Stop Robbing Peter To Pay Paul

Many of us have been there – we really want something, but don’t have the cash to pay for it. So what’s the harm in putting it on our credit card? And maybe at the end of the month we may not have enough money to pay it off, but you tell yourself “that’s a future you problem”. Fast forward to the end of the month and it turns out you were right, you don’t have enough money in your account to pay your credit card bill. What do you do now? There are many different options that can make sure you can pay for it and you are avoiding the cycle of borrowing from one place to pay for another debt. 


Beware of Shark Infested Water

You’ve seen them popping up everywhere – on the corner, on your TV and in your mailbox: Payday Loan Companies are always there ready to “help” you out with that short term loan, but how much is that “helpful” loan costing you in the end? The answer is… a lot! The annual interest rate on a $300 14-day payday loan from Money Mart in SK is 443.21% at a rate of $17 per $100 borrowed. So that means that your $300 loan will actually cost you $51 and the total amount owed will be $351. For 7% of Canadians, this is an avenue they have gone down and it can be very difficult to get out of the cycle. The best advice? Avoid payday loans entirely.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

A revolving line of credit, when used properly, can provide peace of mind as you are aware that you will have access to funds if you need them. They can definitely be beneficial, but the goal should not be to be use it every month and should never be included as available money in your budget. It should be used as a safety net and something you access as a last resort because you do pay interest on the amount that you use.

Have you ever been stuck in a revolving door?

Would you borrow from your grandma to pay your friend back? Then borrow from another friend to pay your grandma back… and then borrow from… I think you see where I’m going with this.

You’re literally borrowing from one person to pay the other and it has the potential to be a never-ending cycle. The same is true when you take a cash advance from your credit card to pay for something. You are being charged interest as soon as you borrow the money and are left trying to figure out how to pay it back when you didn’t have the money in the first place to buy what you wanted. You can check out Francis’ blog to learn more about Cash Advances.

I could have cruised to Australia for that amount.

If you can’t pay off your credit card every month, you should at least be making the minimum payment. That’s probably good enough, right? The credit card company must be trying to help you if they put a minimum payment on there, right? No, they’re not. While paying the minimum is important, it is the bare minimum you should be doing and doing that will not get you that far ahead.

Here’s an example to show why this is true:

You decide to go on a $2,500 vacation, but you’re going to put it on your credit card and pay the minimum balance. It shouldn’t take that long to pay it off and it won’t cost too much, right? Not quite. It will actually take 334 months to pay it off and the total cost of the trip will be $8,400! WHAT?! Yup, of the $50 minimum payment, only $12 goes to principle.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never taken a vacation that was worth triple for what I paid for it.

Using credit cards is very common for Canadians, with 92% saying they use their card every month, so it’s important to know as much as possible about them. Here are some stats about credit cards you may not be aware of:

  • One in seven Canadians use credit to buy daily essentials such as groceries because they are short on cash.
    • Nearly one in ten admit to being impulsive shoppers, which leads to buying things they cannot afford.
  • More than two in three Canadians don’t know that credit card interest is calculated daily on the balance and one in three Canadians admit they were somewhat unlikely or unlikely to make the minimum credit card payment
  • Transunion identifies the average credit card balance as $4,265 in Canada.

At the end of the day, or month, you want to make sure that you are borrowing wisely and making the best decision for you and your financial well-being. The best choice is always to have the cash to pay for something. There are benefits to using credit cards such as building your credit score and some cards have great perks. However, if you aren’t able to pay off your card in full each month, it negates the benefits you will have gained.

Some tips to break the borrowing cycle:

  • Shop around and understand the terms and conditions before you sign the loan contract. Specifically, look for interest rates and the repercussions of missing a payment.
  • Don’t use your credit card to spend more money than you have. It should be used as a tool to help you make purchases that are within your budget.
  • Save up for bigger purchases rather than purchasing on your credit card. Once you have enough cash, purchase it on your credit card to take advantage of points perks but make sure to pay that off immediately.
  • Pay your credit card balance every month in full. If this isn’t possible, shrink the amount of times you pull out your credit card and increase the amount you use your debit card.
  • Don’t use your credit card to take out cash. This is known as a cash advance and works differently than a purchase made on your credit card. The biggest difference is that interest is calculated the moment the money comes out of ATM until it’s paid back.
  • DO NOT use payday loans. Ever.

With the Holiday season coming, it’s really important to make sure you’re borrowing wisely, but also that you’re spending wisely too. Checking out Courtney’s blog about Christmas Budgeting will give you some great tips on how to stay within what you can afford this Christmas. And don’t forget that Giving the Gift of Time and DIY Gifts are two great options too! Have any advice of your own? List it below!

How TO Fall for a Scam

Yes, you read that right. Fraud is not new and is something that’s been around for a long time – we all know a family member, friend or co-worker who has fallen victim to a scam. We all think “it will never happen to me” but it’s easier than you think to fall for a fraudster. Let’s take a look at how it can happen.   


With ever-growing technology, we’re seeing an increase in the number of scams out there and between 2014-2016, it’s estimated Canadians lost over $290 million to fraudsters. Scams and fraud can originate through a variety of different channels including phone, email and social media, and some of the top scams include romance scams, income tax extortion scams and phishing.  

 Here are a few tips on how to protect your information and detect one of the scams out there: 

Caught in a bad romance 

 Gone are the days of having to go to the bar or local hangout to meet that special someone. With the growth of technology, many relationships nowadays are starting online. 

Unfortunately, this has also caused an increase in romance scams and, in 2018, Canadians lost more than $22.5 million to this type of scam. That’s a lot of money that could have paid for heartbreak chocolate and ice cream.

A romance scams usually starts with a fake profile on an online dating site or social network and the scammer pretends to be someone they’re not by using a fake name, photos, etc. The scammer will build a fake relationship with you over a short period of time and often professes their love for you early on. Just as the ‘relationship’ is getting ‘serious’, your new bae will have a financial emergency such as a health issue or wants to visit you in person and needs you to send money. After you’ve sent the money, they’ll continue to ask for more… and more… or they’ll stop communicating with you altogether.  

Don’t let love blind you and use these tips to protect your money and your heart. 

  • Look at the photo – does it look real? Many scammers use photos from the web for their profiles.  Check to see if the photo is real, not stolen, by doing a reverse image lookup 
  • If the person can never video chat or keeps finding excuses not to meet up, it’s probably because they aren’t who they say they are. This is called “catfishing”. 
  • Never… ever… under any circumstances send them money for any reason, especially if you have never met them in person.  

Congradulations! Your our sweapstakes winner! 

Phishing is a common type of fraud that often comes in the form of a prize, threats such as your bank account being locked and you must take immediate action to open it, or a refund due to an overpayment on your account. Scammers will use a variety of channels including phone & text, email and fake websites.    

Don’t take the bait and follow these tips to recognize when you’re being phished: 

  • Most scam emails and texts contain spelling errors, bad grammar or altered logos. At first glance, it may look real, but upon further inspection something may be wrong like the sub-heading above. Did you notice the spelling errors in our heading or did you have to scroll back up for a second glance? 
  • Check the link before clicking on it by holding your cursor over link to display the full URL. If it looks suspicious, it probably is. Instead, contact the company directly or visit its website to confirm if any actions are required from you. 
  • Beware of urgent or threatening language. Causing a sense of urgency or fear is a common phishing tactic in order to draw an impulsive decision from you. 

No one cares that your first cat’s name was Fluffy 

 Raise your hand if you’ve seen a quiz or survey filled out by one of your friends pop up in your social media feed. Now raise your hand again if you’ve ever done one of these quizzes or surveys and shared with your followers.  

I’m also guilty.

With social media, we’re seeing more than ever people sharing information about themselves online.  Yes, it may be fun to reminisce on your past and share all the things you love such as the name of your first pet or the make of your first car, but you know who also loves this information… scammers! 

Sharing this info can be a goldmine for hackers and fraudsters as it helps them build their knowledge of information about you even more. A lot of the time, we also choose security questions for our different accounts related to the answers of these questions, putting us at further risk of being hacked.  This also allows fraudsters to build a profile around you so that they can confidently walk into a bank and pretend to be you. 

Reduce the risk and stop oversharing information about yourself on social media as well as: 

  • Choose security questions and answers that can’t easily be guessed. Your mother’s maiden name may be an easy one for you to remember, but it’s also an easy one for fraudsters to google. 
  • Don’t share photos of your personal and financial information such as your driver’s license or new credit card.
  • If going away on vacation, don’t share details on social media before you go or while you’re there. Doing so is equivalent to saying “I’m not home right now, please feel free to come break in and steal my stuff, especially the new TV I just posted on Instagram.”
  • Make your accounts and posts private so that only those you know and trust can see what you’re up to. Don’t be afraid to prune the friend-tree every once and a while. If you don’t know what someone has been up to in a while, you also have no idea if their account has been hacked.

The sophistication of fraudsters is increasing and as organizations raise the bar on security, fraudsters up their tactics to try and trick us into giving them information and our money. For more information about protecting yourself from fraud and to learn about different scams out there, visit https://www.canada.ca/en/services/finance/fraud.html 


Ever fallen victim to a fraudster or know someone who has? Comment below with how they tricked you to save someone else!

The Gift Of Goals & How To Reach Them

Tis’ the season for spending.  If it’s not school textbooks and parking passes, then it’s hockey fees and new skates for the kids. If you’re like me, you’ve already caught the holiday fever and you’re shopping for gifts and baking supplies. Among all this spending on others during this time of year there is one person we forget to include – ourselves. It’s important to make sure we are giving ourselves the gift of time and effort by setting up some of our own financial goals.


Make a List. Check it Twice.

Setting financial goals and how you plan to achieve them is an essential part of financial literacy. But how do you get started?

The easiest way to get started is by making a list. This study on goal setting found that we are 42% more likely to achieve our goals when we write them down. Don’t let bad hand writing stop you, writing down your goals can come in many forms; write in a notebook, type it into the notes section on your phone or save a spreadsheet. Don’t be afraid to get creative! What works well for me is to attach sticky notes on the fridge beside my grocery list. I find that with the amount of times I open the fridge, I’m constantly being reminded of my financial goals and it really helps when you are taking inventory of what you need to buy for groceries.

Your financial goals and how you plan to attack them are unique to you, so why wouldn’t the way you write them down be?  If all it takes to get some motivation to increase your chances of achieving your goals is by writing down a list then that is ink put to good use!

I’m also a big list person and to show you how serious I am about them,  I am going to give you some tips I’ve learned for setting financial goals in, you guessed it – a list!

Try These Tips!

Create SMART goals:

Setting goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely gives you a sense of direction, helps you organize and track your progress.

Set ‘sub goals’:

Achieving a long term goal can seem overwhelming when you look at it as a whole. Break it down by setting smaller goals that contribute to the long term. Achieving these help you see the progress you are making and keep up the motivation to continue working towards the larger goal. We all know there are times we need a little extra motivation so it’s important to acknowledge and celebrate achieving the smaller goals along the way.

Share your goals:

Sharing is caring right? By telling a friend or a family member our goals helps motivate us and holds us accountable. I might be slightly more competitive than the average person, but telling others makes me want to do anything not to fail, not only for myself but for them too. The same study referenced above showed that over 70% of participants who shared their progress on their goals with a friend actually accomplished or made significant steps toward accomplishing their goals. Bring on the goal gossip!

Speak to a financial advisor:

When in doubt, speak to someone who helps set financial goals for a living – a financial advisor. They are able to provide advice and different solutions you may have never thought of. They will also be a cheerleader in your corner and hold you accountable in your progress.

Check and cheer:

Make sure you monitor your progress, keep an eye on your current status and be open to adapting as your needs change. When you do reach that goal (big or small) – CELEBRATE! You’ve put a lot of time, preparation and thought into getting yourself into a better position financially so celebrate that feeling when you’ve saved enough for a hot vacation and can still afford groceries! For me, one of the best feelings I’ve had was when I was finally able to put a down payment on my house while leaving enough budget to furnish the place. Trust me – it’s worth it!


Now that you have the tools you need it’s up to you to get started! There is no better time than now to give yourself the gift of financial goal setting, especially during the high spend season!

In the spirit of sharing, we want to hear what tips have worked for you with your financial goal setting? Help the rest of us out!

How Take-Out Almost Took Out My Budget

With so many options for ordering meals via delivery, it’s becoming increasingly hard to resist the convenience of take-out and maintaining the discipline to stick to your meal prepping schedule. Let’s look at a real-life example of how creating and sticking to a budget can save your bank account from landing in the trash with your leftover to-go containers. 


Step One is Admitting the Problem

Hello, my name is Mason and I’m a recovering take-out-aholic.

I used to eat out an embarrassing amount. If I were to get married tomorrow, my Uber Eats driver would be the best man at my wedding. Okay, maybe not – but for a couple of years, unless I had access to a free meal, I was likely getting food delivered to my home or picking it up at lunch time. It’s a dangerous habit that I would justify by saying “I’m saving so much time not having to worry about buying groceries, cooking and doing the dishes after”. The number one question I would get was “How do you even afford this?” Good question. Back then, I had a tenant that was basically paying for my mortgage payments and as a single guy who doesn’t really travel or shop a ton (exciting life hey?), this seemed manageable at the time.

One blessed day, my addiction hit rock bottom. Let’s just say that you’ve never really experienced shame until you’ve had the same Skip the Dishes driver twice in the same day. This was the epiphany I needed to take a hard look at how much I was spending per meal and think about all of the other places where that money could be allocated. The problem was that I didn’t even know how much money I was letting drain from my bank account. I was blindly swiping my card two-three times a day without any idea of the impact this would have on my monthly expenses. So where do you even begin to get things under control? It all starts with a budget.

Basic Budgeting Facts

We throw the term “budget” around quite loosely as a noun and a verb, but budgeting is simply taking the time to identify how much money your household can afford to save each month. In essence, it is the process of mapping out whether you have enough income to cover your monthly expenses and how you plan on allocating the remaining money left over. For you, it may mean making sure you have enough to pay for your kids’ piano lessons or education. For me, it means making sure I can afford to pay for a cable bill to support my fantasy football obsession. 

According to this study, just over 60% of Canadians use a budget, though, 32% of Canadians said their income does not always cover their living expenses and 13% said they’ve borrowed to make ends meet. I was one of the 40% who did not use a budget and was not tracking where my money was being spent without any guidelines around where my money should be going. I did a little bit of digging and this same study broke down recommended percentages of spending:

Recommended percentages of spending:

  • Housing – 30-40%
  • Transportation – 10-20% 
  • Living Expenses – 20-30% 
  • Debt Repayment – 10-20% 
  • Savings – 10%+ 

After tracking a month of my spending, I realized that my percentages were all out of whack. Outside of paying a small amount towards pension, the entire recommended 10% of Savings were inflating my Living Expenses and I was up to 60% thanks to my dependence on delivery. I knew something had to change and after a few months of being really intentional in my spending and eating habits, I shrunk my monthly spending on meals by over 40% and $600! Here’s some tips I learned along the way:

Weekly Meal Prepping Pays Off

Part of the reason I was eating out so much was to save myself from the time it takes to buy the groceries, prepare the meal and then do the dishes. It can also be expensive to cook for one person (check out our Cost of Being Single blog) because of grocery sizes and a lot of recipes are for more than one person. One of the best purchases I ever made was an Instant Pot that allows me to create easy recipes with large portions in a short amount of time. This allows me to do all of my meal prepping on Sunday and I don’t have to spend any time during the week preparing or cleaning up after meals. Think about it: if you are spending $20 on a portion where you can get 3-4 meals out of it instead of spending $20 on one take-out meal, you are saving up to $60! No wonder my living expenses were so high!

Ask For The Receipt

I get it. When the cashier asked “Do you need a receipt?” it’s so much easier to say “No thanks” and watch them crumple it up on your way out the door. I’ve learned that holding onto the receipt and making sure it’s added to your budget spreadsheet not only holds you accountable to your spending, but also saves you in the long run. Tracking your spending throughout the month and comparing it to your budget will help show you where you’re on track, may be under budget and where you may need to refrain from spending due to almost reaching your budget. When your mind tries to trick you into ordering out on a Sunday night, you’ll have the budget numbers to rationalize staying on budget.

If you have a significant other that you share expenses with, be sure to create your budget together. This ensures you’re on the same page when it comes to the money you’re generating and spending. It’s not a bad thing to have the other person holding you accountable either! 

Leave Room for Buffer, Not Guilt

If you are dramatically changing your habits, it’s not going to happen over night. Whether you have a busy week or a night where you need to recharge, you may have no choice but to order delivery. Leave a buffer in your budget for those unexpected expenses to make sure you have a realistic picture of how much you’ll spend in a month and so you aren’t feeling guilty that your saving progress has all been lost. 

You know what the say, “Old habits die hard” and it’s true. However, it’s hard not to be motivated when a budget shows you just how much money you are saving. Sometimes all it takes to make a major life change is to just start with a budget.


Do you have any tips to keep your budget numbers low?! Share them below!

The Key To Basic Savings

 Savings. We all know we should have them, but it’s hard. We’ve got bills to pay, lives to lead, and we’re bombarded every day with cool new stuff we could buy. So how exactly do you become one of those people with savings?


The “End of the Month” Trap

You’ve been there, right? “I’ll save whatever money is left over at the end of the month. Of course I will!” No. You won’t. Almost none of us can manage this strategy. You need to build your savings into your budget, and they need to come off your paycheque first, or after essential bills. Put that money somewhere that isn’t your chequing account. Most credit unions and financial institutions offer automatic savings programs you can set up so that you don’t even have to remember to save, it just happens. If you set it up so that the money comes out of your account the same day you get paid, it’s like it was never there at all.

How Much to Save

Where do you even start? A good amount to start with is 10% of your monthly earnings at least once every three months. So, if you make $2,000 per month after tax, you should be saving $200 every three months (about $67 each month or $17 each week). If you can save more, that’s great – but this is a great jumping off point that can help you get started with good savings behaviour.

Find Your Motivation

If you’ve struggled to save money, it can be helpful to have a goal in mind. An emergency fund is a good goal. What does that even mean? How much was your last big car repair or other unexpected expense? Start with a goal of saving that much. Another excellent goal is three months of living expenses. Imagine how comfortable you could be knowing that you can support yourself during a challenging time in your life such as job loss, injury or a family emergency. Every little bit matters, so don’t be afraid to start small.

Keep it Visible

Whether it’s a jar you stash your tips in, or a savings account, make sure you can see that money without difficulty. Watching that number rise or that jar fill up will help you stay motivated and see the progress you’re making, even if you feel like you’re only saving a tiny bit each month. To remove the temptation to spend, it is a good idea to regularly transfer your jar savings into a savings account.

Start Today

The best time to start saving was whenever you first got an allowance or income … the second-best time is today! Open a savings account or get a jar and put five bucks in there. Start with that and start today. Make saving a habit and you’ll be rewarded with lower stress and a comfortable future where you can handle a lot more with your financial safety net. Start with these easy tips and soon you’ll be one of those people with savings.


What savings strategy to you swear by? List it below!

What Does it Really Mean to Pay Yourself First?

If you’ve heard the phrase Pay Yourself First before and never really understood what that means, you’re in the right place. It’s one of the phrases that comes up a lot when talking about saving, investing, or even just budgeting. It’s a simple strategy, but one that needs a bit of explanation to make the most of it.


Pay Your Future Self

A good way to think about the Pay Yourself First strategy is to remember that you aren’t paying the you that wants a venti coconut milk chai latte (extra hot) right now, but the you a year or so down the road who needs money for an unexpected car repair, moving to a new apartment, buying a house, or retirement. You’re paying the future you.

These Payments Come First

So, if you’re paying your future self first, does that mean you ignore your bills and have zero fun ever? No. Putting priority on your future self just means that you adjust your budgets in a way that these savings or investments happen before anything else. Ideally, they come off your paycheque on payday. This could mean a bit less money right now but saving shouldn’t be painful or make you antisocial. It might just mean more potlucks and less dinners out.

Make Regular, Consistent Savings

Paying yourself first should be easy to manage, once you get it set up. Automatic contributions and savings programs are your best friend in this strategy. After you’ve figured out how much you can save from each paycheque, you won’t have to touch these numbers unless there is a change in your income or expenses. Need help figuring out how much you can save from each paycheque? Here’s your guide to creating a budget.

Self-starter? Set up your own savings schedule by opening a separate account, preferably one where you can earn high interest, that you only make deposits into. Make bi-weekly or monthly contributions and do not use this account for paying bills or spending money, this is strictly for the future you.

You Might Already Be Paying Yourself First

Some employers have group Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs), or other investment or savings opportunities that can come right off your paycheque before you even get it. If you’re participating in a plan like this, congrats! You’ve already started to pay yourself first.

The Payoff is Security

Paying yourself first can be a tough habit to get into because you don’t get to enjoy that money right now. There’s no immediate payoff (unless you’re really into watching a number on a screen get bigger every month). The payoff comes when you have an emergency you can handle without going into debt, or not needing a loan because you can pay for a newer car up front, or having an entire down payment for a house, or knowing you can live well in retirement. It’s security, and yes, money can buy that, so start paying yourself first.


Paying yourself first isn’t so bad. Any advice on how you fend off impulse buys and practice paying yourself first? Tell us how what you do to pay the future you!

Condo or condon’t? Is condo living right for you?

Purchasing a house is a huge decision and choosing the type of home you buy adds a whole other layer. Let’s break down all things condos so that you can make sure you think about all the options because after all, you’re the one who will have to live with it – or in this case, in it.


Are you currently considering purchasing a home for the first time? Or are you possibly looking to downsize from a house to a condo? Before making a purchase, especially one as big as a house, it’s important to weigh all the pros and cons. As a current condo owner for the past three years, I’ve started a list of things to consider to help you decide if condo life is right for your lifestyle.

Condo Pros

Condo living comes with a lot of pros – here are some that I would consider positive:

  • Low Maintenance – Condos usually come with snow removal and landscaping built into condo fees.
  • Affordability – Condos tend to be lower in price and newer, so you get more bang for your buck.
  • Amenities – If you get lucky, your condo could have access to some extra amenities, such as a pool, fitness centre, clubhouse, meeting space, BBQ, underground parking, gated community park, etc. These extra amenities could also help you save money on other expenses, like no gym membership or sharing a BBQ.
  • Less Hidden Costs – What you see is what you get with a condo. There are usually no extra costs when it comes to shingle repair, deck, landscaping, etc.
  • Location, Location, Location – Many condos are located close to downtown or commercial developments so you’re usually within walking distance to city attractions.
  • Size – Bigger doesn’t have to be better, especially when it comes to cleaning a big house or buying furniture to fill it. Depending on the condo, they usually give you a good size designed for comfortable living for families while allowing space for storage.
  • Utility Savings – Sometimes utility costs are built into your condo fees which means you share utility costs with your fellow tenants. This can be a blessing or a curse (depending if you have neighbours who love to take 45 minute showers), but by sharing utility costs – you avoid having to pay setup and maintenance fees. You also don’t have to worry about paying multiple bills during the month.
  • Board Experience – Each condo building typically has a Condo Board that makes decisions for your facility like the use of your reserve fund and any increases/decreases to your condo fees. If you are looking to gain Board experience, this is a great place to start while also having a say in what happens in your neighborhood.

Condo Cons

Here are some of the cons that come with condo living that I would suggest you consider before committing to a condo:

  • Close Quarters – You’re usually sharing walls with neighbours resulting in loud distributions and lack of privacy. I used to live beside a neighbour who had a dog that really missed them when they got home from their nightly shift work at 4:00 a.m.
  • Difficulty Re-Selling – Depending on the market, a condo can generally take longer to sell since condo living is not for everyone, market saturation or too many condos are on the re-sale market.
  • Lack of Back Yard – One luxury I wish I had access to would be a bigger back yard. I do have something (and by “something” I mean a strip of shared grass), but it is tough to entertain during the summer when you don’t have access to a large lawn or privacy from your neighbours.
  • Rules – Condos tend to have set rules that vary per condo like “quiet time”, no pets, renovation restrictions, no smoking, etc. unlike living in a stand along home where you are generally free to do what you want to do.
  • Condo Fees – As mentioned in the pros, condos come with condo fees that go towards the building upkeep, shared utilities such as hydro, electric, grounds keeping and a reserve fund for emergencies (although this could be considered a positive – yay for savings!). The older your condo building is, the higher your condo fees can be as there is generally an uptick in the amount of upkeep needed for the building.

When purchasing a home, I highly recommend making a good ol’ fashioned pro and con list for each separate property because it’s highly unlikely you will find a home that has absolutely everything and a list will help weigh your options so you can find out what you can live with and what you can’t live without.


Do you or have you lived in a condo and have any pros and cons to consider? Comment below!

Cracking open the books and not the piggy bank

School is officially back in session – where did summer go?! For some of us ‘older folks’, our university days are a distant memory (some good and some maybe not so good) and like every life moment, they provided us lessons along the way. If you were to ask me “What do you wish you would’ve known back then?”, the answer is simple – pay more attention to your money. So here’s what I wish I would’ve known back in my glory days – four clever ways post-secondary students can save. 


Whether you’re attending post-secondary as a first year, or returning to finish off your education, here are a few tips to consider that will help you manage your money and reduce financial stress.

Budgets do work

Let’s face it, adulting is hard and brings on a whole new set of responsibilities – many of which have a financial component. A budget can help you manage these financial responsibilities by allocating a certain amount of your income to your different expenses such as rent, food, education and entertainment.

As you focus time to spend on your studies, a budget also requires time from you in order to be successful. This includes taking time each month to set your budget and then track your spending to ensure you’re not spending more than you said you would. There are many tools to help you including our Budget Calculator.

Interested, but not sure where to start? Check out our blogs How much should I spend on… and Creating a budget.

Entertainment in moderation

Now I’m not going to be the #NoFunPolice and say don’t go out because that’s not realistic. Going out with friends is fun and can positively impact your well-being. My advice – in your budget, create a category for entertainment/nights out with friends and then do so in moderation as the costs can add up quite quickly. Once you’ve hit your budget for the month, reconsider a night out and see if your friends would prefer to do a night in instead.

When going out for the night with friends, here are a few ways to save and stretch the budget you’ve set:

  • Many restaurants and local bars/pubs have happy hours and different daily specials, helping you to save a few dollars on that fancy drink or food item. Take advantage of these specials because who really doesn’t love a discount such as 1/2 off appies… mmmm nachos (minus the olives – yuck).
  • For each drink you have, drink a glass of water in between and don’t order another drink until your water is done. This will help reduce the number of drinks you purchase, and better yet, help your head from hurting a bit the next morning!
  • Skip the shots! Ordering a round of shots can be quite expensive, especially if ordering multiple rounds. Yes, it may seem like a great idea at the time but once you receive your bill, you may regret that decision. Save your money and just don’t do it – again, your body will thank you the next day.
  • Be the Designated Driver (DD) for the night! If going out is a weekly thing with the same group of friends, create a rotating DD schedule. Not only will this save you money when it’s your turn, but also helps you save money on a ride home each week.

Whatever you choose to do, always remember to plan for a safe ride home – and don’t forget to include this transportation cost into your budget! #MomAdvice #BestAdvice

Take advantage of student discounts

It’s no secret, gas is expensive and parking is even worse. There are a few ways to reduce your transportation expenses including:

  1. Walking or biking, depending on how far you are away from campus;
  2. Public transportation, which several post-secondary institutions include as part of your student fees; or
  3. Carpool with your classmates, allowing you to cost share gas and parking with others. Double-win if they have the same taste in music as you do, as it can make for some great carpool karaoke sessions. ♫Everybody…. Yeah…. Rock your body…. Yeah…. ….Backstreet’s Back Alright

Use credit wisely

It may be exciting if the Saskatchewan Roughriders rack up 35 points in the first half of a game, but maybe not so much if you’re racking up your credit card. Credit cards are a great tool, if used responsibly. They should not be used as a tool to spend money you don’t have, but instead used to make purchases within your budget and help you gain credit.

It may also be tempting to apply for every credit card that comes your way, but this can do a lot of harm to your credit. Check out our Building Blocks of Credit blog to learn more – including good credit behaviours.


These are just a few tips in helping you save and manage your money while attending post-secondary school. Want more? Check out our blog, It doesn’t just need to be ramen noodles, where one of our members shares his experience and advice on managing money will being a full-time post-secondary student.

Are you, or were you, a post-secondary student? I’d love to hear other advice you have or lessons you learned – either the good way or bad way – during this life milestone. Share your experiences and advice in the comments below.

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!