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.

Couple reviewing how debt stacks up against other Canadians

How Does Your Debt Stack Up?

Let’s have a look at debt in Canada.
How much do people owe on average? How does it break down by age group?


Debt

Almost all of us have it, and most of us are worried about it. How does your debt compares with the rest of Canada and Saskatchewan?

What Canadians owe

Let’s start with the big picture. On average, Canadians carry about $22,000 in non-mortgage debt.

That’s everything like credit cards, lines of credit, loans, car payments, and student loans.  Now the bad news – that number spikes to nearly $24,500 in Saskatchewan. That’s like an entire part-time job’s yearly income worth of debt.

To put it another way, according to Statistics Canada, many Canadians owe $1.74 for every $1.00 of disposable income they have.

Canadians have a lot of debt.

Gen X are the most in debt

Good news for Millennials though, it’s Gen X that’s bearing the biggest debt load right now! People aged 35-54 on average have more than $10,000 of consumer debt alone, while those aged 18-34 have way less at about $5,600. People aged 55+ are sitting in the middle with an average consumer debt of around $9,000. And this is all just consumer debt, or the debt that comes from buying stuff, not investing in anything like a home or your education.

One of the major factors in Canadian’s debt is probably pretty familiar to you – income is staying the same or even going down, while costs of just about everything keep rising.

D*bt happens

Whether your debt is at, above, or even below some of these averages, the real takeaway here is that struggling to stay in the black is a Canadian experience. The first step in tackling your debt should be to talk about it. In fact, one of the main reasons that it’s believed Millennial consumer debt is as low as it is right now, is that that generation has been taught to be more debt averse than others to the point that many are delaying or even rejecting home ownership.

Keep an eye out for our upcoming blogs about the real cost of a credit card balance and our top tips for paying off debt.

So, how did you stack up? Does your debt load make you feel stressed, or are you feeling a little better knowing that so many other Canadians are struggling with debt too? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Man and woman sitting on couch talking about finances

Honey, can we talk finances?

Does just the topic of finances with your significant other cause great stress in your lives?  In this blog, we will identify possible causes and how to turn “Honey, can we talk finances” from a negative to a positive.


What discussion topics are avoided in your household – politics, sex, in-laws… money??   I hear ya.  Do your money talks turn into the “Blame Game” or worse yet, don’t happen at all? Why is one of the most important things that impact our entire lives constantly being avoided?

We hear how money has been the leading cause of divorce/breakups for years but we still don’t talk about our finances as often as we should.  My co-workers laughed when I told them I wanted to name my blog “Just shut up and do it yourself” but sometimes that is exactly how we feel.   Am I right?

What’s the underlying issue?

  • Communication – Can you have an honest discussion about your financial situation without shaming, blaming or walking away? Struggling to manage one’s finances is common — but talking honestly and openly about it is not.  Do you only talk about finances when a disaster strikes?
  • Fear – Are you financial literacy savvy? What is your level of understanding? Nobody wants to look stupid or admit they don’t know.  Let’s face it, if your parents didn’t teach you and you didn’t learn it in school, how can you be expected to make informed decisions.
  • Upbringing – My parents never talked in front of us kids or taught us about finances. We had food, clothing, a roof over our heads – we never questioned how it got there. It just magically appeared. No worries. Depending on how the subject was approached or avoided in your household may impact your spending and saving habits.
  • Financial habits – Are you and your significant other financially compatible? Are you savers, spenders, or a combination? Two spenders without a plan – a harmonious relationship tend not to be had – unless you are a multi-millionaire at birth.  On the other hand, two savers might miss out on experiencing life.
  • Goals – Are you in it together? Do you have the same goals – homeowner, kids, early retirement? Do you share all the responsibilities and decisions or do you divide and conquer?

How can we fix this? 

  1. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate!
  • Commit to a time with no interruptions to discuss life goals – short and long term. What do you truly want out of life?  What is your current situation?  What is in the past is in the past; deal with the here and now.   Keep calm at all costs.  Experts suggest you do so on your 3rd date as this conversation is just as important as the marriage and children talk.
  1. Plan. Plan. Plan!
  • Schedule a monthly review of your short term finances:
    • Are all the bills paid and needs met – food, shelter, clothing?
    • Do you have any upcoming expenses – car repairs, insurance, taxes, dentist, renos?
    • Make a budget: don’t make it too restricted or you won’t stick to it. Factor in some fun and “nice to have’s” and an emergency fund for life’s uh oh’s.
  • Schedule a yearly review to look at the bigger picture, long term goals – buying a house, having kids/having more kids, investments, retirement. Definitely review sooner if you experience a life-changing situation.
  • Schedule a financial health checkup with a professional financial advisor at your financial institution. They will be able to ensure you are on track to meeting your goals and can also be useful mediators if need be.
  1. Educate. Educate. Educate!
  • Knowledge is money. We don’t deal with things when we don’t know anything about them or we make bad decisions. Pick a financial product and research it, attend workshops, watch YouTube, read more of our blogs or visit our website.  There is lots of great info and tools at your fingertips.
  1. Teach. Teach. Teach!
  • Talk to your children about finances, don’t exclude them.  You don’t have to divulge everything but your decisions do impact them. Teach them the basics and help arm the next generation with the tools they need to be financially successful.  Who knows you might be in their care in the future.  Make sure it is a nice place.

At the end of the day, talking to your spouse or significant other about your finances is important early on and continually throughout your relationship.  Don’t forget!!

Haven’t had a #moneytalk in a while!  What are you waiting for?  Schedule your talk now!!

What advice do you have to make the #moneytalk easier?  Share with us by commenting below.  We would love to hear them.

girl and boy with arms around each other staring at front door of their home

Expenses of homeownership

The cost to own a home is more than just your mortgage payments. It also includes insurance, utilities, maintenance and more. Here are a few examples of, and advice on how to manage, costs related to owning a home.


You’ve made your down payment, you know what your mortgage payment is and when it’s coming out of your bank account – that should be it for costs for the year, right?

When my boyfriend and I bought our house, it felt like all we were doing was spending money related to our house and paying bills.  We were fortunate to have negotiated some furniture in the sale and were each bringing some pieces with us, which helped us financially, but what we didn’t realize were a lot of extra expenses, we hadn’t anticipated for.  Having lived at home with my parents for my whole life, except for when I lived in Australia, I didn’t really understand all the additional annual costs that exist when you own a house.

When it comes to homeownership, there are many expenses that may come your way, without you realizing. Here are a few examples, and advice on managing these expenses, from my personal experience.

Expenses you don’t have a choice about

  • House insurance – protected for the unexpected: If you own a house, you need house insurance which will protect you if something bad were to happen such as a fire or flood. Even if it wasn’t a requirement of a mortgage, which it is, you definitely want to have house insurance in place and ensure you’re continually renewing your insurance so that you’re covered if the unexpected were to happen. Tip: You can set up a separate bank account to transfer money into every month so when your insurance comes due, you have the money ready to pay it.
  • Property taxes – we have to pay to play: Every year, you’re required to pay an assessed amount to the city or town you live in. This money goes to help pay for education, libraries, road repairs, and other city/town projects. For more information check out https://www.saskatchewan.ca/government/municipal-administration/taxation-and-service-fees/municipal-property-tax-tools. Tip: Paying a lump sum can be tough, but in Regina and Saskatoon, you have the option to pay monthly instalments through the TIIPS program which can make it a bit easier. If monthly payments aren’t an option for you, set money aside each month into a separate account, helping you to save and prepare for the large annual expense.
  • Utilities – keeping the lights on and water running: Water and heat are essential and typically when you move into your new home you’ll have to pay a fee to install these services. Additionally, as a first-time homeowner, you may be required to pay a deposit for your utilities. Tip: Prior to moving into your home, contact your local utility companies to schedule these services and ask what fees they charge for installation. Be sure to add these expenses into your budget for the month you move in.

Expenses you may not expect

  • Water softener – I prefer soft hair: Depending where you live in Saskatchewan and whether it’s a new build or not, your new house may not come with a water softener. A water softner is optional, and if you prefer to have one there are several options available to you: rent, finance or buy. All three have benefits and it’s comes down to what will best fit your needs.
  • Water heater – what’s an anode rod?: You have hot water every time you turn on the tap. That should be all you have to worry about, yes? What some don’t realize is there’s annual maintenance that needs to be done to keep you enjoying those hot bubble baths. Although some things you can do yourself, sometimes its best to leave it to the pros if you’re not too handy, and call in a professional to do the maintenance work, which will be an additional annual expense for you.

Expenses you can choose

  • Cable and internet – Grey’s Anatomy still on and gets me every time: When we first moved in, I didn’t think we really needed anything more than a basic tv package and basic internet. While that’s true, we ended up wanting more after realizing how many great tv shows are on – thank goodness for PVR. Tip: When choosing a cable package, pick one that’s best for you and works within your budget. If needing to reduce expenses within your budget, consider re-looking at your cable package and downsizing to free up some extra money.
  • Landscaping – flowers are so pretty: Our house was a new build, so our backyard was bare at move in. After pulling all the weeds that were the size of shrubs, the first thing we did was bring in soil to raise and even out the yard, so we could lay sod, and then gravel to build a parking pad. We hired someone to build a fence – as stated earlier, some things are better left to professionals – and planted some trees in the front. We were fortunate to have friends and family help us with this, but it was an expense we hadn’t thought about. Tip: Yard maintenance will be an annual expense. Save money throughout the year to help cover yard maintenance costs including unexpected costs like having to replant trees in the front because the rabbits got to them.

These are just a few examples of homeownership expenses I’ve come across in the last year. There are many other expenses, such as home maintenance, and it’s crucial to budget for these costs – especially the ones you don’t have a choice about first -so that you have a realistic idea of what you can afford and are prepared when these expenses are incurred. This is especially true for those months that you will have a bigger payment like your insurance or property taxes, etc.

Are you a homeowner? What are some expenses you’ve come across that you may not have anticipated? What advice do you have for first-time homebuyers? Share with me in the comments below so I can learn more and proactively prepare.

engaged couple holding a sign that says I said yes!

I’m engaged! Now what?

Being newly engaged is such an exciting time and an important part of the wedding milestone. But it’s important to put down all the wedding magazines and hold booking venues, to take some time to enjoy the engagement bliss and focus on your wedding budget with your partner first.


Congratulations! Now it’s time to freak out

Your turn has come where you’re finally engaged to be married and the first few moments are blissful and celebratory. Before you know it, the champagne flutes are empty and your Pinterest board has more pins than a sewing kit. It doesn’t take you long for the stress to kick in and you start asking yourself, ‘How am I ever going to afford my dream wedding?’

Hit pause

In the first month after you get engaged, it’s very important to take time to let these special moments soak in and avoid making big decisions. Instead, talk to your partner and discuss one-on-one what you both want your wedding to look like. This can be a challenge, especially as you may be tempted to make decisions right away and people are asking you every day if you’ve started planning. To avoid these inevitable questions have a planned response such as, “We haven’t started planning much, but we’re thinking a small wedding sometime next summer.” This will usually end the conversation without being rude or opening yourself up to outside opinions – trust me, you’ll get them.

Start the budget

Warning: you’ll want to sit down for this.

Now that you’ve taken time to soak up the first part of the engagement and have those crucial conversations with your partner on what you want your wedding day to look like, it’s time to get started with wedding planning. Before deciding on a venue, guests, or what your flowers will look like, you’ll first need to tackle setting a budget for your special day. It can be a lot and I recommend taking it one step at a time as to avoid feeling overwhelmed – start with these 3 steps:

  1. Decide on a wedding budget – This can sometimes start with conversations on who else would be contributing to your wedding and what dollar amount they are putting in. From there you will know how much will be coming out of your own pocket. Make sure your budget includes everything from rings, gifts, to finally the honeymoon. It’s also important to leave a 5% – 10% contingency in case you go over.
  2. List your priorities – Decide what’s most important to you as a couple. Is it food? Then spend more on food. Maybe it’s music – be willing to spend more on entertainment. If it’s just simply having everyone there, the more people usually come with a bigger price tag so you’ll need to compromise on other items, like no dinner and instead do a canapé hour.
  3. Get a budgeting tool – I like using Wedding Wire Budget Planner because it tracks all my categories for spending, tallies the costs against my total decided budget and sends reminders for payments. The biggest mistake you can make is not tracking your spending and costs get out of control pushing you off budget.

Now that your budget and priorities are decided the fun stuff can begin! Start doing your research on venues and vendors and try to stay calm when you see price quotes come back – that’s why you made a budget at the start. The fact is, weddings are expensive and the average cost of a Canadian wedding in 2018 was $27,000, but this doesn’t mean that’s what your wedding needs to cost. Don’t get hung up on what other people are doing and instead focus on what is right for you as a couple and what fits within your budget.

Are you married or getting married? I’d love to know what your wedding budget was/is as well as any challenges you had when it came to your budget and costs related to your wedding. As well, do you have any wedding cost saving tips? Comment below to share and be sure to check back soon for future wedding advice and tip blogs.

race track with lanes three and four

7 simple ways to improve your finances

Improving your financial situation won’t happen overnight and requires behavioural changes, patience and time. Here are seven ways you can improve your finances.


How can I improve my finances? A question many of us often ask ourselves. The answer? This lies somewhere between our intentions and the actions, we take. We’re all guilty of it – saying this is going to be the day, the month, the year where we spend less and save more. But the truth is, we often don’t live up to that. Why? It’s simple, our intentions don’t match our actions – we don’t actually take the steps (actions) to make the change and continue to tell ourselves tomorrow will be a new day.

Often the reasons for not taking action is because we don’t have the resources, knowledge or mindset to make the change. Here are 7 simple tips to help you bridge that gap:

1. Stop making excuses

Often, we use excuses as a crutch to get out of doing something – especially when we’re running late or don’t want to go to the gym! This is often also the case when it comes to being in control of our finances. Saying things such as, “banking is too confusing” or “I don’t know where to start.”

The first step to improving your finances is to stop making excuses. If you’re unsure where to start or think it’s too confusing, reach out to your Financial Advisor to start the conversation and set goals. Further your knowledge by challenging yourself weekly to learn about a new financial topic – you can find many resources at your local library, online and don’t forget about our #MONEYTALK blog!

2. Set limits on your purchases

Purchases have become very thoughtless in today’s world – it’s as simple as a quick tap of your card. Although this has many advantages, it also makes it very easy to lose track of how much you are spending.

By creating a budget and setting spending limits, you can stay in control of your spending. For example, if you eat out often, set a goal to only eat out twice this month. By doing this, it becomes something you can keep yourself accountable to – tip: tell a friend or take on this challenge with someone else, this way you can support each other and help each other be accountable.

3. Set savings goals

Setting saving goals is soooo important! If you don’t know what or why you are saving it can become very easy to give in to temptations and spend money. By having a goal in mind, you feel as though you are working towards something and gives you that sense of accomplishment once you achieve it.

Here are some simple goals to help you get started: saving for a planned vacation, having enough money to cover 3 months expenses, and saving 10% a month at least once a quarter. A good tip to help you follow through – automate your savings.

4. Pay off debt

Debt happens, and almost everyone carries some level of debt – but learning to manage it is important. Only take on debt that you can manage, and set expectations on how you’ll build debt payments into your budget.

Remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Here is a great read on success habits for paying off debt.

5. Think long-term

Don’t let your short-term thinking, undermine your long-term success.

Short-term goals are great. They are often what help kick start you into improving your financial situation because you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, if you only make short-term decisions, you might be hurting your long-term success.

Create long-term goals for your future such as saving for retirement, and then set short-term goals (milestones) to help you reach these long-term goals – for example, placing $50/month into your child’s RESP and $50/month into an RRSP. Doing so, helps you to stay motivated as you’ll be continually working at and achieving your smaller goals, all while working towards your long-term goals.

6. Be realistic

Improving your financial situation isn’t going to happen overnight, similar to how it’s unlikely to lose 10 pounds overnight (unless you have a really nasty flu, which is a whole other conversation). Having this type of mindset is only going to set you up for failure. Creating habits and working at it over time is what will set you up for success.

Part of being realistic is giving yourself allowances. Improving your financial situation doesn’t mean your life is over. You can still spend money on a night out with friends or go to the movies – the difference is how you plan for it such as building it into your budget. Setting aside “fun money” can be a great tactic for allowing yourself to still have fun, while sticking to your budget.

7. Experiment

There’s no-one-size-fits all solution when it comes to your money. Everyone’s situation is different and what works for one person may not work for another. Finding what works best for you is going to ensure you are successful.

What does that mean? Try different savings tactics such as automatic savings or spending challenges. A couple of tactics that work well for me is having “no spend months” and setting short term goals that will help me reach my long-term goals.

 

We all have the power to improve our financial well-being, the question is, are we going to act on it? This Tedx Talk on 3 psychological tricks to help you save money, highlights that what we all really might need is just a change in perspective.

What are some ways you’ve been able to improve your finances? I am always up for trying new tricks – share with me by commenting below!