Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Shopper's Drug Mart Optimum vs. Costco Executive Membership

Regular readers of this site (or my Twitter feed) know that I love Shopper's Drug Mart's (a Canadian pharmacy and drug store) Optimum rewards program.  I also love Costco.

With the start of a new school year, I have been reviewing our budget and looking for more ways to spend less.  One thing I have been reviewing is our use of different reward programs and where we buy our groceries, toiletries, household products, etc.

IN A NUTSHELL:  Optimum is the better rewards program (vs. Costco Executive membership).  Costco is still a great place to save money.

The Nitty Gritty Details:

Shopper's Drug Mart - for every dollar you spend at Shopper's Drug Mart you earn 10 Optimum points.  There are various levels of points that you can redeem, but I typically only redeem the maximum so that is what I used to my calculations.  Under the current rewards structure (September 2015), if you redeem 95,000 points you can get $170.00 worth of product.  This means if you spend $9500.00 you get $170.00 back (95000 /10 = 9500.00) - which is about 1.7%.  With a Costco Executive Membership you get 2% back on all your purchases.  At first glance, the reward programs seem very comparable but in reality they are not.

So why is Optimum the better rewards program?

The Optimum rewards program regularly features days when you can earn 20x the normal points (so 200 points for ever dollar spent) if you are spending $50.00 or more.  In addition to this, Optimum regularly sends bonus point coupons to email subscribers many of which are tailored to your shopping preferences.  Optimum also features bonus redemption days where you can redeem 95,000 points for $200.00 worth of product instead of the regular $170.00.
So let's redo those calculations:
I try to shop at Shopper's only when it is 20x the points and I also aim to only redeem points on bonus redemption days.
SO -  with that in mind - if I spend $475.00 (95000/200 = 475) I earn $200.00 in free merchandise.
Hold on a minute - that is getting 42% of what you spend back. 

Yes.  Yes it is.  And that is why Optimum is hands down my favourite rewards program on the market.  It is far superior to any other consumer rewards program that I am aware of.

Some of you may be thinking that Shopper's Drug Mart is expensive.  It is not.  It is true that many of their products regular prices are higher than in other stores, but Shopper's has excellent sales.  Read the flyers regularly.  Their sale prices are almost always competitive with other retail chains (especially for diapers, feminine products, deoderant, various food items, etc.).  Shopper's was recently purchased by the Weston corporation and they now carry many President's Choice brand products.  If you are into makeup and cosmetics, Shopper's Beauty Boutique carries most top cosmetic brands (Smashbox, Clairins, Lancome, Clinique, Estée Lauder, etc.) and you can now order them online from the store and have them shipped to you.

Although I love Costco for many things (flour, yogurt, imported cheeses, the list goes on) - I am carefully examining my shopping list to see what items I should switch back to purchasing at Shopper's Drug Mart.

If you do not have an Optimum card - get one.

Monday, September 7, 2015

An Affordable, DIY, Guest Room

Guest rooms!  They are a real luxury, but often something people do not want to spend money on.  For years our guests slept on either an air mattress or an old Futon (like really old - my husband used it as his bed one year in university).  While rearranging a great deal of our basement, we decided to relocate our "guest room" to what was our office.  Except, there was no room to relocate because - well - we just had the futon/air mattress.  In other words, it was time to create a guestroom.  I have been mentioning it here and there for months - but it is finally time for the reveal.

This is not really a before and after because - somewhere buried in my hundreds of pictures is the one before picture of our office that I took.  There is just no time to look for it right now.  It is a room that was painted a light brown.  There you go.  Close your eyes and picture it.  OK, let's move on.

This guest room is sort of a tribute to the many childhood summers I spent in Nova Scotia.  My mother's family is from a rural area near Truro, and growing up I spent most of my summers there.  It was beautiful, and peaceful.  I had no concept at the time that my grandfather grew up with very little financial means.  Even going there in the early 90s as a small child my great-grandmother was cooking all her meals on a wood stove.  We had chamber pots in the upstairs bedroom at the farmhouse.  It was like stepping back in time, but for me it was magical.  I remember the smell of the wood stove, waking up in the morning and watching the deer graze in the meadow, swimming in the creek with my cousins.  This room is a tribute to my grandparents (who are both still alive) and those wonderful memories.

The whole thing started when I picked up the above dresser at a Habitat Restore for $18.00.  It was just too great to resist.  I loved the detail at the top of the dresser, as well as the wood carving underneath the highest drawer.  Having said that, the dresser was a mess.  It needed a thorough vacuum and then a major wipe down before we could even start working on it (see my step by step furniture upcycle guide here).  We painted the dresser in Lemon Verbena by Para Paints.

These knobs are from IKEA.  FAGLAVIK Knob in Black.  They are $3.99 CAD for a two pack.

We used FAGLAVIK knobs from IKEA.  We spent $32.00 plus tax on the knobs (yes, more than we paid for the dresser) but it was the look we wanted and it is still a reasonable price for knobs.
On top of the dresser sits an old oil lamp.  This was another great find at Habitat Restore.  I paid $20.00 for it.  The lamp rests on a lace doily.  Very old school.  My family is from Belgium and I picked it up at a shop in Brugge (or Bruges as it is known in English).  The painting on the right is a Keirstead print that I happened to come across at the Salvation Army.  It was $4.00 and it really fit with the theme of the room, so naturally I bought it.  It is resting on a gold easel from Dollorama (Canadian Dollar Store chain).

On the wall beside the bed hangs two prints.  There is a set of 3 prints, but in the end we used just two.  I have the third hanging around, waiting for a proper home.  These prints are lovely, but when they first showed up at our house (purchased at The Salvation Army for $3.99 each) they were in need of some TLC.  The mattes and the frames were given a complete makeover (read about it here), and the frames were painted in St. Boniface by Para Paints (one of my favourite colours).

The prints are hanging above an old wash stand.  Remember the Nova Scotia theme?  This was used by my great-grandmother and her parents growing up in Nova Scotia.  It was passed along to my grandmother and she has passed it on to me.  This wash stand fits perfectly beside the bed.  It is covered with a cross-stitch that my grandmother made for me, and the vase (sorry - I could not bring myself to buy flowers just for this picture) is from IKEA.  I had it on hand, but they retail for $1.99.

On the opposite side of the bed sits this refinished wicker basket, another Salvation Army find.  It holds Tartan blankets that I picked up on a trip to Edinburgh and magazines for some bedtime reading.

Up on the window ledge (oh yes, this is a basement guest room) sits this tiny bird sculpture, purchased at Value Village for $2.99.  It was black and a little rusty, but this was quickly resolved with a few coats of Rustoleum.

The headboard (which we made ourselves) is painted in Lemon Verbena by Para Paints (like the dresser).  There is a bulkhead over the right side of the bed (not visible in the photo) which is why the focus of accessories is on the left side.

This duvet cover is from Giant Tiger (a Canadian discount retailer).  The duvet cover and the pillow shams came as a set for $19.99 CAD.  I was really happy with this find!  The bed is a double, but the duvet and cover are a Queen size.

And there you have it.  This is the guest room looking in from the door.  The walls in the room are painted in Georgian Green Tint 1 by Para Paints.  This room is very peaceful.  Sometimes my son and I go lay down on the bed and read a book just for a change of scenery, it always reminds me of Nova Scotia.

The Cost:

The total cost for everything that I purchased for the room (not including the mattress and metal bedframe, bedsheets, and not including things I already had on hand) was $200.00 before tax.  The mattress and box spring (double) were $400.00 at Costco and bedframe was $90.00 from Sears Canada.