About Me - Give Me Back My Five Bucks

About Me

krystalHi, and welcome to my blog! My name is Krystal Yee, and I’m the one and only person who maintains this site.

I started Give Me Back My Five Bucks in February 2007 because I felt like I needed an outlet in which to talk about personal finance issues, and to keep myself honest and accountable for my spending. I am an ex-shopaholic, and I love(d) spending money. Unfortunately, it all caught up to me, and coupled with my daunting student loans, I found myself trapped under a mountain of debt. Sound familiar? Stick around. This blog documents my journey out of debt (where I paid off over $20,000 of debt in 12 months), and into a life of responsible spending and financial independence – all while having the time of my life. :)

Aside from this blog, I also sometimes write on my travel blog, The Frugal Wanderer. You may also know me as a former long-time personal finance columnist at the Toronto Star’s Moneyville.ca.

About this blog

This is a personal finance (PF) blog. I try to keep all of my posts somehow related to my finances in every day life. Among other things, I am interested in budgeting, investing, saving, real estate, being frugal, and smart shopping. I will also dabble in the subjects of fitness and personal well-being, as well as fashion and anything else that I think is interesting.

I encourage open and honest discussion on this blog, as well as constructive criticism. This blog has endured its fair share of rude commenters over the past few years. If your comment is completely inappropriate, I will remove it from the website. But that being said, I’m a fairly tolerant person. I understand that by  having a blog, I am opening myself up to judgement. And that’s cool.

What I’m hoping to create with Give Me Back My Five Bucks is a window into my life. I want to show you how I manage my money every single day, and how money plays an important role in our everyday lives – whether we want to admit to that or not. I will also share my thought processes and feelings, and hopefully a discussion will evolve out of it.

Blog disclaimer

This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me. I am not a financial adviser, nor am I an expert on anything related to personal finance. My posts are a reflection of my life experiences, so please do not make any financial decisions based on what I have said or done.

This blog accepts cash advertising, sponsorship, paid insertions or other forms of compensation. The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog that are written by me. All advertising and sponsored posts will be labeled accordingly under the ‘contest,’ ‘sponsored,’ or ‘guest’ post categories.

The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely my own. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the provider or party in question.

66 comments

  1. I just noticed that there is a $5 bill in the background of your header! I was wondering where the $5 went (from your old blog design). Like it! =)
    My recent post Cohabitation Agreements and Living Together Common Law- What you Need to Know

  2. Wow you are poor, I would shoot myself if I had that little cash

  3. I like your blog, the concept is great, but to be honest when you whine about needing to lose 5 lb etc, it's kind of annoying. I actually stopped reading your blog for about a year because of it. I just think you stay focussed on your quest for financial indepencance as a topic.

    You don't need to post this comment.

    Just a thought.

  4. I think its your blog and you should write about whats going on in your life. If people don't want to read about what's bothering you, then they should skip that day. Just keep doin what you do and write about what's meaningful to you.

    -ashley @ sunnysideshlee.com

  5. Hi Kristal,

    I just read your blog on Moneyville and I loved it!! I was once upon a time like you, spent a lot of money and never saved until I had hit rock bottom (lost my job). Now 2 years later, I have a budget I swear and live by, save most of my $ to the point that I also don't relate to my friends because I'm "cheap" but I love my new lifestyle, I don't feel deprived and I feel secured.

    I also advocate for savings, living a more modest life and spending less!

    Thanks,

    A.

    networth June 2007 (when I graduated): $0
    networth October 2010: $40,000

  6. Are you from hong kong?
    Everytime I walk into a Pacific Mall like Mall I want to vomit! Gadget and material whores litter the aisles everywhere. Your blogs are so basic its like saying when you brush your teeth you wont have bad breath. I read Aesop's Fables when I was 4 and developed a very good understanding of basic logic. And your a University Graduate. WOW. I fear for the human race!

    • No, grammar deficient idiot, she's from Canada. Which if you actually used your brain you'd know; Canadian 5$ bill in the header, the Canadian flag there as well, the reference to the Toronto (Canada) Star etc.
      Wake up smell the coffee and stop trolling.

  7. Hey HL,

    Learn the proper usage of your and you're and maybe people will start to take you seriously. How does being from Hong Kong relate to anything she is writing? What's with the Pacific Mall reference? Are you being racisit or self-loathing. I'm living in Hong Kong BTW, and I'm not Asian.

    Your comment lacks basic logic. Or even a coherent central argument. Are you sure you were reading your Fable book the right side up?

    Krystal is putting something positive out there. Seems simple but look at the economic mess the world is in because of debt, small and large scale. Actually the mess is caused by the corrupt economic system that we live in but that's not going to change anytime soon. The banks want to screw you so you need to make the effort to learn the rules and tricks of this shifty system.

    If this blog helps some young people make more informed finacial decisions then it is doing something right..

  8. Hey Mr.P waiting for you and the rest of the fools to become enlightened. If you cannot understand what I wrote, then dont bother to respond. But let me help you out a bit. You really think this person paid off her 30k in 12 months with the reasoning she has provided. And since you live in Hong Kong then dont play so dumb. Just talk to any Filipino there! And yeah being from Hong Kong has a lot to do with it. You know pacific mall and 18 with 400 dollar pair of jeans and driving a Mercedes for reasons women wear jewelery.
    That’s why Sony Ericsson’s testing grounds are hong kong. SO I doubt the very very common sense words of girl who may be a financial coquette. YOU want to play the raciest card sure ask the hong kong person next to you why the darker the asians color the term dirty comes into play or why the hong kong people feel they are superior to the PRC. So dont spew diatribe picked up at a starbucks. And go read some books. THere was a book written in 81 on the fiat money system, another by harry e figgie and so forth.

    • I want to play the "raciest card". LOL. It's very hard to take one's comments seriously when one has so many problems crafting a coherent English sentence. Although, your racism and misogyny shine through beautifully.

  9. BTW have you seen the comments on the star article? They must be desperate

  10. Is that a typo in your description? – that you DON'T know very much..?
    [ will admit that I know very much about personal finance …]

    • No, I believe it's true. I'm smart in some aspects of personal finance, like budgeting and getting out of debt – but in terms of investing and stocks and making my money work for me (aside from the few mutual funds I invest in, and my savings accounts), I think that is a huge part of personal finance, and one that I know next to nothing about.

  11. Great site! I found your site like most ppl through moneyville. I can relate to a lot of your topics since I'm close to your age but living in Toronto instead of Vancouver. I'm looking fwd to following your blog.

  12. Like many have already confessed, I found you through Moneyville. I bookmarked both your blogs recently and I keep coming back to them.
    As a recent grad in my first “grown-up” job, I'm struggling to pay off my student debt and save for the future. You've inspired me to let go of my shopaholic tendencies, write up a budget and get my life (well, at the very least, my finances) in order.
    Thank you for writing so candidly about your experiences, you'll definitely be seeing me around here more often!

  13. This is a great blog! I really enjoy hearing about your financial and personal journey into getting the life you want. Great Job! I am an animator and I’m trying to get into freelance illustration so I can really relate to a lot of your values. KEEP IT UP!!

  14. what a waste of time reading this

  15. Just stumbled across your blog and I love it. You aren't claiming to be doing anything you aren't….I'm a graduate student and struggle to keep my daily spending in check, so this blog has given me many great ideas (including the choice of not buying ANYTHING at all) It's also interesting hearing about snippets of your life, because let's face it – that's what makes personal blogs interesting right?! Keep up the good work!

  16. Very cool blog. Good luck with all your goals!

  17. Checking this out for the first time today – I work in Corporate Finance yet people are surprised to hear I'm pretty clueless when it comes to personal finance (there's a big difference people!). Looking forward to reading what you have to say about spending/finances. I'm no longer the shopaholic I used to be but I just don't know where my money goes :S I spend quite a bit of money travelling but convince myself that these are priceless experiences…so here's hoping this blog will inspire me to spend less and start saving!

  18. Hi! Love the idea of this blog and especially appreciate your perspective. Something I'd like to suggest would be attaching a link to the first post that people can start from the beginning of your story and move forwards instead of starting at the most recent posts and working backwards.

  19. Finances are simple. Mr. Micawber explained it perfectly. If you earn peanuts, you eat peanuts. In 40 years GF and I only ever bought one thing on credit: a house which we paid off in 4 years by eating generic-brand bologna sandwiches for three meals a day. No, we didn't have a car and we didn't go to restaurants and we basically didn't spend a dime. “All” that it takes is willpower. The hardest thing in the world to acquire, but the most valuable. With it, you will eventually be rich and healthy. Without it, you will be sick and poor.

  20. I'm glad I found this blog! Keep up the good work. I'm shocked by some of the negativity posted here by people. My Mom always says, “If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all…” I agree!
    My recent post How to get out of a bad mood and stay out

  21. Thanks krystal. Great blog and story and good for you for taking control!

    Although I/we have a family net worth of well over 2M (fully paid off home, cottage and income property, 1M in the bank for retirement), my kids (three teenage daughters) think we're "comparatively" poor because we live in an average house (LOL — four bedroom, 2400 sq ft with swimming pool, finished basement, 5TVs, laptops, IPods, etc), and because we don't take many fancy vacations, or drive fancy new cars in an effort to "keep up with the Jones-es". It's a constant struggle to teach them to go against peer pressure, advertising, etc. and make them understand they are being manipulated to spend, spend, spend.

    On your disclaimer — I personally think all people (young and old and in between) SHOULD MAKE "financial decisions based on what I have said or done". You and Warren Buffet have lots in common.

    • Thanks for the kind comments. It's nice to know that people like yourself, who are quite well off financially compared to most folks – are teaching their kids about financial responsibility. It's so important! And it just goes to show that, if you're smart with your money, you can achieve financial independence. I hope to one day be in the kind of position that you are in!

  22. I'm in my early 30s, and I recently got up the courage to move out on my own. I was looking at the way you keep track of your expenses. Really simple and straightforward! I'm going to try it out myself. Thanks.

  23. Great Blog. I'm like you in so many ways!!! Keep up the good work!
    My recent post Free Lipton Iced Tea!!!

  24. Wicked blog and I read your Moneyville blog every chance I get. You're doing it your way and you have great tips and ideas; I just can't stand some of the haters that post comments on your blogs. Everyone is brave behind a keyboard: pay no mind and keep it coming Krystal!
    My recent post Always Dress for Success

  25. I don't mean to post an attack, but this blog is seriously lame. Pinching pennies ain't the way to live people, get out there and start making more dough

    • Hi Chris – thanks for your comment. If you take the time to read my blog, you will see that not only am I living a frugal lifestyle, but I am also working extremely hard at increasing my income. In fact, for 2011, my goal was to increase my income by 50%, and I'm well on track to achieve that goal.

  26. Hi Krystal:

    I saw your article on the Star page and I thought I would check out your site.

    Blog about what you want to blog about. It is your blog. People don’t have to read it if they don’t like it. Stick to what makes you happy

  27. Michelle C. Williams

    I love your blog! Read your article on moneyville then came here. You’ve inspired me to get it together financially!

  28. Krystal, I am very impressed that at such a young age you have discovered what you want and crawling out of student loan debt is the smartest thing you have accomplished.
    I can learn a lot about managing money from you, I am so happy to have found your article in my local metro paper. Thanks, keep at those goals!

  29. What a wonderful blog! I’ve passed your website along to my daughter.

  30. Hi Krystal, came across ur blog thru Moneyville and im hooked! I graduated university and doing my first “grown up” job which i absolutely love :). Unfortunately, i started paying back my student loan ($35,000) and so far ive been paying the minimum…i was too scared to commit to a higher amount per month in fear of not being able to keep it up and in turn disappoint myself. However, ur blog has inspired me to take a closer look at my finances and make lifestyle changes to take financial control and be free of debt sooner rather than later. Just wanna say THANKS!!!

  31. Hi Krystal,

    Your blog and articles are inspiring and helpful to those of us that are trying to make positive changes to the way we manage finances. I’ve used many of your tips. Thanks and keep up the good work!!

  32. Just want to say that I really admire your blog. I’m currently in the process of paying off a substantial debt load so reading from people who were in the same boat helps. I subscribe to about 20 personal finance blogs that get delivered to my work email (which I read when I’m bored at work) and your blog is the one I always save for last.
    How did you get your ‘start’ in blogging? I know you don’t do it for mainly money, but would you say it’s worth it for the amount of hours you put in?

    • Thanks for your kind words. :) I got started by just writing. I wrote about whatever was on my mind. I asked questions, pondered ideas, and used GMBMFB as a sounding board. If you look back into my archives, you can slowly see my writing evolve from someone who was unsure of everything, to now – where I have a pretty good grasp on budgeting and goal setting.

      It was definitely worth the amount of hours I put in. This blog helped me get out of debt. It has inspired me to keep on top of my finances, and it has shaped me into who I am today. The people I’ve met, and the life changes I’ve made, are all thanks to this blog. Sure, I make a little money now – which helps pay the bills – but like I’ve always maintained, I’d do it for free. In fact, I basically did it for free for the first 3 years GMBMFB existed. :P

  33. Hello Krystal, tou earlier this month gave me permission to post the article “Why you might wanted to use a Mortgage Broker” on my BLOG which is a BLOG is about mortgages and I’m a Mortgage Broker. Good Fit! Anyway great article, also added you blog to mine.
    http://www.durhammortgagereview.com

  34. Brian Poncelet,CFP

    Hi Krystal,

    I this is a bit off topic, but what about life insurance and the ability to spend and enjoy your money in retirement?

    I know insurance is a great way to people people to sleep, but I wrote a story about Annuities in Million Dollar Journey a while ago. There is is still much more you can do if one can get over the hated topic (insurance).

    My thinking is once we get older peace of mind (think safety) is important, the problem is the ground work has to be set up in order for the spending game to happen in retirement.

    Cheers,

    Brian

  35. I’m at least double your age and should have more money sense! It seems most people have forgotten a lot of the “old” adages that our parents used to mention from time to time like, “If you watch your pennies, the dollars will look after themselves”! So many of us are caught in the trap of (many) “easy” monthly payments, debit and credit cards, etc. some of which are unavoidable. But the happiest person I have met so far (other than some very wealthy individuals) still pays with cash and doesn’t cave in to his wants till he has the money saved. Aside from an emergency fund, paying down his debts was most important and enabled him to maintain his dignity when he lost a good job of 22 years ($70,000/yr) and had to settle for about half that income, which is the position a lot of 50+ people are in. Governments could learn a lesson from that instead of treating the taxpayer like a bottomless well (of money). Thanks and keep it up!

  36. @HL Menckin: I would think that someone who claims to have so much “very good understanding of basic logic” would stop going to Pacific Mall if he hates it there so much. I hope you don’t breed.

  37. I read your piece from thestar.com’s moneyville section and then followed the link to your blog and noticed… you are currently in Germany. I am also a Canadian living in Germany (Munich to be exact) and I wanted to point out the fact that living frugally, saving and having a good time while your at it is far easier here than in Canada and, for that matter, the rest of Europe. If you know the ins and outs of the train system, you can get anywhere you want to go cheaply and easily. Also, food is so insanely subsidized here, that your grocery expenses are misleading to a Canadian reader. On top of that, cell-phone service, banking and a host of other daily needs cost a great deal less. My point: debt and savings have a lot to do with the culture and circumstances in which you live.

  38. Hi Krystal, just found your blog and LOVE it! Love your clear, concise, no-frills writing style, and your (inspiring) practical ideas. Will definitely keep reading. Keep up the great work.

  39. I use Blogger. But I notice that WordPress is way cooler. Perhaps I should switch. But I am so used to Blogger by now…

  40. I came across your blog after hopping through several other personal finance blogs. I love reading your posts, especially since I’m a twenty-something myself and it’s hard to find Canadian bloggers who are in the beginnings of they financial journeys too. Thanks for sharing and keep it up!

  41. Your blog on Moneyville was how I got addicted to pf blogs. I started to read this one too and was really inspired to start my own. I’d say you’re a trailblazer in the pf blogosphere. Keep up the amazing work!!!

  42. Hi Krystal.

    I am contacting you regarding your reference for Mike Smith with MadebyGuerrilla website development on LinkedIn. I have hired his services for a word press website development. I am contacting you to ascertain your experience with him. My name is Aleta, my site is in stagnant mode (waiting for Mike) and I can be contacted at 708-705-7956.

    Thank you very much.

  43. Yes! Finally someone writes about don’t.

  44. Krystal, I just love your blog. Your honesty is so refreshing and I think every young person should hear what you have to say. I have just linked back to your blog in my own most recent blog post:
    http://www.freshcoatofpaint.ca/2013/02/saving-for-home-learn-from-this.html

    Thank you and please keep writing!

  45. Hey there,

    I’ve really enjoyed the recent articles on your website, so I figured I’d shoot you a quick email about a potential content partnership.

    We have a number of personal finance articles from our authors that I think would be of interested to your readers. Would you be interesting in posting one of our articles as a guest blog? Let me know, and I’ll send over an article right away!

    We would also be interested in posting a guest blog from you on our website (Zantrio.com). If this is of interest, send me over an article and a short author bio, and I’ll forward it to our publishing department.

    Thanks!


    Craig Anderson
    Zantrio, LLC
    Email: craig@zantrio.com

  46. Hello! I came across your blog as I was researching what jobs I could land with a communications degree. I’m currently a student thinking of changing majors and I’m interested in the communications field. How could I contact you? I have a few questions and it would mean a lot if you could tell me more about your experience and answer some of my questions :)

  47. Hi Krystal! I love keeping up with your blog and your weakness for starbucks! I was hoping you could advise on how you can start out in freelance biz? Should I contact magazine publishers with my articles? I was also wondering if you might consider changing your comments settings so that you can approve them before posting — there are some mean comments on here that I am sure cause unnecessary pain.

  48. Hi Krystal,

    What a nice blog!!!! As a finance writer i really loved the articles.

    Great piece of advice. Keep Going :)

  49. I appreciate your site. Good work :-)

  50. What is the way to live then? Can you give some examples of how spending money makes you happy? Im being dead serious here.

    • We all have different ways of living. To me, money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy freedom – and that freedom can make you happy. Having money in the bank gives me the freedom to live a relatively stress-free life. I don’t have to worry about whether I’ll be able to pay the bills, or how I’ll come up with next month’s rent money. And as someone who has been in that position, that’s no way to live. Money means I have the ability to make choices – from where I live, to what I eat, to how I want to be entertained. This makes me happy because I don’t feel like money is holding me back from anything. The world has opened up for me, and with a little hard work, I feel like anything is possible.

      Maybe that’s not the answer you were looking for, but I truly believe all of it. It’s not the “spending money” that makes me happy; it’s the security and freedom that money provides.

  51. Hi Krystal,

    Noticed you were commenting on the price of your internet provider. You may want to try Telnet in Oshawa http://telnetcommunications.com/residential/internet/10mb I pay $44.95/month for unlimited and they are spectacular.

  52. Hi there, Just found your blog and I am so impressed with your ability to pay off your debt. And am very impressed with how you handle your responses to people that are quite critical of your story. Well done. I had a question, do you plan your No Spending Days in advance or are they just no spending days because you didn’t spend anything?

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