Money Lessons from my Oma’s Tomatoes… 

Money Lessons from my Oma’s Tomatoes… 

I’ve been missing home lately… I always do in the summer/fall.

I grew up on the prairies, and there’s nothing like the prairies when everything is green and growing and producing tasty things.

Here in Toronto I don’t grow things. The few plants in my house are not thriving. I blame the light levels, but I think if they could talk they might mention my inconsistent watering habits.

Whenever I go home, one of the stops I make is my Oma’s garden. Oma is what I call my grandmother. She and my Opa continue to have an incredible garden, even though they’re well into their 80s.

They grow carrots, corn, potatoes, peas, flowers, beans, cucumbers and of course… tomatoes.

And those tomatoes… they surprise me every time.

You see… If you focus just on the plants… they look like the ones in my apartment: very few leaves, barely able to hold themselves up… not the picture of health.

But on every sick-looking branch …. there are bunches of fruit.

Honestly, they look like grape vines, there are so many tomatoes.

And no matter the look of the plants, my grandparents reap huge tomato crops almost every year.

The secret of tomatoes:

How? When I asked, I could see the twinkle in my Oma’s eyes.

“We cut them back. We cut all that extra growth, that way all the nutrients go right into making the fruit, instead of being spilt between the fruit and a bushy looking plant.”

Turns out the point of growing a tomato plant is not to have the healthiest looking tomato plan, it’s to grow lots of really good tomatoes.


Cutting back in order to get more of what you want…

No one really likes cutting back.

Cutting back on tasty dessert, cutting back on Netflix, or cutting back on your spending all seem to be things you know you ‘should’ do… but will definitely suck.

And the spending one can be especially tricky because some of you might look at your spending and say… this all makes sense. I want all these things. They’re important to me.

But there are lots of reasons to cut back.

Sometimes you have to because you can’t afford your life, and sometimes it’s about trying to focus your ‘nutrients’ on growing fruit, instead of growing out the plant.

Sometimes cutting back is the gateway to getting more of what you want…

Your plant VS your fruit

In my mind there are two things that we spend money on:

• maintaining the life we have

• pushing our life forward

Other people might use the word ‘lifestyle’ expenses to describe maintaining your life. But it’s basically the cost of your life – your monthly and annual costs that you’ve pretty much already decided you’re going to spend.

Then we have the big stuff we want to do. It might be paying off our debt, taking an awesome trip, saving for later in your life, or investing in your business.

It pushes our lives forward.

I know that the second one sounds way more sexy, but you can’t spend your money on ‘extra’ stuff until your life costs are taken care of.

In a way, it’s like your plant and your fruit.

Your plant’s health is essential in the growing of your fruit… but… like we see in my Oma’s garden, sometimes too many resources put into your ‘plant’ can reduce the amount of fruit you can grow.

There are a limited amount of resources, and you have to decide where you want to put them.

How to grow bigger, better life tomatoes…

Is there some big life stuff that you really want to get done?

Maybe you need to think about cutting back. Not because you’re not allowed to have nice things, but because you want to use your nutrients differently.

And here’s where we can learn from Oma’s tomatoes again.

There are all kinds of preconceived notions we carry around about what we need to do to ‘create fruit’.

But maybe that’s not the case.

Maybe we can do way more with way less, and the only way you’re going to find out is by doubling down on some experiments.

How much can you cut back before the base health of your life suffers? Which are the right places to cut back, and which places are non-negotiable?

I can’t encourage you enough to start to play with these ideas.. AND don’t decided before you start what the non-negotiables are.

Everything is on the table.

Talk to people who live differently than you do. Talk to people who are older than you and are way ahead in terms of experimentation. Come talk to me, either during OFFICE HOURS or through EMAIL… I’ve got lots of stories of how creative people are figuring it out.

Don’t assume you know the best way to grow a tomato… because maybe you don’t.

I sure didn’t.

Emily Nixon

Emily Nixon

Rags to Reasonable Community Outreach Coordinator

Emily Nixon is an actor/writer/director/filmmaking Swiss Army Knife. She is also a big money nerd and Community Outreach Coordinator for Rags to Reasonable.

She came to this work after becoming completely fed up with living paycheque-to-paycheque and being too afraid to look in her chequing account. She is passionate about empowering other artists and variable income earners to keep doing what they love and feel confident about their finances.

Email Emily at

Want to start getting control of your money? How can I help?

5 ways to talk yourself out of buying a 1.7 million dollar house

5 ways to talk yourself out of buying a 1.7 million dollar house

Buying a House - From Rags to Reasonable

I had a lovely weekend.

It was one of those rare weekends when you close the computer, set the smartphone aside and have wonderful quality time with the people you love.

I won’t bore you with the details, but it was capped off by a great day of diner brunch and walking through the neighbourhood with my girlfriend, and after 3 coffee stops and the discovery of a new secret perogie den we walked into our first open house.

I’m sure you’ve done it.

It was in our neighbourhood, and we were curious.

We’re not actively looking for a home, but we’ve definitely played around in the insanity of the Toronto mortgage market (if you want to read that whole sage check out THE MORTGAGE FILES, it’s in 7 parts, and it’s ridiculous).

So we walked into the house, and it was exactly what you’d expect. (more…)

How I made my first dollar on the internet

How I made my first dollar on the internet

A man with a ponytale sits at the computer, the text reads "How I made my first dollar on the internet'

A dollar buys you nothing.

Well… a dollar can buy you some things… in fact there’s a whole menu of choices at your nearest Taco Bell.

But I think we can all agree that a dollar isn’t really anything to write home about.

Whether it’s a lot of money or not… I have to say that making my first dollar online felt like a real accomplishment.

How did I do it?

In late January I wrote a post about “how you make money on the internet’. In it I sketched out my plan to finally turn this site from a time consuming hobby into something that resembled a business (or so I hoped).

Step one was to earn my first dollar. (more…)

Why community is your most important asset (and how to build one for free)

Why community is your most important asset (and how to build one for free)

Community - From Rags to Reasonable

I haven’t had a lot of jobs in my life, but the ones I’ve had have been in very different fields: 

Farmer. Opera singer. Personal finance blogger. 

I’m not sure if there are any 3 businesses out there that are more different (#gauntletthrown), but one thing I’ve learned from all of them is the importance of community. 

Community is one of those words that gets tossed around a lot in business. Sometimes people call it their network, or their contacts. People born before 1970 refer vaguely to a Rolodex… but what most people will agree on is that, no matter what you call it, there is little that is more valuable to your business than the connections you make, the people you meet, and the ‘community’ you can draw support from. 

But it can turn out to be a real hurdle for small businesses. How to you build that support system? How do you create a network? How do you make contacts in a way that doesn’t feel like you’re just trying to ‘get something from them’? 

It’s something I’ve really struggled with, both as as artist and on the blog. 

So today, we’re going to talk about why a network is so important, the myth of the self-made man (person), and a few ways that you can build a killer network/community/contact list for free.  (more…)

How do you make money on the internet?

How do you make money on the internet?

Money on the internet - From Rags to Reasonable

This is not a how-to.

For those of you who may have only skimmed the title, you’ll find no answers here. This is just a second year blogger honestly wondering “how the heck do you make money on the internet?”

I started Rags to Reasonable just over a year ago, and it wasn’t just because I wanted to spend 20+ hours a week making pictures and writing about finance. I was trying to start a side business. Something that would help supplement my life as an artist.

On some levels I’ve been successful. I did start …. something. I wrote articles (I think some of them might have even helped people) and 10s of thousands of people passed through my little corner of the internet this year.

But it’s not really a business.

Businesses make money.

Wait… no… that’s not entirely true. Not all businesses make money… but all businesses are trying to make money.

The things that I haven’t told you (more…)

The Epic Guide to changing everything in 2016: 6 ways to actually follow through on your resolutions

The Epic Guide to changing everything in 2016: 6 ways to actually follow through on your resolutions

Resolutions - From Rags to Reasonable

It has recently come to my attention that I’m really bad at follow through.

I have big plans. Big ideas. In fact, the last few weeks have been full of statements like:

“I think this year… once a month we should….* insert activity*”

They’re all nice ideas, but since I’m up to a few dozen ‘once a month activities’, at this point my girlfriend is just rolling her eyes every time I send out a new one. She’s the one who very kindly informed me that maybe I should temper my expectations because I wasn’t the best at… following through.

I’d love to argue, but sadly it’s pretty freaking true.

And so, with the dawning of a new year I’m left with a couple of choices. I can toss all my big plans, dreams, goals, and resolutions up against the wall and hope something sticks… or maybe I just don’t commit to doing anything this year.

I’ll just see how things turn out. Go with the ole flow…

OR… I can dive headlong into mystery box number three and figure out how I can get better at actually changing some of the things that I’d love to change.


My initial findings were pretty tepid… a whole bunch of articles on ‘making a list’ and ‘setting a timetable’, which I’m not saying aren’t fine ideas, but we’ve all tried these things (or we’ve read them and decided we don’t want to try them)! And yet still, so many of us dream up these big start-of-the-year goals… that never make it past January (ya, I said ‘us’… I know I’m not the only guilty one here).

But luckily there are a whole bunch of insanely smart people out there doing some really interesting research on this very thing. And so, I’ve put together a few actually useful ways to stick to those new year’s resolutions. (more…)