Help! I Need a Mortgage!

Purchasing a home, especially your first, will be one of the most expensive and important purchases of your life. It’s important to understand how the process works and the impact that buying a home can make on your short and long term finances. Follow these three handy tips to see how much house you can afford! 


Did you ever drive around with your parents during the holidays looking for the best lights in town and thought “I wonder how much this actually costs?” Or maybe you’ve started looking at listings in neighborhoods you’d like to live in, only to realize you have no idea how much you can afford? Whatever the case may be, securing a mortgage is an intimidating process. We’re here to help with a three step process that gives you a great starting point for where to go and how to makes sure it fits your budget.

Step 1: Check, Check, Check It Out

Are you ready for this next chapter to begin? It starts with a word that still sends shivers down everyone’s spine after high school… “homework”.

First you’ll need to determine your credit score. I recommend sitting down with your financial advisor who will be able to best accurately determine how much debt you’ll be able to undertake.

Financial advisors use your credit score to determine whether you qualify for a mortgage and how much you will qualify for (alongside the Mortgage Stress Test). An easy way to take a realistic look at your spending patterns is by going through your banking and credit card history. Staying in touch with your current spending habits will prevent any unpleasant surprises when going in to discuss your options with your advisor.  

Step 2: Evaluation Time: What Can You Spend?

Figuring out “how much you can afford to spend” versus “what you should spend” can be hard. Imagine spending your entire budget on your lavish dream home, but you can’t invite anyone over because you don’t have furniture for them to sit on. Compare that with a home within your means that you can afford with furnishings that you, your friends and family will enjoy. Just because you qualify to buy a large house, doesn’t mean you should make yourself “house broke”. If you purchase a home and leave yourself some wiggle room, it’ll give you more flexibility to spend your disposable income on other things such as trips, family, and decor for your new digs! Ask your financial advisor about the lifestyle trade-offs that occur when you take that step to become a homeowner.

I also recommend talking to your financial advisor about creating a budget that provides a holistic picture of your current expenses, long-term expenses, future expenses, and miscellaneous expenses that will come with being a new homeowner. Compare this budget with your current spending habits you identified in step one and you should be able to identify if you can realistically afford the purchase of a home. Need some help? We have some tools to help you create a budget. 

Tip: Practice living on this self-made budget for a while before making the steps to purchase. This way, you know that you can actively save and handle the budget change while making sure it is accurate.

Step 3: What You Should Spend & Knowing the Fees

Time to look at all the fees that come with buying a home! *Gulp* Many of these fees exist on top of the cost of your home so make sure you leave room in your budget.

  • Down payment (at least 5%),
  • Mortgage Default Insurance Premiums
    • Your down payment amount affects the costs associated with your mortgage. The higher your down payment, the less Mortgage Default Insurance Premiums (more commonly known as CMHC). Mortgage Default Insurance Premiums are mandatory in Canada, and are calculated based on your down payment amount. These fees are an insurance on your mortgage. If you can realistically afford putting down a 20% down payment, you can avoid paying CMHC. If you have the means to save for a 20% down payment, it will save you a ton of money.
  • Appraisal fees,
  • Home inspection fees,
  • Land transfer fees, and
  • Lawyer fees (approximately 1.5% of the total cost of your home)

As well, remember that once you buy a place to call home, your total monthly house costs are much more than just your mortgage payment and things like property taxes, home insurance and condo fees should be added to your budget. One of our previous blogs explores the expenses of homeownership.

In Canada, there are guidelines on how much an individual can spend on a house, based on your monthly income. In most cases, it is recommended that your monthly housing costs do not exceed 30-40% of your total gross monthly income. There are many good reasons to stay well under that number, remember, all those pesky fees and your monthly house costs we discussed above? They stack up fast and can leave you “house broke” if you are not careful.


Only you can decide your lifestyle and how much you’re comfortable spending each month, and if having a mortgage payment is right for you. Your finances are one of the most crucial and personal pieces of your life so it is important that you feel confident making the decisions that are right for you!

Are you thinking of purchasing a home? What advice do you have for people looking to buy a home? Share your thoughts in the comments below, it’s on the house!

When should I ACTUALLY start saving for retirement?

Whether it’s sunny beaches, cruising the open road, traveling the globe or just relaxing and taking time to enjoy your life – retirement looks different for everyone. No matter what it may look like for you, the one thing we all have in common is that one day we’d like to retire and we need money to make it happen. Whether you’re just starting your career, counting down the days, or somewhere in the middle, there are things you can do to ensure your retirement is exactly what you want it to be.


“What do you mean retirement? I just started working!” That may be true, but ideally, you’ll want to start saving for retirement as early as possible. We know that’s not always possible, so wherever you are in life’s journey, the best time to start saving for retirement is RIGHT NOW!!!

Here are some tips for you, wherever you are on your retirement journey:

Start early and contribute often

The earlier you start saving, the more interest you will earn and the more money you will have when you’re ready to retire. For example:

Age 20 years old 40 years old
Monthly investment $200 $800
Interest rate 6.5% 6.5%
Retirement age 65 65
Total invested $108K $240K
Interest earned $522K $362K
Total retirement savings $630,000 $602,000

Although both people ended up with a similar amount, the person who began saving at 20 years old, put in less than half of their own money – it mostly came from interest (i.e not your pocket).

Make it automatic

The easiest way to reach a savings goal is to set up automatic transfers to your retirement accounts. That way, it is coming out at a consistent rate and you don’t have to bid an emotional farewell to your money every month as it will be automatically transferred or deducted from your pay cheque.

Don’t touch your retirement fund. View it as money that is not at all accessible

There are lots of different types of accounts you can use to save for retirement, but the best ones are those you can’t touch. For example, there are TFSAs and RRSPs, and other special savings account you can use to meet your different retirement savings goals. The best thing to do if you’re not sure what accounts work best for you is to talk to a Financial Advisor. You can also check out our investment terminology blog to find out more information about different options and what those acronyms mean. By locking in these inaccessible accounts, it removes the temptation to pull from these savings accounts when you just NEED that new pair of shoes and sets you up for success when you retire.

Get rid of debt before retirement

Simply put, you don’t want to owe money when you are no longer making money.

Annually review your retirement plan to see how you’re doing and if it will still meet your needs

Just like a doctor’s check-up, a financial check-up is important to do every year. Work with  your financial advisor to make sure you’re on track and make any changes to your plan as you need. A great tool you can use to see how much you may need to be set up for retirement is our Retirement Planner Calculator.

Make sure you understand at tax time what your RRSP and TFSA contribution limits are

Every year, Revenue Canada will send you a Notice of Assessment after you’ve filed your taxes. On there, you can see how much you can contribute for the next year, based on your previous year’s income, plus any unused amounts from previous years. There is also a limit as to how much you can contribute to your TFSA, starting from the age of 18. A great tool for understanding your TFSA limit is this calculator.

No matter where retirement fits into your plans, it’s going to be a great time and being financially prepared will help ensure you can enjoy your golden years. So when is the right time to start saving? There is no better time like the present and it will save you down the road!

How To Break Up With Your Bank

To switch or not to switch… that is the question! Switching banks has never been described as an easy or fun task. But what if I could help make the process a bit easier for you? I can’t promise it will be fun, but if you’re already feeling that itch to switch – it will be worth it in the long run.


Got the itch to switch?

So what would make someone get the itch to switch? There are many reasons why someone would want to make a break from their current bank. You could be going through a big life change that challenges you to review your relationship with your current bank. For example, moving to another city for that new job opportunity might make you switch if  you want to do your banking close to home. If you’re recently married like me, you and your hubby would have gone through a debate to decide whose bank gets the honour of opening your joint account.  You could also be looking for better rates because who doesn’t love a good deal? Honestly, as much as a good deal gets me going, the real value is finding someone that treats you like a person and not an account number. Whatever the reason may be, if you’re not happy then it is time to make a change!

How do you do that? I don’t know about you but I like a good checklist so let’s break it down step by step.

Step 1: Browse the options

You wouldn’t buy a book without reading the back and you wouldn’t buy a car off the lot without taking it for a test drive. Your bank shouldn’t be any different. Browse your options and ask yourself want do you want from your financial institution. Things to consider:

  • Would you rather a bank or a credit union? Don’t think there is much of a difference? There is and we’ve broken it down for you in a previous MONEYTALK blog.
  • What is your banking style? In a branch, online, or maybe a mixture of both? Check out what each financial institution specializes in.
  • Is it important that your financial institution is involved and supports your community in which you work, live and play? Take a look at what/how much they support.
  • Most importantly, ask what’s in it for you!

Evaluate your options and take a couple of your top draft picks out for a test drive. I recommend meeting with a representative from the option you are considering to see if they are a right fit for you and can provide what you are missing from your relationship with your current financial institution.

Step 2: Open a new account

You’ve done your research, played the field and now you’re ready to commit… what’s next? Jump in with both feet and open a new account. Most financial institutions offer a variety of ways to open up an account. If you want the human interaction, visit your local branch in your community or if you want the ease and convenience from your couch – there are typically online options (if there isn’t and that is something you value most – return to Step 1).

Pro Tip: Once the account is opened – make a small deposit into your new account to make sure everything is running smoothly.

Step 3: Identify monthly expenses and set up automatic payments

Make a list of your automatic payments that come out of your account on a bi-weekly, monthly and yearly basis. You’ll want to set these up on your new account. Some common automatic transactions to think about:

  • Your hard earned dollars: Direct deposits
  • The roof over your head: Mortgage payments
  • Subscription to chill: Netflix account
  • One more song: Apple Music/Spotify Premium
  • Connection to the world: Cellphone payments
  • License to Leg Day: Gym Membership fees 

Step 4: Transfer majority of your money

You’ve set up your automatic payments and now you have to make sure you have money in there to pay them. Time to transfer the majority of your money into your new account. Key word here is “majority” of your money.

Pro Tip: It’s a good idea to keep some of your money in your old account just in case that pesky internet bill slipped through the cracks.

Having said that, keep your old account open for at least a month to ensure you haven’t missed any of those automatic transactions. When all is clear, transfer the rest of your money into your new account.

Step 5: Closing time

Last, but definitely not least, is to close your account, I repeat CLOSE your account! Just because the balance is zero doesn’t mean it is closed and your bank will continue charging you fees until it is officially closed. Avoid having a “fee”k out when you realize the account was reopened and you now owe your ex-bank money. Contact your bank to ask how to officially close your account and get the closure you need.

 

If you’re feeling that itch to switch don’t be afraid to make a change. At the end of the day, your finances are one of the most important aspects in your life and you should feel safe, valued and confident with your financial institution.

Have any tips for the switch? Let’s hear ’em! Share by using the comment section below to save any headaches for those looking to break up with their bank.

 

4 Quick Tips to Save on Insurance

Home insurance. Life insurance. Car insurance. All important to have, ensuring you’re financially protecting yourself in case of emergency. With each insurance type comes many different options as well as a number of ways you can save. Here are a few savings tips and advice to look into when purchasing (or renewing) insurance.

Home savings that can be spent elsewhere

A part of homeownership includes purchasing home insurance to ensure you’re covered for loss or damage to your property due to unforeseen situations. Home insurance is a must, especially if you live in a condo, townhouse or apartment and share walls with a neighbour. You may trust yourself to not start a fire but you never know when your neighbour will find a way to set a bowl of ramen noodles ablaze. Some insurance companies offer different discounts to help reduce the cost of your home insurance including discounts for:

  • Having a monitored security system
  • Being claims-free for several years
  • Your age and the number of years you’ve been with the company
  • Having a good credit score

A big misconception that comes with buying insurance is that it is a standardized rate among all suppliers. When choosing home insurance, be sure to shop around for the best rates and ask what discounts each company can offer you.

Safe driving does pay off

SGI’s Safe Driver Recognition program rewards drivers with a discount on their vehicle insurance for safe driving. For each year you drive without an incident, you earn a safety point that corresponds to a discount on your vehicle’s plate insurance. As you can earn safety points, you can also lose points for unsafe driving such as speeding, accident, etc. If your safety wasn’t enough motivation to put the phone away while driving, one texting and driving ticket wipes away the points that would have taken you four years to accumulate. That could mean an additional $200 on top of the $280 ticket.

Bundling up

Some insurers will offer discount incentives if you purchase multiple insurances from them. The most common insurance bundles include home insurance and car insurance. When you are shopping around, check how much money you can save by bundling. It’s also very convenient for when renewal time comes around to do it all at once so you don’t have to wonder all year “Wait… is my car insurance due in March? Or is that home insurance?”

Improving your health

Life insurance prepares you for the unexpected and helps protect the people you love if something were to happen to you. When choosing life insurance, consider your family and work situation, life goals and your budget.

If you’re a smoker, your insurance premiums will be higher than a non-smoker. Now you may be thinking, well I just won’t tell my insurance provider that I smoke so I don’t pay as much. Wrong – don’t do this because if you hide it and it’s discovered you’ve been lying, your insurance could be rejected. On a positive note, if you need that extra reason to quit smoking, some insurance companies will consider you a non-smoker if you’ve been smoke-free for a year and will reduce your premiums. Not only will you be able to save on insurance, you’ll also be saving money due to no longer buying your cigarettes. Bonus, Smoker’s Helpline has a Quit to Win Contest where you can enter to win $500 cash if you quit smoking.

 

Whenever you’re purchasing insurance of any kind, be sure to do your research and shop around for the best rate. Always ask questions and inquire about any discounts your provider may offer.

Know of other discounts or incentives to save money on insurance? I’d love to hear them – share with me by using the comment section below.

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!

Yes, Couponing is Still a Thing!

Lady Gaga, Kristen Bell, Hilary Swank, Kourtney Kardashian and me. What do we all have in common? The love of a good deal through couponing! Couponing has come a long way from sitting around the Sunday paper with your grocery list and your scissors risking a paper cut, which is still a 100% legit option and something I do every so often. Now, you can find coupons for restaurants and services and experiences and tons of different options to get a great deal and try new things that fit your lifestyle.

Want to try new things and pay less? Here’s how you can keep up with the Joneses while paying like the Smiths!


Daily Deals – why pay more for something you’re going to do anyway?

Do you remember when Groupon first came out and then every day after there was another site launching that offered daily deals or group discounts? At the end of it, in Canada, 33 different sites had been launched. Of those, there are still 5 that are not only existing, but going strong! And why? Because people love a good deal! I’ll admit it, I sometimes forget about Groupon but then when I rediscover it, it’s a gold mine. This past year, I’ve gotten huge discounts on restaurants, massages, wrapped canvas prints, scent diffusers and much more. It was great, because I was already planning on paying for these things, but because of the deals I got, I was able to save money and do even more than I expected. Another great thing about these programs is that you can check them out online or just download the app, so you can find deals on the go.

Tip: Know what you want to buy friends and family, or yourself, as a gift? Planning a date night? Need to get a massage? Planning on spending money on anything? Check if there are any Daily Deals first as flash sales typically offer a higher discount since they are only offered for a limited time!

Trying New Things – it’s all the rage

Another great thing to use Daily Deals for is to find new experiences or things to do where you live or when you’re travelling. I recently went to Las Vegas, and because of Groupon, we saved money on shows, discovered new restaurants and spent a lot less than we thought we would. This meant we had some extra money for the outlets, where we used a coupon book, of course, to score even better deals. Using a Daily Deal is a great way for you to find out about events going on and get ideas for things to do when travelling to a new place, all for a discounted price!

Moving to a new place? Daily Deals can even help you meet people! When I moved to Australia, I didn’t know anyone. Fortunately, a few of the daily deal sites had group meet up events sponsored by local pubs. Not only did I get to check out a new place, I got to make a few friends too.

Supporting Local – discovering hidden gems in your backyard

Wherever you live, I’m sure you have some great, local businesses that you don’t even know about, or haven’t visited lately. When new businesses, or even those who’ve been around for a while, are looking to increase business and get their name out there, many will advertise on Daily Deals. Purchasing a deal will allow you to not only save some money, but maybe discover your new “favourite place”. Looking at Groupon today, you can find deals for spa services, rock chip repair, boot camps, tastings, oil changes, scavenger hunts and hundreds of others that are local to your community. Chances are good if you want to check something new out, or there’s something you have to do, like get an oil change, there’s a daily deal for you!

Here are some of my favourite daily deal sites:

Groupon https://www.groupon.com/

WagJag https://www.wagjag.com/

Living Social https://www.livingsocial.com/

Tip: It’s not a good deal if you wouldn’t normally spend money on it. I know first-hand how exciting it is to see a great sale and how tempting it can be to purchase it (just ask my very full closets) but if you’re just buying it because it’s a good deal, it’s not worth it. Although it’s possible to sign up for emails from these sites, and generally I would encourage it, you need to make sure that whatever you’re spending still fits into your budget.

To find out some great tips when entering into the world of extreme, or just every-so-often, couponing, check out this site!

Honey – can we coupon?

Sometimes finding the right coupon can be time consuming and tedious. A simple way to save money on things you are already shopping for is to download an extension for your browser that scours the internet for discount codes on products you are already looking at. For instance, an extension named Honey has saved me so much money when I’m online shopping on things like soccer cleats, headphones and even dog food by finding me coupon codes to apply at checkout.

There is no better feeling when shopping than getting to the checkout counter and the person at the till says “This is actually on sale for an additional 20% off!” This extension pretty much does the exact same thing for you!

Whether you’re looking for a gift, planning date night or looking to try something new, hopefully you’ve gotten some ideas how to find a great deal and save some money. Now we’d love to hear from you, what’s the best deal you’ve scored? Let us know in the comments below!

The Cost of Being Single

Single and ready to mingle? Well, if you didn’t need another reason to despise Valentine’s Day,  I’m about to give you one more – independence is expensive. Whether you are choosing to live the single life or you just haven’t met the right catch yet, you’ve probably experienced some of the nuisances that come with taking on the world on your own.


That’s right – next time one of your friends in a relationship gives you a “You are soooo lucky you don’t have a partner to buy an expensive Christmas present” feel free to fire back with “Oh yeah? Try paying up to double for monthly housing, rent, pets, cable, utilities, furniture and credit card fees.”  

As a single guy myself, I can personally vouch for the frustration that comes with these costs so please consider this blog as not only a tool to help you save some dollars – but some much needed therapy for me.   

Grocery Shopping 

One of the most surprising increased costs that come with being single is the increased amount spent on groceries. You may think “Wait a minute… shouldn’t more people equal more food costs?” It does – but couples are able to take advantage of volume discounts and decrease the amount of waste that drives up a single household’s grocery bill. There’s nothing more disappointing than walking the crowded aisles at Costco and not being able to buy the bulk pack of muffins and the 4L Chocolate Milk jug. If you are like me and end up splurging on them anyway, you’ve now paid double the amount it would cost someone in a relationship who can spread the cost over two budgets (and half of the milk won’t end up going spoiled).  

On average, a single man and woman will spend $319.87 and $247.33 a month respectively on groceries. To put it in perspective how much extra they are spending, the average household of four will spend $494.50 a month on groceries. That’s well over half and that doesn’t include the amount of money spent on eating out, which single people tend to do a lot more.

TIP: Something I’ve found extremely helpful to manage grocery costs and limit the amount you eat out is to pair up with a “meal prepping partner”. Spend a couple hours at the beginning of the week cooking a couple of dishes to store in your fridge for the week. Not only is cooking more enjoyable when you have a friend, but you are splitting your grocery cost and preparation time in half while giving your meals variety throughout the week so you aren’t eating the same pasta for lunch for five days straight. 

Home Ownership & House Expenses 

A 2017 Vice Money article reported that 64% of millennials identify as being singlewhich is up 12% from 2004 (seems like more people are joining the dark side!). That seems like a pretty high number since rent costs for one-bedroom apartment (averaging as high as $1,800 a month in Toronto and Vancouver) are skyrocketing so it makes sense why some couples are ready to “take the next step” and move in with each other so quickly.  

I’ve been a homeowner for three years and am in my first few months of living alone. The monthly costs are quite daunting to not have a tenant to offset mortgage, utilities, and condo fees and I’m constantly looking for ways to trim any unnecessary variable costs like cable costs.  

TIP: If you are single and looking to purchase a home – there typically isn’t much of a difference between the cost of a one bedroom and two bedroom place and it is much harder to turn a value on a one-bedroom if you are ever looking to sell. If you can bare it, spend a little more to buy the extra bedroom that gives you the opportunity to house a roommate if your purse strings get a little tight. When you have the flexibility to live alone, you can always turn the room into a spare bedroom/office/pottery studio or whatever you fancy.  

Maintaining a Social Life  

Here’s a shocker – single people spend more money on their social lives. Now that I live alone, I find myself spending a lot more money with friends just to get my social fix. From patio drinks to movie popcorn, these purchases can add up real fast.  

Dating is also quite expensive, especially if you are footing the bill. A 26-year-old male from New York writing for Refinery29 just did a study where he went on 14 dates and tracked all of his purchases. In two weeks, he spent $771 and that’s with $0 dates included! Chivalry may not be dead but your chequing account may be if you are not careful.  

TIP: Cut the booze. Or at least opt out of the casual 1-2 drinks after work or when you meet friend for dinner. Last year when I was training for a Spartan Race, I cut out alcohol entirely for two months and ended up saving about $50-$100 a week! Depending how much you cut out, that’s enough to cover your utility bills for the month (and that 4L jug of chocolate milk from Costco).  

Retirement Planning &  Benefits 

Depending on your age, retirement may be the furthest thing from your mind and the last thing you can imagine allocating any of your paycheck towards. Especially when you are single, it seems unfathomable to think long-term when you are constantly weighed down by short term monthly fees like car payments, cell phone bills, utilities, and mortgage costs 

Since couples can split the majority of these costs – they have the luxury of being able to contribute more to their retirement. According to this MarketWatch study, of those in the 90th percentile of wealth between the ages of 65-69, two-person households had $878,000 in assets versus $380,000 for those in the same demographic who are single. That’s a big difference.  

TIP: I know it’s hard to imagine actively contributing to your retirement when CPP is likely being deducted from your paycheck but if you can afford it – it will pay off in the long run. I prefer to set up automatic pension contributions so I don’t even see the money coming off my paycheck.  Many workplaces will match pension contributions up to a certain percentage so if you can, max them out! It’s free money!  

Single friends, navigating these costs solo can be scary so let’s take care of each other. Comment below with some tips and tricks you use to give yourself some breathing room in the monthly budget.  

Top 5 Strategies to Pay Off Your Debt

Believe me, I know – if you’re in debt, whether it’s big or little, getting started on paying it off can be overwhelming. Here are my top five strategies to get you started and moving in the right direction and tackle that debt. Find a strategy that works for you and stick with it!


1. Pay off your most expensive debt first

If you have one particular debt with a super high interest rate, try making that debt your priority. You’ll need to maintain minimum payments on your other debts, but really putting everything you can into your most expensive debt will help to make your overall future debt less. The power of compound interest means that this debt has the possibility to grow the fastest, so eliminating it first is a solid step in the right direction.

2. Pay off your smallest debt first

This is a strategy for when you really need a win to get you motivated. By maintaining minimum payments on all of your debts and focusing on the one that will be the fastest to pay off, you’ll quickly get a little victory to keep you moving forward with the rest of your debt repayment plan.

3. The cash diet

Especially if you can get yourself into trouble with a credit or even debit card, the cash diet is a strategy where your budget becomes absolute law. You plan your budget (give our budget calculator a try), then take out cash to see you through a set amount of time like a week or the whole month. Once the cash is gone, that’s the end of your spending. It’s helpful to break up the cash into your individual budgets for things like groceries, gas, or pet expenses.

4. Use a tool to track your spending

If you’re struggling to find the money to pay off your debt, knowing exactly where all of your money goes is an important first step on finding room in your budget. Use our spending analysis tool or there are lots of great free apps that you can hook up to your bank account and credit cards that will track and categorize every transaction. Maybe you’ll realize you’re spending $30 a month on subscriptions you don’t even use, or that your grocery budget is way more than you thought it was. Knowledge is power, and with detailed knowledge of your spending, you can build better habits and cut out excess. For recommendations on how much of your income should go to which areas of your life, check out our how much money should I spend blog.

5. Ask for help

The burden of debt is worse if you’re suffering in silence. Talking to your friends, family, partner, or trusted mental health professional about how you want to start tackling your debt can help to make the stress more manageable. You can also talk to a financial expert, like one at Conexus, on your best path forward, and they can even help you refine your game plan. You can also talk to your creditors. It’s worth a phone call to see if any of your creditors are able to lower your interest rates, especially if you’ve been keeping up with minimum payments.

Debt is personal, so any strategy for tackling it that will work for you is the right strategy!

What debt strategy have you found success with? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

A woman is making an online purchase and is holding her credit card in her hand and entering her credit card number

The Real Cost of Carrying a Balance on a Credit Card

Do you know what it actually costs when you carry a balance on your credit card?
We’ve broken it down and even have a tool to figure out how long it might take you to pay off your balance.


Balance is a good thing… right?

Sometimes because of unexpected costs or not enough planning, you end up carrying a balance on your credit card. But what, exactly, does it cost when you don’t pay your credit cards in full each month?

Let’s start by defining a few important terms when it comes to credit:

Principal – The amount you originally borrowed. Yes, anything you spend on your credit card is borrowed money.

Interest – What your credit card charges you for the privilege of borrowing money. This is usually presented as an annual percentage rate.

Compound Interest – Interest that is added to your principal … which is then charged interest. Interest on your interest is how credit card debt can stack up so quickly.

Minimum Payment – The smallest amount of money you can pay in order to keep your credit card and not damage your credit score.

Credit Score – This is essentially a measure of how good you are at fulfilling your financial commitments. A good credit score can help you buy a house or a car, get a loan, start a business, or even get you better interest rates.

Interest grows your debt

Let’s use an example. Say you’ve got $1,000 on a credit card with a 19% interest rate. That’s not bad, right? $1,000 isn’t that much at all, and 19% is a pretty standard interest rate. So, let’s say you put $20 each month toward paying off that debt, which is an approximate minimum payment. Do you want to know how long it would take to pay that balance off? More than eight years! And what would it cost you? About $997, which is basically doubling your debt load! And that’s with only paying off your principal with no additional borrowing.

With compound interest, every dollar you leave on your credit card ends up costing you more and more. It’s a powerful thing that can be used to your advantage when it comes to saving, but that’s another blog post.

The example above is just that, an example, but you can use our repayment calculator to help you figure out exactly what your debt might cost you.

A credit card can be good

There’s an obvious solution here, right? Just don’t get a credit card!

Well … it’s not quite that simple. In order to build credit, you need to use credit. So, if you hope to own a home one day, or even get a car loan, you’ll have to work to build your credit. The best way to do this is to use your credit card and pay off the entire balance each month.

Some good tips on using credit with care are:

  • Keep your credit limit sensible
  • Use credit cards for recurring payments that are a regular part of your budget
  • Plan for larger purchases
  • Use credit cards to build good credit within your budget, not as a tool to spend more than you earn
  • If you can’t trust yourself with your cards, leave them at home

See how long it’ll take to pay off your credit card balance

Credit is an important part of your financial life, but carrying a balance, or not managing it well can lead to a struggle with debt. Try our repayment calculator and remember that debt is something that can happen to any of us, so never be embarrassed to talk about it.

Did you learn something about credit cards? Are there other questions you still have about them? Let’s talk about it in the comments.