, my determination to see Saskatchewan remained. With Conexus as the program’s new title sponsor, I became more motivated than ever to find ways of keeping travel affordable during uncertain times.

Where it began…

Growing up on a farm, times were busy. My father was a poultry farmer, and as all keepers of livestock know, there’s usually very few days off in a year—if at all. That’s why every summer, I couldn’t wait for our annual road trip. Each year in August, he would leave the farm in good hands for 10 days, and my family would pile into our Ford Aerostar for our next adventure.

As a kid, vacations almost seemed like a fantasy. There’s very little concept of time as the days become full of swimming, ice cream, bike riding, games, and… more ice cream. You don’t have to worry about paying for accommodations or gas, preparing or finding meals, and driving long hours with impatient kids in the back seat. I look back on our annual family vacation and wonder how exactly my parents kept their sanity. It’s a lot to manage! My siblings and I would have the best time without a care in the world. As an adult, it’s sobering to realize how hard my parents worked to not only afford taking time away from the farm, but also keeping costs at a minimum while on vacation.

Fast forward to 2020

Since becoming the Wanderer, I’ve found myself in charge of planning and executing the largest road trip of my life. I’ll admit, it’s been very challenging and I’ve been reminded of my parents’ hard work every step of the way. However, seeing so many beautiful places (Cypress Hills, Greig Lake, Castle Butte, etc.) and meeting dozens of wonderful people has helped put me at ease.

In the past few months, I’ve learned some hard and fast lessons surrounding money. Here are a few things that have helped me cut excess costs, save in unexpected places, and keep morale high while traveling in high-stress times.

Reusable anything keeps money in your pocket

Two reusable items I’ll never leave home without are a water bottle and a microwavable container. I’ll always fill up my water bottle at a hotel and therefore eliminate the urge to buy one when I stop for gas. Since I’ve been eating out on the road a lot, more often than not a takeaway container isn’t microwavable. Nearly every accommodation will have a microwave and since I started bringing my own container, I’ve never let my leftovers go to waste. We all know how generous Saskatchewan restaurants can be with their portions so on many occasions I’ve happily turned one supper into two—the enormous Perogy Poutine from the Black Grasshopper in Estevan comes to mind!

Preparedness pays off

This may seem like a no-brainer, but unexpected expenses can add up when traveling. Make a packing list before your trip and include everything you could possibly need. Early in the year, I would forget something simple, end up buying it, and then immediately regret it when I returned home to find it sitting in my drawer. I’ve unnecessarily spent hundreds of dollars on duplicates like: sunscreen, bug spray, gloves, hair ties, tweezers, vitamins, and even flip flops for the hotel pool. Plus, if you have to pick something up at a gas station or a convenience store, products like Advil or chapstick have a higher markup compared to where you’d purchase them otherwise. Convenience can be costly.

Oh, and speaking of pools, the Residence Inn in Regina has one of the fastest waterslides I’ve ever been on. Seriously, I might have experienced some g-force on that thing.

Score with loyalty points

Many food chains, and even local establishments have their own loyalty programs that allow you to earn free food, discounted prices, and more. Thankfully our smartphones conveniently allow us to store our loyalty numbers or barcodes. I used to absolutely hate keeping track of loyalty cards, but now that I can have them in my phone or through an app, I’m all in. I won’t admit how many free coffees I’ve scored this year from a certain green mermaid, but I will tell you that she’s been very kind to me. Also, I’ve kept loyalty points with every hotel I stay at, and in a matter of months have earned my way to free nights, higher loyalty point accumulation, and guaranteed late checkouts. Doesn’t get any better!

Keep tabs on your data

On some of my early trips, I was on Google Maps non-stop and endlessly streaming music and podcasts while on the road. I quickly noticed my cell phone data was going over and incurring extra charges. Now, I’ve been diligent in trying to download music, podcasts, and even map directions to my phone while I have Wi-Fi. It took one egregious cell phone bill at the beginning of my Wanderer term for me to be more mindful of data usage while out and about.

Seeing the best of Saskatchewan

With those money saving tips in mind, here is my unofficial list of the best places I’ve been in 2020!

Best food: Just Chicken in Kindersley. Think chicken tenders but like schnitzel. They have some of the best side dishes I’ve ever had—candied bacon, homemade slaw, fry bread, and more.

Best accommodation: The Resort at Cypress Hills. When a fresh blanket of snow falls, it’s a magical winter wonderland with tons of things to do. You can go cross country skiing, snowshoeing, or cozy up by the fireplace in the lodge.

Best trail: Sunset Interpretive Trail in Douglas Provincial Park. This is a beginner level trail that all can enjoy. Halfway into the loop you’ll have one of the best views for a classic Saskatchewan sunset. It’s simply stunning looking out over Lake Diefenbaker as the waves crash against the shoreline below.

Best campground: Anderson Point in Great Blue Heron Provincial Park. With plenty of walking trails and a secluded beach, this area truly feels off the grid while still being close to the amenities of Christopher Lake. Many locals have expressed that this is their favourite place to spend winter too. I hope to return before the year is over!

Best coffee shop: Route 26 in St. Walburg. This place has probably one of the most immersive ambiences I’ve ever experienced. It’s in an old character house adorned with hundreds of nostalgic artifacts. Outside there are plenty of picturesque places to sit as you hear classic country tunes playing in the background.

Best sightseeing spot: Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park. The rolling hills of the southwest truly look incredible anytime of year. Once you drive down into the valley, you’ll have a 360-degree view of some of the finest natural wonders in Saskatchewan.

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Recovering Canceled Travel Costs During COVID-19

This year travel came with all the stress and none of the excitement. For many, it meant cancelled trips, leaving most feeling disappointed, concerned and wondering about refunds. After months of planning your dream vacation or weekend getaway, you are now having to spend months scrambling to recoup costs. Here’s some of the best ways – and how to make the most of staying home!


Cancelling a trip due to COVID-19

Let’s be honest, 2020 hasn’t gone as planned for anyone. Especially those who finally saved enough in their piggy banks to take their dream trip. Unless you were lucky enough to travel in January or February,  you’ve spent 2020 cancelling travel plans and refreshing refund policy web pages for updates on how you will recoup your costs. I was a part of the group who were hopeful for a travel resurgence in the Fall and Winter seasons who are now realizing our trips are suffering the same fate as those who booked in the first half of the year.

Travel is exciting and fun but it can also be stressful and a lot of work to plan but typically it is always worth the work. *sighs* But when you throw in a global pandemic, now the time you took to plan the perfect getaway is being rewarded with more work to undo it with the hopes of losing the least amount of money as possible. Navigating refunds from travel plans you’ve spent months assembling can be overwhelming and tough. Here’s what I’ve learned is the best way to recoup these costs:

Flights & Accommodations

For the travel and hospitality industry, COVID-19 has posed as a huge threat. Many flight and travel companies are having to rethink and change their policies to accommodate the safety of their guests and staff, but also the influx in cancellations. Travel service providers, hotels and rental companies worked quickly to address the impacts of COVID-19, posting information and making updates as new information was communicated. Luckily, most made the right decision to shift to more relaxed and flexible refund policies.

With so much information being shared it can be overwhelming. A resource that I found particularly helpful was this article that outlines the  current policies for major airlines, hotels and rental companies.

Another great place to start is to review your travel insurance, if you had any, the terms and conditions of your booking and refund policies. This will help you understand if you need to talk to someone or if you can easily cancel online. If you are having issues finding this information in your booking documents, visit the company’s website. Most companies have created a “COVID-19 Updates” page on their website, making it easy to find the information you need. Finally, if all else fails, pick up the phone and call them. They’ll be able to bring up your information and communicate their refund policies. Plus, many times these agents will be trained to offer exceptions, personalized solutions and even future discounts in order to rectify a situation so sometimes it pays to talk to someone directly.

Tickets

I’m guessing that if you booked an expensive getaway, you likely had some things planned in your destination. Whether it is sports games, concert tickets, art shows and all things in between – most of these attractions would have been purchased in advance. If it’s a concert, you might get lucky as many artists are just postponing shows to the following year instead of cancelling. However, if it’s a sports event or show it might look a little different.  Here are some of the most common ticket sale channels and how to recoup costs:

  1. StubHub
  2. Ticketmaster
  3. Vivid Seats

If you booked tickets outside of these services or you didn’t find any luck through these resources – give them a call. Like I mentioned before, many service providers understand the threat of substitutes in their industry and any unsatisfied customer is a risk to the main thing that keeps them afloat: their reputation. Pick up the phone and explain your situation to them – chances are they will work with you to ensure you leave the conversation satisfied.

Staycation anyone?

Although it hasn’t felt like anything good can come from 2020, life is what you make it! I’m sure you just rolled your eyes a little bit, but I mean it. I once heard that if you want to make progress, you need to create an uncomfortable environment. I don’t know about you, but 2020 has made me pretty uncomfortable. So let’s lean into it and make the best of what life has thrown our way. You know what they say, when life gives you a global pandemic and takes away your dream vacation, make lemonade by turning it into a Saskatchewan Staycation!

Staycation

This new normal has provided perspective and has shown us – it’s okay to slow down.

So, use your vacation days and take some much needed R&R to yourself. Sleep in, read a good book, binge watch that Netflix show, order in from your favourite local spot and truly disconnect from the chaos of the world. If this is exactly what you did during quarantine and your house is feeling like a prison – this is a great opportunity to explore Saskatchewan.

Travel within Saskatchewan 

Saskatchewan is often overlooked because we’re small and don’t have the mountains. As someone who is born and raised in Regina, I even find myself overlooking my own province – thinking ‘I’ve seen it all’ or going back to the same spots because they are familiar.

When we travel, something takes over and we are more open to trying new things and exploring, so I challenge you to take that challenge and go explore the province! I dare you to reacquaint yourself with those little forgotten gems or find somewhere new. Last summer we posted a MONEYTALK blog that helps you travel Saskatchewan on a budget. Just because travel is restricted doesn’t mean you are fenced in to your own backyard.

When you travel within Saskatchewan, you aren’t just exploring something new, you are also helping to fuel our economy. COVID-19 has had major impacts on our economy, by staying and travelling in our own province, you are helping to improve this.

Here are some other great resources on recouping costs and travel information:

What to know about credit card chargebacks

Government of Canada: Travel and Tourism

3 Key Money Tips for High Schoolers

No matter how old you are – you likely aren’t satisfied with the amount of money you have and you want more. When you are in high school, you want to be able to buy the things you want, go out with your friends, and maybe even save for your future education. So, if you are a high schooler – here are a few things you can do with your money to make it work best for you!


Use these tips to make that cash you earned in your summer job last a little longer:

1. Make sure you have BOTH a debit and savings account.

Even if you primarily get your money in cash right now, you should be putting it in an account so you can make more. The sooner you open a bank account, including a separate savings account, the better. This is to get used to dealing with your money when it only exists on plastic and in your banking app and so you have somewhere to stash your savings separate from your spending money. Also, it saves you from having to check the pockets in all of your jeans or the bottom of the washing machine to try and find that extra $20 bill you stashed away for safe keeping.

2. Talk about money.

A lot of people’s parents or guardians don’t talk about money. Sometimes it’s because they’re not good with money themselves and sometimes people are just weird with their financial information, even with their kids. If your parents shut down conversations about budgeting or how much their mortgage or car payments are, that’s where the first piece of advice comes in. If you are a member of a financial institution, you have access to financial experts who can help you out or direct you to reliable resources. If you’re wondering anything about money, chances are someone else has googled that same question! Don’t feel embarrassed if you need to google how to read your first paycheck or what compound interest is (trust me, you want to know what that one is)!

3. Get to saving!

Yeah, you probably don’t make very much right now, but the idea is that if you start making saving a habit now, it will feel natural when you’re making more money. If you save just 10% of every dollar you earn, you’re setting yourself up for success. Right now you have time on your side, which means that your money has the power to make more money by just sitting in an account with good interest, or through an investment.

Let’s say you open a savings account with a 3% interest rate and you contribute just $10 each month for 10 years. On top of the $1,200 you’ve invested, you will have made an additional $200 just by having the money sit there. That’s the power of time (and compound interest)! Don’t believe me? Check out our Savings Calculator to plug in different values to show how much you can grow your account through time and some simple savings behaviour. That’s way more than you’d make by just keeping the cash in a jar in your bedside nightstand. Plus, this way, it’s safe from your snoopy brothers and sisters!

That’s it! Three simple ways to start saving so you can start building that bank account nice and early.

Get The Quarter Back: Saving Money at a Stadium

It’s an exciting time for professional sports in Saskatchewan right now! The Riders home opener is kicking off on Canada Day, Saskatoon has two brand new sports franchises in the Rush and the Rattlers and the NHL is hosting the Heritage Classic at Mosaic Stadium in the fall. But be careful – not only can it be expensive to buy a ticket to the game, the game day atmosphere may have you whipping out your wallet a little more than you’d expect. Let’s get you set up with some spending hacks from a former sports marketer for how to save some green when cheering for the green and white or attending any other sporting event.


According to a CNBC article, Americans spend $56 billion USD on sporting events each year. For comparison, that’s more than double than what they spend on book purchases. We’re not immune to this fanatic spending north of the border, and in some instances, we go above and beyond. We just witnessed how ridiculously expensive seats can become during a playoff run when the Raptors entered the NBA Championships and seat prices in Toronto STARTED at $800 and topped out at $60,000! It’s just not fair that I could have given up my chocolate milk addiction for an entire year and I STILL wouldn’t have been able to afford a seat in the nosebleeds.

That’s a grandiose example, but you can easily rack up a pretty large bill at a local sporting event if you aren’t careful. Berkeley Data Science produced an in-depth report that breaks down the cost of attending a game (ticket, parking, hot dog and a beer) for every team in each of the four major professional leagues (MLB, NBA, NHL and NFL) and measures them against winning percentages, fan loyalty and in-game experience to give the best deals in professional sport. Here are the most expensive game day experiences around each league:

    • NFL – Dallas Cowboys ($199.20 USD)
    • NBA – New York Knicks ($176.38 USD)
    • NHL – Boston Bruins ($144.95 USD)
    • MLB – Chicago Cubs ($104.07 USD)

How does a CFL game day experience at Mosaic Stadium stack up? An average ticket to a Rider game would cost you $69 for a ticket in the bronze section (including ticketmaster fees), $25 for stadium approved parking and $16 for a beer and a hot dog (depending on the vendor). Granted, Mosaic Stadium is touted as one of the nicest outdoor facilities in Canada and a CFL game puts on one heck of a show, but $110 CAD on a relatively lean budget is a pretty penny!

I spent five years working in marketing for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and have seen first hand how deceptively expensive attending a professional sporting event can be. Here are some inside secrets from a former sports marketer and some tips on how to save money at a stadium:

BUYING TICKETS FOR THE GAME:


Choose your game wisely

Not all games are priced equally. If you are wanting to just check out a casual game and don’t really care about the opponent or the importance of the match – don’t go to the big game. There is a trend in ticketing right now called “Dynamic Pricing” where the cost of a ticket is variable based on the demand (airlines use a similar pricing strategy). Essentially, an algorithm increases or decreases the price based on how quickly the game is selling out. To put this in perspective, I went to two Raptors games last year in Toronto that were only two days apart and sat in the exact same seats for both games. One game’s seats were $71 and the other was $131. The ONLY difference was that the first night the Raptors played the Minnesota Timberwolves (a team fighting to even make the playoffs) and the second night hosted the Golden State Warriors (the reigning NBA champions at the time). The Riders don’t use dynamic pricing – but they do charge more for “premium games” like Labour Day or when the rival Calgary Stampeders come to town.

PRO TIP: If all else fails, you can always purchase the cheapest ticket offered and roam around the stadium for the game. There are plenty of drink rails that offer great vantage points before you mosey on over to your new location.

Check out the re-sale market before you buy!

I once went to a garage sale and found a Super Nintendo being sold for $14 (I know, right!?). I snatched that sucker up in a heartbeat and walked away from that garage sale giddily feeling like I robbed the place. How does this relate? I would compare the re-sale market to that garage sale where you can find some tickets being sold at “What a STEAL!” prices. A lot of times, people post their tickets on the re-sale market in hopes of recovering some costs for a game they can’t attend (because Cousin Randy just HAD to get married on Labour Day). Buying tickets from StubHub or Kijiji is very risky due to fraud or double selling tickets. It really does happen – one day over a beer I will tell you a heartbreaking story that involved a Montreal Canadiens game, fake StubHub tickets, and a very heartbroken Mason.

What a lot of people don’t know is that Ticketmaster has their own verified re-sale network where you can sell tickets you originally purchased through Ticketmaster. You can even set your own prices which drives ticket prices down as sellers fight to undercut each other. Speaking from experience, I’ve been there when you scan your tickets at the gate and are turned away due to suspicious activity from third party re-sellers (again, Mason’s Misery in Montreal is a tale for another time) and I highly recommend purchasing through a verified re-seller to avoid that experience.

Tips for families

That same CNBC article estimates that it costs the average family of four approximately $500 to attend an NFL Football game. Yikes! There has to be a more affordable way to pack up the kids in the mini-van and get them to the stadium for their first game day, right? Sadly, there is no magical solution that will help you spend less than the college kid “having a little too much fun” in Pil Country, but there are ways to make it a little more manageable! Most stadiums have family pricing to help break down some barriers to get your family through the gates. The top sport franchises will even take a loss on family priced tickets in order to play the long-term game and build life-long fans. Before you buy, do some research to see if your team is having a “Family Day/Night” where they offer bundled discounts and bring in kid friendly entertainment each game. (In my last season with the Riders, we did a Family Day game where we brought in Paw Patrol mascots and kids lost their minds!) Finally, before you complete your purchase, sometimes it is worth calling the ticket office to see if they have any special family promotions to help knock down a few more dollars. If they can’t save you some money, sometimes they’ll throw in soft drink or popcorn vouchers for the inevitability of your kids wanting a snack immediately after kickoff.

Hit up friends who are season ticket holders

If you have friends who are season ticket holders, it’s worth asking them to let you know if they ever have a free ticket. They would have purchased their tickets at a volume discount and almost always purchase with one of their friends or family members. When one of them can’t make a game (probably for Cousin Randy’s second marriage. He never learns.), they’ll be looking to avoid the inconvenience of finding a suitor for their ticket and will pawn off it off to you. Best case scenario, they’ll give it to you for free or at the very least (providing you aren’t friends with a tycoon) will give it to you at cost – which will be below the price of a single game due to the volume discount AND you’ll avoid Ticketmaster & facility fees.

PRE-GAME:


Public transit & stadium shuttles are your friend

We’ve all been there where you’ve missed kick-off because you had to circle the surrounding area of the stadium for an hour trying to find a parking spot, only having to park 16 blocks away in an abandoned lot where they still charged you $15. Not only does it cost you money, but likely 10 years off your life. What if I told you there was a way to save on parking, gas, food AND you could be dropped off at the doors of the stadium?  If you are a local to the city, any professional sports team will have public transportation shuttles that will transport you back and forth from various access points around the city FOR FREE. If you can bear listening to the drunk guy beside you screaming Sweet Caroline – it’s worth it. Outside of the city? There are options, too! The Riders offer the “Rider Express” which are transportation shuttles from Saskatoon for only $50. That’s cheaper than a tank of gas and gives everyone in your squad the freedom to enjoy a couple of adult beverages without the pressure of someone having to be the designated driver.

Seek out game day food & shuttle packages

Sometimes restaurants/pubs within or just outside of the city will source their own shuttle service and package it with a meal. For them – it gets you in their doors before and after the game. For you – it’s a cheap way to save money on meals so you aren’t spending a ton of money on food at the stadium and you also don’t need to worry about the hassle of traffic and parking. It’s a win for everyone involved! For example, Broncos Pub and Grill in Pilot Butte charges $30 for a shuttle to the game, a burger, fries and a draft beer! If you were to pay for that at the stadium while paying for parking – it would cost more than double!

AT THE GAME: 


Tailgate! … or whatever we do in Canada

Once you get to the game, check out the pre-game festivities outside of the gates. Sponsors pay a lot of money to be able to set up shop in the tailgating areas and a lot of them will have give-aways or products to sample. Whether you are there to party with some friends or you showed up with your kids hoping to have them burn off some energy before the game – there’s something there for everyone and might save you some money on food and drink before prices skyrocket when you walk through the gates.

Beware of the dreaded impulse buys

When you get through the gates – you are going to be incredibly excited and there will be money grabs hitting you from all sides. On your left you’ll see the 50/50 stand, on your right you will encounter the merchandise store with the new game day special you’ll want to snatch off the shelves, and if you are like me, your first stop will be at the mini donuts cart. The atmosphere on game day can be incredibly exciting but if you are not careful, you’ll find yourself whipping out your wallet and blindly spending more than you can afford.

PRO TIP: Make a budget for the day before you leave your house while you are in a calmer, more rational mindset to look at your account and decide what you can realistically allocate to elevate your game day experience. This will make it much easier for your wallet to survive the cash grabs around the stadium that seemingly become irresistible once you drink the home team kool-aid. Make sure you stick to it, too! If you don’t trust yourself to not overspend at the game – take out cash that matches the amount you budgeted before the game. That way, when the cash runs out – you know when to stop spending. Trust me, it will save you from buying that celebratory round of shots after a touchdown that will not only save your money, but will also save yourself from a headache in the morning.

Study the prohibited/permitted items list

Every major sport team will have their Permitted & Prohibited items listed on their website. Review it beforehand and buy supplies in advance to avoid vendor markups and avoid wasted money when grumpy gate attendants confiscate your bottle of Orange Crush. For instance, every stadium allows you to bring in water bottles as long as they are clear and sealed. I highly recommend hitting up a Walmart and grabbing water bottles for you and your group. It may seem like you are only saving $2 per water bottle but if you are attending a number of games this season – this adds up fast!

PRO TIP: If you bring your supplies in a clear bag, you will save A TON of time at the gate and won’t have a security guard sifting through your purse.

Cheap end-of-game munchies

In sport, “crunch time” means the pivotal final moments that can decide the outcome of a game. In the last quarter or period of the match, your definition of “crunch time” could mean cheap snacks. If you aren’t really tied to the outcome of the game or the score is lopsided in one direction – walk around the concourse to see if any vendors are offering deals on food that they made too much of. If you can hold off your in-game snack attack until the end of the game, you can score some really great deals on food that vendors are trying to recoup some costs on before they throw it away.

Sport fans – there’s nothing more powerful than when we unite around our team and a common goal. Let’s band together and share some tips and tricks that you’ve learned about saving money at a stadium. Comment below with your wisdom and check out our other #MONEYTALK blogs to further help your financial well-being!

Sask Travel on a Budget

To all the prairie dwellers, flatlanders, and those who love the land of living skies… let’s talk about travelling Saskatchewan and saving money! I love Saskatchewan,  the prairies and travelling around our great province. I also love saving money and how cheap travelling Saskatchewan can be! If you’re still saving for that big European trip, but need a little R&R in the meantime, look no further than a couple hours out your front door!


Before we get travelling, you might be asking yourself “Why would Conexus, a ‘financial institution’, post a blog about travelling Saskatchewan?” It’s simple really…because we love Saskatchewan just as much as you do! We also know that money is more than just paychecks, mutual funds, mortgages, loans, and “grown-up stuff” but it’s about living life well…and well, we live in Saskatchewan, so why not showcase it!

Let’s Travel Saskatchewan and Save Some Money!

#1: Ellisboro Trail
Price: $50-$100 (more if you’re buying antiques)

Qu'appelle Valley Ellisboro Trail Bridge

Qu’Appelle Valley Ellisboro Trail Bridge

The Ellisboro Trail is a valley drive through the heart of the Qu’Appelle Valley between Fort Qu’Appelle and Rocanville. The trail has entry/exit points off the TransCanada Highway near Indian Head, Wolseley, Grenfell, Broadview, Whitewood and Moosomin. The entire drive takes about 4 hours. From Fort Qu’Appelle to the village of Ellisboro is 78 km (for a shorter length) The drive is full of old bridges, towns, and the occasional abandoned house (one of which is a movie set built for the movie: The Messengers, starring Kristen Stewart – the girl from Twilight.)

Things to see:

  • Lebret Antique Store
  • Katepwa Beach
  • Old Churches/House/Post Office/School Houses
  • Old Bridges
  • Town of Ellisboro/Tantallon

Places to Eat:

  • Wolseley Tilli-Beans Bakery & Coffee Shop
  • Katepwa Beach Bar
  • Fort Qu’Appelle Restaurants
  • Rocanville Restaurants
  • Or pack a picnic and stop along the drive for a lunch

#2: Castle Butte
Price: $50-$60 (excluding a packed lunch)

Photo credits: Tourism SK.

Two hours south of Regina, SK. Castle Butte is the mountain of Saskatchewan! This is a quick drive for anyone in South Saskatchewan. Before you head this way, make sure you have a full tank of gas. Pack a lunch, grab your hiking shoes, your flashlight for the caves and a bit of cash to spend at the Aust General Store in Big Beaver, SK who’s slogan is: “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it”. This area of the province is also home to St. Victor Petroglyph’s, and the South Prairie Railway A train ride will cost you more than $60, but it’s worth it.

#3: The Maple Creek Weekend Tour
Price: $300 – $500 (depending on family size)

Ghost Town Blues B&B

First off – I would recommend this during the summer. If you’re on the South West side of Saskatchewan, then one of the best drives is what I like to call the Maple Creek Weekend Tour. I call it this, because that’s where I usually start in Maple Creek. After a good rest at the Ghost Town Blues B&B and a stop in Maple Creek for lunch or supper it’s time to hit the 614 down past East End (if you’re into Dinosaurs, you’ll want to stop here) to the #18 Highway. Travel East while taking in the quint essential small towns of Saskatchewan. your next stop will be Grasslands National Park!  This is a great stop to camp or just go for a hike. Once in the area, you can stay overnight, or check out the B&B’s in Val Marie, SK. The final end of the loop is Swift Current for a quick gas up/food stop and homeward.

#4: Winter Hiking/Camping (because we live in SK)
Price: $50 – $100 (depending on how much food you need)

Moose Lodge in Duck Mt

This is not for the faint of heart, however, if you like rustic hiking, back-packing, and FREE, then you’ll love this. Not only does Duck Mountain Provincial Park have summer camping, but they also have winter cross country skiing/hiking trails with little cabins scattered throughout the trails. The cabins are traditionally used for day hikers, but are great for staying the night, and they’re FREE! As long as you’re okay with a bit of company stopping through in the morning, you’ll be fine. The cost is the gas to get to Duck Mt. and the food you pack in with you. The evenings spent in these warm, non-electric, wood stove huts are amazing. While the trail offers several accommodations, my favorite is Moose Lodge. The short 5 km hike in from the parking lot at Batka Lake is worth every step. This truly is a place “where peace is undisturbed”.

#5: Beaches, Towns, and Parks
Price: Varies depending on length and events.

Regina Beach, SK

Let’s be honest, Saskatchewan has amazing beaches, towns and parks. Living near Regina, there are countless of beaches and resorts within an hour drive. Across the province you can take a weekend enjoying the cliffs of Cypress Hills, hike to Grey Owl Cabin in Waskesiu, enjoy mini-golf at Rowan’s Ravine, relax at Grasslands National Park, enjoy a Drive-In-Movie at Moose Mt. Provincial Park, or drive up to Green Water for fishing or snowmobiling. Not only does Saskatchewan boast plenty of camping and parks, but our small towns are loaded with music folk festivals, harvest days, parades, local restaurants (see list below), B&B’s, Scarecrow festivals, Winter Festivals and so much more! Whatever you’re into, sometimes all you need to do is step out your back door. I mean, we can see our dog run away for days, why not follow him on the adventure.

Here’s a list of some great Saskatchewan small town restaurants

**In alphabetical order**

  • 641 (Craven, SK)
  • Blue Bird (Regina Beach, SK)
  • Cafe de Paris (Gravelbourg, SK)
  • Free Bird (Lumsden, SK)
  • The Happy Nun (Forget, SK)
  • Little Red Market Cafe (Mortlach, SK)
  • Sister’s Boutique & Bistro (Montmarte, SK)
  • Star Cafe & Grill (Maple Creek, SK)

All recommendation, including businesses and parks, are based on actually experiences from the author and are free of endorsement or sponsorship.  The goal of this blog is to highlight, ways to save money while travelling Saskatchewan and help promote curiosity to travel Saskatchewan. 

We highly encourage you to add your own comments of great places to travel, eat, and explore in Saskatchewan below!

five friends celebrating New Year's Eve

Ring in NYE without all the bells

Tired of being let down by the hype of New Year’s Eve? Us too! Here are some tips to help you ring in the New Year without breaking the bank.


New Year’s Eve is a day to look back on the past year, whether that be celebrating your successes or reflecting on some challenges you had experienced. It’s the day to start thinking of the year ahead and what goals you want to achieve.

However, for many, instead of reflecting and goal setting, we get caught up in the hype of the night’s activities. As soon as Christmas ends, we start worrying about what we’re going to do for New Year’s Eve and what we’re going to wear. We tend to forget what really matters, spending the time with the people who helped make the past year what it was. Yes, you may have a killer outfit on and the best party to attend but if the people that matter most aren’t with you, does it really matter?

No expectations approach

This New Year’s Eve eliminate all the stress of finding the perfect outfit or the best event to attend and plan a casual night to hang with family and friends instead.

For a more relaxed day and evening, consider doing one of these activities:

  • Go for an afternoon coffee with a friend you haven’t seen in a few months. Not only will you get to catch up, but the coffee may help you stay awake for when the clock strikes 12!
  • Have a pajama movie marathon – did someone say Harry Potter? Grab some popcorn and snacks and make a whole evening out of it.
  • Get outside and take part in some winter activities such as skating or a game of shinny, tobogganing or build a snowman. Too cold outside? Have a ‘snowball’ fight inside using rolled up socks… clean of course!

Don’t break your bank

Yes, it may be fun to treat yourself for the last night of the year, but we often overspend, waking up the next morning with the feeling of regret. You don’t need to fork out a bunch of money to have fun. Consider some of these fun activities that allow you to celebrate NYE without breaking your bank.

  • Start your day off with breakfast in bed – skip going out for brunch and make yourself eggs benny and pancakes at home. Even better, you can stay in your pajamas!
  • Make your own extravagant meal or have a potluck. Make it even more fun by having a theme. Who doesn’t love a good meal filled with great conversations with friends?
  • End the year with some competition by playing board games. Guaranteed for some laughs and hopefully not too many arguments. A few of our party favourites include Catch Phrase, charades and Pictionary.
  • Have a cocktail potluck. Have everyone bring a bottle of their favourite liquor and make your own fancy cocktails at home. Need some drink inspiration – check out some NYE cocktail recipes here.
  • A party isn’t a party without some music. Have each of your party guests send you their top five favourite songs from the past year and make a NYE playlist to dance the night away.
  • Make a time capsule for the last year. This allows you to celebrate the New Year and reflect on the previous year at the same time.  Have each guest think of a question (e.g., what was the best thing that happened to you last year or what was an obstacle you faced but overcame) and put into a box to look at later in the night and reflect with your friends or family.

This year don’t get caught in the hype of NYE.  Spend the time doing things with the ones you love and create more memories to reflect on in the years to come.

What are some ways you’ve rung in the New Year that didn’t break the bank? Share with us below.

holiday wrapped presents

Giving the gift of time

It’s not about how much you spend on a gift or how big the gift is, but about the emotions and experiences you create. Check out these 30 time/experience gifts, guaranteed to create memories with your loved ones.


Have you ever received a gift during the holidays that you thought was useless junk? If you said yes, you’re not alone! Last year, an Ipsos poll exclusive to Global News showed that one-quarter of people surveyed said most of the gifts they get during the holidays are useless junk.

How we feel about a gift usually comes from the emotions we get from it. Receiving another coffee cup provides us little emotion or satisfaction while receiving some type of experience can cause a variety of emotions and satisfaction, especially those that leave a lasting memory.

This holiday season consider giving the gift of time/experience and making homemade coupon vouchers for your loved ones – guaranteed to create smiles, build relationships and make memories.

Below are 30 voucher ideas to give to your loved ones.

10 ideas for kids

  1. Picnic at the park
  2. Car cleaning – inside and out
  3. Breakfast in bed
  4. Personalized chef for the day
  5. Control of the remote for one evening
  6. Breakfast for dinner – your choice
  7. Backyard camping night
  8. Date night – you pick an activity
  9. Foot rub
  10. Day of ‘I Love You’ – every hour list one thing you love about your significant other.

10 ideas for parents

  1. Sleepover at Grandma’s house
  2. 1-hour reading time with parent or grandparent
  3. You pick the supper menu tonight
  4. Movie night in – your choice
  5. Pillow and blanket fort building contest
  6. Game night – your choice
  7. Stay up 30 minutes past bed time
  8. Pick one item to add to the grocery cart
  9. Day of tobogganing
  10. Day of skating

10 ideas for couples

  1. 1-hour yard work
  2. Breakfast in bed
  3. An evening of babysitting so you can go on a date night
  4. Folding and putting away all laundry
  5. Spa day at home
  6. Cleaning of the bathroom – toilet included
  7. Parents day off – stay in pajamas all day
  8. DIY photo album day
  9. Homemade dinner including serving and kitchen clean up
  10. Design a scavenger hunt for the whole family

 

When creating vouchers for the ones you love consider their age, who they are and what their interests are.

This holiday season remember it’s not about the amount you spend on a gift or how big the gift is but about the emotions and experiences you create. Gifts that come from the heart are usually the best gifts of all.

What other gifts of time/experiences ideas do you have or have you given? Share with us in the comments below.

school supplies including sneakers, binders and pencils

Back-to-school money saving tips

Back-to-school expenses can add up quickly. To help you prepare – and save money at the same time – we’ve put together a few back-to-school money saving tips.


Back-to-school. Something that parents get excited about but also dread at the same time, especially when they think about all of the expenses associated with it. Some even say (29%) that it’s the biggest stressor during the season, according to a recent Ebates.ca survey.

School-related expenses can add up quickly and range anywhere from $100-$800 once you factor in things such as school supplies, new clothes, school fees and lunches.

To get you ready for school, and help you save money at the same time, we’ve put together a few back-to-school money saving tips.

School supplies

  • Reuse old school supplies. Check to see what supplies you have at home from previous years and only buy what you need. At the end of the school year, collect all items returned and store in a place to easily grab and reuse the next year.
  • Watch for sales and shop around. Many stores put different items on sale each week leading up to school. Research sales at local stores and make a list of which items are the cheapest and from where before heading out to stock up.
  • Looking to save time? Purchase your supplies online through programs such as SchoolStart which puts school supply packages together based on your school’s supply list. With just a few clicks of a button, you can order the supplies on your list and have them delivered directly to your door.

New clothing:

  • Buy used. Kids grow quickly and many times an outfit is only worn a couple of times before being outgrown. Use sites such as VarageSale or visit your local thrift store – you never know what kind of deal you may find.
  • Go through closets and drawers to understand what clothing is needed before heading out. Don’t forget that the weather is starting to change and consider purchasing clothing for the upcoming cooler weather.

Snacks & lunches:

  • Meal plan and prep a weeks’ worth of lunches in advance. Meal planning allows you to only purchase the items you need and helps eliminate waste from uneaten food.
  • Skip pre-packaged items and package portions yourself. Instead of individually packaged cookies, purchase a pack of cookies and divide into individual bags yourself.
  • Purchase snack items in large quantities and limit how many snack items are used each week. Using a basket put enough of the snack items for the week into the basket and store the remaining items in the pantry (up high of course!) Kids can pick a set amount of snacks from the basket each day for their lunch. If something runs out, a different item must be chosen from the basket. Restock the basket each week.
  • Purchase a thermos and pack leftovers from the night before. Thermos are also great for soups, pasta and more, helping change up the typical sandwich lunch.

What other back-to-school money tips do you have? We’d love to hear them – share with us below.

table with several wrapped wedding gifts

Unique wedding gift ideas

Trying to find the best wedding gift can sometimes be stressful. It shouldn’t be about how much you spend but instead the thought you put into the gift. Here are a few unique wedding gift ideas, perfect for showing your love for the newlyweds, that won’t break the bank.


Wedding season is here! As the invites start coming in, we often start to see dollar signs rather than wedding bells. When we think of a wedding gift, our automatic go-to is cash but then start to question what is too much, or what is too little?

Instead of stressing out on how much cash to give, consider giving a wedding gift unique to the couple – one that truly shows how much you care about them and doesn’t break the bank! Below are a few unique wedding gift ideas to get you started.

Basket gift ideas

  • First wine basket – Wine lovers? Put a package together to help celebrate “A Year of Couple Firsts”. Include a bottle of wine or champagne for every occasion and create printable tags. Ideas for “firsts” can be: First Home, First Baby (non-alcoholic bubbly), First Fight, First Trip, First Christmas, First Anniversary, etc.
  • Dessert basket – Create the perfect ending to date night with a dessert basket, which also provides the new couple with some household staple items. Use a large mixing bowl as the basket and include items such as brownie mix, spatulas, measuring spoons and cups, his & her aprons and a cute pair of oven mitts. If your budget allows, consider adding a bottle of dessert wine or port
  • Romantic night basket – Give the gift of a ‘spa-day-in’ by creating a spa basket. Purchase two inexpensive robes and take to a local seamstress to get monogrammed with the bride and groom initials. Package together and include foaming bath soap, bath salts and a brush and some lotions and oils for a romantic tub night for the newlyweds.

On a budget

  • Group gift – Will a large group of friends be attending the wedding? Consider doing a group gift and all chip in for a bigger ticket item on the registry. A big gift will make a high impact and depending on the number of people you can rally together you might be able to bring the budget down.
  • Cleaning service – Alleviate some wedding stress by gifting a cleaning service for a practical gift that the new couple will love. Often you can find a deal on Groupon for maid services.
  • Tickets – Music or lovers of the arts? Or perhaps sports fans? Find some less expensive tickets on Stubhub and gift them the perfect date night!
  • Meal service – Take the stress out of having to cook during the week with a taste of meal delivery service. Hello Fresh offers gift cards for 3 meals for 2 people under $80! This provides a basic necessity while giving the couple something fun to do together.

Forever memories

  • Framed night sky – Capture the night sky of their wedding night in a framed picture frame. Take your own picture or use a site such as The Night Sky who will create a custom star map for you. All you need to then worry about is finding the perfect frame.
  • Capture the honeymoon – Is the couple going on a destination honeymoon? Help the couple capture their first few days on their honeymoon by giving a gift card for a vacation photographer, such as Flytographer.
  • Mini-getaway – Give a gift of adventure with a gift card to Airbnb. The couple can choose a destination and put the money towards a night stay in a destination of their choosing for a mini vacation after they’re married.

Remember, weddings are about celebrating the commitment of two people. You shouldn’t stress about gift giving. As the saying goes, it’s not the gift but the thought that counts. Giving a thoughtful gift that the couple will enjoy is sometimes better than spending a lot of money. Just like we invest our money we should also invest in relationships as that is what’s really important!

Mom talking to son, with piggy bank, about money

5 Activities for Young Kids: Introduction to Money

Introducing your kids to money early on can create a foundation for financial knowledge and positively impact how they manage money later.


When I was a kid, it wasn’t the coin value that made me rich, but instead the number of coins I had. My friend could have three loonies in her hand, yet if I had five nickels I was the one who had the most money!

Understanding the value of money when we’re young can be hard, especially as we’re just starting to learn the concept of numbers, counting and math. It’s recommended you start talking to your kids about money early to help create a foundation for financial knowledge.You can build on this knowledge by continually discussing money and introducing new financial concepts as they grow. Having these conversations will provide them with strong financial literacy skills and an understanding of managing money, helping them to make smart, responsible decisions with their money in the future.

To get you started, here are a few ideas on how you can introduce the concept and value of money to your kids at an early age.

Role playing

Set up a pretend store or restaurant and take turns playing the role of customer and worker. The worker will be responsible for advising how much the purchase is and providing change. As the customer, you’ll be responsible for making purchases and giving money to the worker. If you do not have enough money, you may have to decide on which items are a need vs. a want. Role-playing will not only introduce the concept and value of money but also allow you to discuss the difference between needs vs. wants.

Sort & stack

A great way to introduce money and show the different values of money is through a sorting and stacking activity. Grab your piggy bank, empty onto a table and have your child sort the coins by size, and any bills by colour. Afterward, show them the different sizes and colours and how each equates to a different value. Once they understand that each coin or bill is worth a different amount, take it one step further and show them how much of one coin or bill would be needed to equal the same amount as another coin or bill (e.g., five nickels = one quarter or four $5 bills = one $20 bill).

Play a board game

Have a family game night and help teach the concept of money by playing games such as Monopoly™, Payday™ or the Game of Life™. Allow your child to be the banker, with some help, of course, to teach them the different values of money, counting and providing change.

The $5 dice game

Grab some dice and coins (or create your own) and see who can get to $5 first! In this game, players take turns rolling a die and collecting coins for their pot, based on the following values:

1 – Nickel

2 – Dime

3 – Quarter

4 – Loonie

5 – Toonie

6 – Lose a Turn

The winner is the first player to reach exactly $5. If collecting a coin would cause for the player to go over the $5, they lose their turn. Change it up by choosing your own dollar amount to try and reach. This game is a great way to teach your child the different values of money as well as develop their skills in adding and budgeting by not going over.

Flyer price tag activity

To help understand how much money would be needed to purchase a treat from the candy store, or the latest toy, play the Flyer Price Tag game.

Grab your local flyers and have your child pick out items that they’d want to buy. Cut them out (including the price) and place on the table. Then, using real money or money you’ve created, place the exact amount needed in order to make that purchase. Depending on age, you can also introduce GST and PST and how to account into the amount of money you’ll need to buy the item.

Take it one step further, and use the money your child has saved in their piggy bank. This can help teach them how much of their money they’d need to spend in order to get that item. If they do not have enough for that item, it allows you to start the conversation of savings. This also is a great activity to talk about needs vs. wants and making smart decisions on how you spend your money.

When talking to your kids at an early age about money, be sure to keep it fun to help them stay engaged. Use real-life examples of things that interest them to help them relate to what you’re teaching.

Talking about money can be hard – when we’re young and when we’re adults. Introducing and talking about money early on allows our kids to gain confidence and not be scared to ask questions when it comes to money. It can also positively influence their behaviours on managing money, as they get older.

Do you have another fun game or activity for kids that introduces the concept and value of money? Tell us in the comments below.