Credit Cards 101

Our world is a little bit different now and so is the way you pay – less cash, more credit cards. But before you sign up for a credit card for the free stress ball or the chance to win an iPad, it is important to know why you should consider a credit card in the first place, how to choose one that is right for you, and understand how to use it.


Why Consider a Credit Card?

If you’ve been living that cash life you may have noticed a shift in preference for people and availability at retailers for a contactless transaction. If you’ve never had a credit card, you’ve probably had to rely on your parents or your friends to hold that hotel room for your annual girls trip or to simply complete your Amazon order. Here are some of the benefits of having a credit card in your wallet:

  • Opportunity to build credit
  • Make purchases online
  • Handle emergencies or unplanned expenses
  • Contactless transactions
  • Ability to put a hold on a hotel room or car rental
  • Ability to earn points and redeem for cash back, travel or merchandise
  • Purchase protection and extended warranty

Before Adding a Credit Card to Your Cart

Stress ball or iPad aside, choosing the card that is right for you is the most important part of the process. Credit cards offer a variety of different features with the key differences between being interest rates, the fees and the rewards and benefits. This page does a great job of breaking down the different factors you should consider when choosing a card:

Compare credit card interest rates

The interest rate, which is the price you pay for borrowing money, may be an important factor to you if you regularly carry a balance. Although, spoiler alert, in the tips for using a credit card section below, I’d recommend always paying your credit card bill in full on-time and avoiding carrying a balance if possible.

Compare credit card rewards and benefits

Many cards offer benefits like rental or travel insurance and rewards programs that allow you to earn and redeem points for cash back, statement balance credit, travel and accommodations or merchandise to list a few popular examples. When comparing, you’ll want to think about which are appealing to you, how often you’d use them and understand how you accumulate points and any limitations to earning the rewards and benefits. This article also includes a few examples of estimating the value of rewards and benefits to help guide you.

Compare credit card fees

Credit card fees can include anything from the annual fee (which usually means the card offers extra rewards and benefits or a lower interest rate), to cash advance fees, to inactive account fees, and more. When choosing a card, make a list of all the fees that could apply and understand which you have to pay and which ones you can avoid by learning how to use your card properly.

There is a lot to think about when choosing the card that is right for you, especially since there are so many options out there. If at any point you’re feeling overwhelmed, I would recommend reaching out to friends, family or a trusted financial advisor to get their opinions and experiences!

Tips for Using a Credit Card

Whether you are a new card user or have had a card for years, here are some tips to keep your credit card game strong:

Pay your bills on-time, in full – not just the minimum

This is something I wish I would have known when I got my very first credit card. Without knowing any better, I thought paying the minimum was standard and I’m still not quite over the fact I let my hard earned dollars go to interest simply because I didn’t understand that I would be charged on carrying a balance.

You will never pay interest if you are paying your bill on time and in full each month. Paying in full can also help you spend within your means. Want to know the real cost of carrying a balance on your credit card? Check out this blog for a breakdown of the actual cost and even better, a tool to figure out how long it might take you to pay off your balance!

Make it a routine to pay attention to your credit card bill

Review your charges – this way you can view and adjust your spending habits as well as report unauthorized charges. Rest assured, many cards have you covered with “Zero Liability” if that were to happen!

Use your card to build credit

Lenders and credit card issuers want to see how you use credit for future lending. Your credit score is determined by how you manage your card, so make purchases, make payments and take advantage of card benefits and rewards. If you display a pattern of being able to pay off your card with no issues each month over a long period of time, lenders will trust you more and will be able to offer you more credit for bigger purchases (ie: house). To learn more about the importance of credit, check out this blog for the building blocks of credit and how to use it responsibly.

Take advantage of the card benefits and rewards

You will want a card that gives you something in return – so understand the card benefits, rewards and features and take advantage! For example, if you’re earning points – use them! I personally love to use my points towards flights to feed my travel bug but while I’ve had travel on pause, I’ve been taking advantage of redeeming my points for cashback straight into my savings account! Some other options for points redemption can include a statement credit or spending them on merchandise items like gift cards to stores and restaurants. What does your card offer?

Sharing is caring, what other tips would you suggest to keep your card game strong? Comment below!

Managing Money as a New Canadian

Moving to a new country and becoming a new Canadian is incredibly intimidating. Not only do you have to know a whole new currency, you have to learn to manage it as well. This blog features a story from a new Canadian from India who breaks down what they learned by establishing their financial well-being in their brand new home. 


Humble Beginnings

On January 22, 2018, I landed in Regina as a new Canadian on a cold night with my husband and my 10-year old daughter. In 2019 alone, approximately 85,000 immigrants landed in Canada from India making it one of the main source countries for new immigrants to Canada. I am so excited to be one of them.

Our family of three came to Canada carrying around $30,000 CAD (~1.7M INR) of survival funds. We knew that if we weren’t careful, we could spend all of it in the first six months – especially if we did not secure a job so it was important to be cautious with our spending until we got our legs under us in our new country. We educated ourselves about spending money in Canada by not shying away from asking questions to colleagues, neighbours and fellow immigrants.

Little did we know, that $30,000 could quickly dwindle on things you didn’t even expect to purchase when adjusting to a different environment. For instance, the three of us had never purchased winter jackets before but it was an essential buy as we had moved midway through winter in Canada. We had a choice to make between thrifting or buying. “Frigid” would be an understatement when it comes to Saskatchewan winters so buying new jackets to last us for years was a reasonable choice.

We leased a condo apartment in the first week of us having landed in Canada. Putting cash down on a used van to ensure we were mobile and independent was also important to us. We shopped for kitchen supplies from the dollar store and our furniture shopping ended after buying a box spring and a few mattresses. We were ready to take on the world and build our new nest each day, piece by piece!

Budgeting

Finding a job as a new Canadian is hard. It took us five months to get stable jobs that covered our monthly expenses and allowed us to begin our savings again.

Being salaried employees in our previous jobs, my husband and I were well-versed in the principles of budgeting and saving for retirements and emergencies. Having a conversation about budgeting and setting strict spending rules was a great place to start. Our google spreadsheet had titles like groceries, gas, utilities and even alcohol & salon expenses. Every little detail mattered and was essential for us to plan better. We now use the Conexus Budget Calculator. This is a wonderful tool that allows you to get a clear picture of monthly expenses in percentages.

A perception survey conducted by Insightrix in 2020 stated that 62% of Saskatchewanians say money causes stress and 61% say their top financial concern is not having enough savings for emergencies. Being disciplined in saving money may seem like a hassle at the time, but it quickly transforms into hope, security and confidence as you know you are covered for emergencies and you can take comfort in the fact that you are actively contributing to your future (ie: down payment on a future home).  We have learnt over time that categorizing savings in different accounts and naming them after our goals/purposes (ie: “vacation”, “home expenses”, “miscellaneous”, “emergency”) is helpful for staying on track. Here’s a helpful tip: you can save emergency savings in a TFSA account as well as the interest earned on that account will not be taxed.

Building Our Credit

As a new Canadian, it’s important to start building your credit score as soon as possible. In most cases, the credit history you’ve built in your home country does not transfer into Canada and unless there is enough cash to pay up front for all purchases, a family will need to work towards building a decent credit score.

To get credit, you need history and to build history, you needs to get credit. This is a vicious circle!

We were lucky to get approved for basic credit cards with no annual fees under the newcomers’ program.  In cases when a financial institution does not have a program like this, you can opt for a secured credit card.

When building our credit score, doing these things helped build it up faster:

  • We ensured that we paid out the card fully every month before the due date
  • Avoided cash transactions
  • Used no more than 30% of our credit limits
  • Avoided unnecessary credit applications

Our First New Car

As we were taking baby steps towards settling here, we were yearning to buy a new car. Being avid road-trippers, getting rid of the van and buying an SUV was at the top of our list.

We thought a six-month credit history was enough and started car shopping around summer. However, we soon found out that six months was not going to cut it. After trying four different dealerships, 11 hits on our credit report and waiting for an additional three months, we managed to get a loan from Ford Credit after we accumulated nine months of credit history. We did manage to hit the road before fall with our first camping trip to Moose Mountain in our brand new black Lincoln MKX Reserve.

My experience of working in a credit union helped me understand the importance of saving and having a good credit score. However, a few things should be left to the experts. For instance, I wish we had met with an advisor for the car loan before venturing out on our own. The 11 hits on our credit report knocked our score down further and that cost us time to rebuild the credit.

Buying Our Home in Regina

Coming into a new country – you are faced with the decision: “Should I buy or rent?” Our decision depended solely on the fact that we needed stability, preferred paying a mortgage versus renting, and having a place we could call “our home”. A mortgage seemed like a better option and a better use of our savings. We used money saved from our survival funds and extra savings from our jobs for a down payment. Researching the importance of having a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) was also crucial for us. We opened our RRSP account as soon as we started working and set up direct debit contributions into the RRSP account. RRSPs can help you save for retirement, save taxes and you can withdraw from an RRSP account for a down payment under the first time Home Buyer’s Plan. This withdrawal helped us with extra wriggle room for buying new furniture and paying lawyer fees. A first-time home buyer can withdraw up to $25,000 from their RRSP account without worrying about taxes as long as they pay back the withdrawn amount within 12 years. We managed to get keys to our new home in July 2019!

We Are Still Unfinished

Financial literacy is a critical life skill. I was lucky enough to learn a lot by working for a credit union and could pass it down to my husband. We often wonder how things would have shaped up differently if my career path took me to a different profession. We try to financially educate every new Canadian we come across and try to make the transition easy for them. Our friends believe we have a story with a happy ending. We believe that we are still learning the fine skills of being financially healthy and staying on track while continuing to do what we love – traveling, camping, and living each day as it comes!

If you are a new Canadian and are on your own journey, I wish you the best of luck. If you have any questions – don’t hesitate to reach out to a Conexus financial advisor who are here to help you out, every step of the way.

Playing the Stock Market & Things to Know

Investing directly in the stock market is becoming more accessible to people and while this has its advantages – it also comes with a lot of risk. This blog breaks down what factors to keep in mind when building your investment strategy while also preparing yourself emotionally.


There are lots of reason why you may have a desire to start investing directly in the stock markets:

  • You, like many others, have thought to yourself, “If only I had bought Apple stocks in 2003” or “I wish I would have bought into Tesla or Amazon before they took off”.
  • You have heard that it’s a way to get rich quick.
  • You know of a company you believe is about to “go big” and want in on the action.
  • You know of a company that you really believe in as far as what they are building and how they are run.

Whatever the reason is, it’s important that you stop to reflect on your own reason why you want to start investing in the stock market because your motivation will often determine your strategy, and your strategy can impact not only finances, but also the emotions that come along with investing.

Are Your Emotions Prepared to Invest?

This is a good place to start because whether we like it or not, investing in the stock market can be like riding an emotional rollercoaster. Too many people start this journey without any thought or care to the emotional side of investing.

Investing on your own is not for the faint of heart, and having a good  “emotional strategy” will be just as important as having a clear “investment strategy”.

To help you understand how your emotions can play a roll, I want you to ask yourself how you might feel at the end of each scenario below:

SCENARIO #1

You open up your investment account and decide to add $1,000 to start off. You then invest your $1,000 in a company your friend told you all about that was sure to go big this year. Within a few weeks of investing you look at the market value of your account to see your money has grown to $1,800. Let’s pause there. Ask yourself, “How do you feel?” I’m assuming the answer is, “I feel pretty good,” or you’re saying to yourself, “my friend’s a genius”. Let’s continue…

SCENARIO #2

After your delight of seeing your account rise, you decide your friend’s advice was a sure win. Around the same time, you are just about to head on a two week camping trip up north. You’ve had no cell service and no way to check your account while you’re away. Upon your return home, you’re looking forward to checking in on your new investment only to find that the market value has decreased to $600. How do you feel?

In the first scenario, people usually have a feeling of euphoria, excitement and general enthusiasm. In the second scenario people share common feelings of despair and buyer’s regret. Buyer’s regret is when you say things like, “I should have sold when my stock was at $1,800” or “Why did I listen to my friend?”

These types of scenarios take place daily, weekly, monthly and yearly whether you’re investing yourself or by other means, the biggest difference is you see it happening more closely. Unfortunately, most people have not prepared for the emotions that come along with investing. Because of this, they begin to make poor investment decisions based on their emotions. Let’s look at one more scenario of emotion-based decisions.

SCENARIO #3

After seeing your stock go down to $600, you decide to wait it out, only to see it drop down to $500 the next week. You figure your friend’s advice wasn’t so great after all and decide to get out while you still can and take the $500 loss from your original investment. You sell your stock and decide to take a break for a few weeks. About three weeks later you open up your account and just out of curiosity, you look at the stock you sold to see it has risen back above your original $1000. The frenzy of emotions that come after seeing this are hard to describe as most people begin reflecting back on all of their decision up to this point.

In this final scenario, buyer’s regret creeps back along with some other emotions. It’s at this point we hope people begin to realize that perhaps making investment decision based on their emotions may not be the best strategy.

Before you start “playing the stock market” I would encourage you to not think about this as “playing the stock market” and start thinking about what your investment strategy will be. Really dive into how you will build a clear investment plan with a clear emotional strategy to go along with it.

Building an Investment Strategy

In this section I will not be outlining any specific strategy to use while investing because every person’s goals are different. What I will talk about are some things to consider as you begin to invest.

#1 Investing vs. Gambling

As mentioned above, the first thing you’ll need to change is your mindset if you’ve been thinking of “playing the stock market”.

The stock market is not a slot machine that you put money into and pull the trigger to see if everything lines up. These are real companies with employees, customers and business strategies. These companies have actual costs with real decisions on how they spend and manage their money. When you invest money into a company, you are investing in every decision they make, every dollar they earn or lose; every employee, every leader.

Unlike a VLT machine, the results are not shown instantaneously but happen over time. Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Tesla were not built over night but over years and years of hard work. Some companies see returns in a few years, some over a few decades.

So the first principle to building your strategy is to ensure the right understanding of what investing means. Ensuring you understand that you are investing in a company not playing the stock market.

#2 Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

If all of your eggs are in one basket and you trip and fall, the likelihood of all of your eggs breaking at the same time is very high. Putting all of your money in one stock “basket” is risky business. If the stock falls, you may lose a significant amount of money. Now you may say, “but if the stock rises, I could get a high return on my investment.” This is very true, and only you can make the choice, but make sure that whatever choice you make, your emotional strategy is up to the task.

The best advice you’ll hear from almost every financial advisor is to “diversify”. This basically means, “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket”. One of the best strategies for investing in the stock market is to find multiple options/companies to invest in. Some people even look at different types of investments such as technologies vs gaming or health care vs. oil. Another way to diversify is to continue to invest in other ways such as RRSPs and TFSAs.

No matter how you diversify, it’s important to remember principle #1, you are investing in a company. Because you are investing in a company it’s up to you to do your research and set a clear timeline for how long you want to invest.

#3 Research & Timeliness

This is the less glamorous side of investing yourself. When you invest through mutual funds, there are portfolio managers who are trained to do research on companies. Portfolio managers are investment professionals who manage the companies/funds that your money is being invested into and builds diverse portfolios. When you decide to invest by yourself, you become the portfolio manager. It’s now up to you to do research into the companies your investing in. Who is their CEO? What is their business plan? How long have they been a company? What is their five-year strategy? Do they have former success? There are many things to consider and research when choosing a company to invest in so that you can ensure you are aligning your investment strategy to their business strategy.

Once you’ve done your research and feel confident in your decision, it’s a great idea to decide how long you want to invest in the company of choice. One year, five years, twenty years? What business goal(s) are you hoping to see the company achieve during your investment time or what dollar amount are you hoping to see on your return in the future? This time management decision making will help you not lose focus on your goals. It will also help with the emotions that come along with investing. When you’ve put a stake in the sand for five years, you’re more likely to ride through the highs and lows with less anxiety. This will also help you with your decision-making process to be thoughtful versus emotional.

Final Considerations: Platforms, Fees, Advice & Taxes

When I started this blog, I mentioned that investing in companies yourself is becoming more accessible and that is because of the platforms that are available. You may have heard of things like Wealth Simple and Questrade as common names in the world of investing. I would like to make you aware of one more company: Qtrade Direct InvestingTM (Qtrade).

Qtrade is not only the #1 online trading platform in Canada, but it is also a credit union company! Qtrade has a simple way to open an account and allows you to even link your account to your bank for easy processing of fund transfers. Whatever you choose, one thing you should consider are the fees associated with trading (buying and selling) as well as any recurring monthly fees that may exist. Hint: some platforms such as Qtrade offer ways to waive fees.

Once you’ve chosen a platform you may be asking yourself where you could get some advice. It’s a great question and while there is some advice out there, it usually pertains to the platform itself (how to make a trade) and less on strategy (what’s a good company to invest in). Qtrade also offers portfolio analytic tools to help clients make informed investment decisions.

Investing on your own is very much a DIY (do it yourself or learn it yourself) model but sometimes you can pay a fee for added advice. In some cases, you may want to invest in more complicated options and it may be more beneficial to talk to your financial advisor about where you should invest your money. Investing in the stock market isn’t for everybody. At Conexus, we are able to help people with other investment solutions such as mutual funds offered through Credential Asset Management Inc. or even refer people to our wealth management company “Thrive Wealth Management” who are experts in investment advice and solutions. You can also reach out to Thrive directly using the contact us form on their website.

Finally, when you make money, lose money, or break even, you should be aware that there are tax implications that go along with investing. If you make money, you will need to claim it as earnings. Side note: “making money” means selling a stock. If the market value rises but you don’t sell, you’ve made nothing because all that has changed is the market value of your stock. You only make or lose money when you sell your stocks. A basic understanding of investment terms such as “market value”, “buying”, “selling” should be on your priority list to learn if you do not already understand this type of terminology.

If you end up losing money, there may be some tax breaks. In either case, you should be aware that there are tax implications. I would encourage to do your research during tax season to ensure you are filing taxes correctly. There are several tax articles from Qtrade for those who are self-employed, parents, homeowners, investors, seniors, retirees, etc. You can find these articles on their education pages.

In Closing

I hope this has helped you understand a few things regarding investing in the stock markets and has given you a bit of an outline of things to be aware of, and a few things to help you plan before you take the plunge.

If you’re ready to take the next step, I would recommend opening a Qtrade account. Even if you’re not a credit union member, it’s still a great platform which I use daily. Once you open it up, do some research on the fees, add some money, and then begin to look for the companies you wish to invest in.


Mutual funds are offered through Credential Asset Management Inc. Online brokerage services are offered through Qtrade Direct Investing. Mutual funds and other securities are offered through Credential Securities. Qtrade Direct Investing and Credential Securities are divisions of Credential Qtrade Securities Inc. Credential Securities is a registered mark owned by Aviso Wealth Inc. Qtrade and Qtrade Direct Investing are trade names and trademarks of Aviso Wealth.

 

Basement Renovations: The Expected/Unexpected Costs

If you’ve been watching a lot of HGTV during the pandemic and have been mapping out your home renovation, this blog will go through the expected and unexpected costs of getting the job done so you can start hammering down your renovations budget. 


When we moved into our house, like many people, there was an unfinished basement. And like many people, we had a plan to eventually finish it but instead it became a bit of a dumping ground for everything that didn’t fit anywhere else. We’d talk about how great it would be for everything to have a place but we just didn’t have the time to commit to it.

Fast forward a couple of years and we decided it was time. My husband had a break in work which meant he was home and we were in a pandemic so time wasn’t an excuse anymore. Also, with the new Home Renovation Tax Credit announced by the Saskatchewan Government, we would be able to save money. We had talked about hiring someone to come in, but we didn’t think it was too big of a job and we were up for the challenge! Plus, I’d seen lots of friends posting their reno pics and I was inspired to take on my own home project.

We decided on a floor plan, bought the lumber, purchased tools (that I still maintain we don’t need), grabbed the insulation and got to work!

The Physical Costs

What about the permit?

You may be asking yourself, “Didn’t you forget a step? Don’t you need a permit for a renovation like that?” Yes, you are correct, we did need a permit and more importantly, it was the first thing we did after deciding on our floor plan. As part of the permit application, we had to submit the floor plan to make sure that it passed building code and there wasn’t anything we had done wrong. I know this is one of those topics that a lot of people have an opinion on and I’m not going to judge people for whether or not they choose to get a permit, however, if you don’t get one and an inspector drives past your house and notices renos are happening without a permit, you can be fined. Plus, if you ever want to sell your house, you’re going to want to make sure you have gotten all the necessary permits to prevent any issues. If you are looking to do renos at all, including building a deck, check in with your city or rural municipality office, most can be found online like for Regina.

Don’t forget that there is a cost to the permit that is based on the square footage of the space and there will be a slight increase to your property taxes. However, there is also an increase to your property value!

Amateur vs Professional

Although we decided to finish the basement ourselves to save money, there are some things that had to be done by a professional. Because we are in an attached townhouse and share a wall with our neighbours, we had to have an electrician come in and do all of the electrical work and pull that part of the permit. This was a cost we hadn’t budgeted for and cost over $3,000 (thank goodness for tax returns). To be honest, I definitely feel more comfortable having a professional do the electrical work because there is history in my family of amateur electrical work that ended in a bathroom fan switch turning on a closet light in another room.

Materials

One thing I learned is that there are some materials that are necessary to the project and you just can’t get away from and there are other materials that are “necessary” to your husband. Lumber, insulation, drywall, nails, screws, mud, tape, sand paper, primer, paint, paint supplies, flooring, lights – all things that are absolutely necessary. A new drill, an air nailer, a new TV and some other tools I don’t even remember the names of – nice to haves that you may have to convince your building partner out of. Right now, lumber prices are higher than normal and that’s not something you can get away from. For us, the following tips helped us to stay within budget:

  1. Research what materials cost with a quick trip to your local hardware store.
  2. Talk to the professionals working at the hardware store. I was on a first name basis with quite a few people at Lowe’s. They can help advise how much product you will actually need.
  3. Build your budget once you know how much the materials cost. Remember to add in a bit of extra room for when you inevitably break pieces of drywall or dump an entire bucket of mud.
  4. Borrow tools from friends or family rather than buying for one project.
  5. Buy things in bulk and on sale when possible.

The Mental Costs

It will take time

Unlike what I was led to believe from home reno shows on HGTV, it does not take a week or two to finish an entire basement – well not without an entire team of professionals anyway. I knew it would take time, but didn’t expect to be sitting here almost a year later and just be painting. At first we had talked about it being done for Christmas 2020, and now our goal is fall 2021. My one bit of advice on this is to be realistic in your timelines, especially when working full-time. It can feel a bit disappointing to not have it done, but it’s so important to celebrate the wins from each stage!

There will be dust

One of the things I didn’t realize, was how much dust is involved in renovating. Between the sawdust from framing, the drywall dust, and the sanding there was dust everywhere. I was sweeping, vacuuming and washing the basement floor often at first, but it became an exercise in futility as there was so much dust in the air that would fall over night that it was so overwhelming. I accepted that it was a construction zone and I’d do what I could and do a big clean at the end.

Almost done

Within the next week we should have all the painting and flooring done so I can move things downstairs and get the basement set up and I absolutely can’t wait. While the physical costs, money and body aches, were more than I expected, it was the mental costs of living in a construction zone I was completely taken surprise by. But nothing will compare to being able to go downstairs and feel so much pride that we did it ourselves.

Will I do it again? Maybe on a much smaller scale like a painting a wall, but doubtful we’ll tackle an entire floor of a house. I don’t have much experience with DIYing and I want to give so much credit and kudos to people who do it often – it’s exhausting!

Celebrating 100 MONEYTALK Blogs: Top 10 Blogs

Can you believe it!? We’ve made it to MONEYTALK Blog #100! For our 100th blog, we are going to look back at ten of our most viewed and relevant blogs that provides relatable financial literacy advice for a variety of different topics, events and life stages. 


Money is stressful and everyone is experiencing their own unique life stages and financial situations. There is no one-size-fits-all model when it comes to providing financial advice.

In November 2017, we launched the Conexus #MONEYTALK Blog with a purpose to share expert advice, practical help and real-life experiences for relatable topics and life stages. Time flies when you are exploring financial literacy from a different lens because it’s hard to believe that three and a half years later – we are celebrating our 100th Blog! From blogs on money saving hacks at Rider games to renewing your mortgage during a global pandemic, our authors have explored topical and relevant events and have provided advice to ensure you are best equipped to navigate your financial well-being through whatever life throws at you.

To celebrate this milestone, blog #100 is looking back at ten of our most popular and still relevant blogs that have been published over the past three and a half years. These ten blogs approach financial literacy from a number of different perspectives so it is no surprise that eight of our authors are featured in this list. Enjoy our walk down memory lane and here’s to the next 100 blogs!

What I Learned From My 90 Day Spending Freeze

We’ve all heard of “cleanses” or “detoxes”. Although traditionally meant for weight loss or breaks from social media, spending freezes are gaining popularity as a means to cut spending and flush out bad money habits. Here’s a personal story where one of our writers was forced to check herself before debting herself and what she learned from a 90-day spending freeze. (Author: Melissa Fiacco, November 2020)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

More COVID-19 Scams to Monitor

During this pandemic, it’s not just your physical health at risk, your financial health may be as well. Throughout times of uncertainty we are seeing fraudsters launch sophisticated scams, exploiting public fears for targeted attacks – and we’re definitely in uncertain times.  In addition to the scams we went over earlier, here are five more of the most prevalent COVID-19 scams we’re seeing used to attack people’s financial health and how you can protect yourself from being a victim. (Author: Rachel Langen, April 2020)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

3 Key Money Tips for High Schoolers

No matter how old you are – you likely aren’t satisfied with the amount of money you have and you want more. When you are in high school, you want to be able to buy the things you want, go out with your friends, and maybe even save for your future education. So, if you are a high schooler – here are a few things you can do with your money to make it work best for you!  (Author: Kailyn Carter, January 2020) 

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

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. (Author: Mason Gardiner, November 2019)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

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. (Author: Mason Gardiner, June 2019)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

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. (Author: Kailyn Carter, May 2019)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

5 Activities for Young Kids: Introduction to Money

Introducing your kids to money early on can create a foundation for financial knowledge and positively impact how they manage money later. (Author: Laura McKnight; June 2018)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

Tips for First-Time Home Buyers

Purchasing your first home is a big life decision. Our Mobile Mortgage Specialists share advice for first-time homebuyers on what to know and consider when purchasing your first home. (Author: Nicole Haynes-Siminoff, March 2018)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE 

The Importance of Having an Emergency Fund

Life happens and sometimes an unexpected curveball is thrown our way, threatening our financial well-being and causing stress. Having an emergency savings fund helps us be prepared for these unexpected life events. (Author: Courtney Rink, March 2018)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

Credit Unions vs Banks: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to managing your finances and choosing where to bank, there are many things to consider including whether you should choose a credit union or a bank. (Author: Francis Dixon, December 2017)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

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Investing Advice I Wish I Could Give My Younger Self

There are many things we’ve done in life where we’d love a second chance, especially when it comes to finances. Knowing when and how to invest can be tricky. So, I sat down with some of our own experts to learn how they approach investing, common mistakes people make, and what advice they wish they could go back and give their younger self.


Hindsight is 20/20

Have you ever made a choice and regretted that decision years later? For me, it was bangs at fourteen. I wish I’d known then what I know now and that can be said for a lot of things, especially finances. We’ve all made bad spending decisions but many poor financial decisions or lack of action center around investing.  We aren’t always as rational as we think we are which can lead to decisions and behaviors that may not be in our best long-term interest.

Now, although we can’t time travel, we can share advice and learn from those around us. I sat down with some of our own experts at Conexus to learn how they approach investing, common mistakes people make, and what advice they wish they could go back and give their younger self.

Let’s meet the experts:

  1. Ryan McDonald, Wealth Experience Coach at Thrive Wealth Management
  2. Nadia Antoschkin, Financial Advisor at Conexus Credit Union
  3. Natasja Barlow, Branch Manager at Conexus Credit Union

Each expert offers a unique perspective which is fitting as there is typically no one-size fits all approach to investing. From your preferred risk level to to the amount you want to invest, it’s a discovery process to find what’s going to work for you. You may not find all the answers you’re hoping for (and that’s okay), but here are a few tips and key learnings from the experts themselves to help equip you for your own investing journey.

It’s okay not know all the answers

Like anything, you won’t know everything when you first start out. You still might not know everything even five, ten years down the line. The world is in a constant state of change and evolution, which impacts everything around us. This is especially true for the stock market, which has high volatility, making it difficult to know when the right time to enter the market is (but don’t worry, I’ll touch on this later).

The good news is you don’t need to have all the answers. Ryan shared – “the first thing I do is educate. People aren’t always going to be experts and we don’t expect them to be, so I always make sure to discuss the various types of investments and plans that are available.”

Nadia also shared some tips that have helped her to get started:

  1. Separate your money into different accounts. One for your daily expense and one for excess cash flow you could use to start saving or investing.
  2. Start small and test the waters. She started with $50 a month.
  3. Check-in. Is $50 working for you or could you increase that amount?

Learning to understand what you can manage and what you’re comfortable with takes a little trial and error. Also, don’t be afraid to do some searching to find out what you’re passionate about. Natasja shared “what I would do differently is invest the time in learning about my investments and being interested in where my money is going.” By starting with educating yourself, you’re laying that foundation and setting yourself up for success.

Focus on your goals

Investing is personal. We all have different goals, dreams and moments that we envision for our future selves. Ask yourself – what am I investing for? Is it retirement? Your education? A dream vacation? Or your first home? I bet if you asked three different people this question, the answer is going to be different for each of them.

A common mistake people tend to make is “doing the same thing as a friend or maybe even a family member” says Natasja Barlow. As human beings, we have a tendency to follow what those around us are doing especially if they are finding success. For example, most children tend to do their banking with the same financial institution as their parents because it’s familiar and they trust their parents. However, it’s important that you know what you’re investing for so that you can create a personalized plan. What makes sense for your friends or family may not make sense for you. For instance, if your parents are nearing retirement, their risk tolerance on a mutual fund may lean towards a conservative level when it is recommended to be a little more liberal in your 20s and 30s to generate a higher rate of return.

Start now

Many people struggle to start their investing journey as it can be intimidating. We often tell ourselves common misconceptions like the market is too volatile or we need a lot of money in order to begin. It’s never too early to begin and it’s never too late to start. For Nadia, this couldn’t be more true:

“I moved from Germany when I was 35-years old, didn’t speak any English, and didn’t know anything about investing. Now, I have my own diversified savings accounts.”

You don’t need thousands or even hundreds of dollars to get started. Investing in consistently small increments will add up over time – “if I had known about this when I was younger, I would have been better off”, says Nadia.

Start early, start small and be consistent! If you’re looking for ways to get started, check out our blog Why You Need To Be Investing During Your 20s and 30s.

Ride the turbulence

I touched on this earlier but depending on the investing option you go with – the market can be volatile. This means that there is often unexpected or sudden change which can drive the value of your investments up and down. When this happens, as humans it is natural to react. However, this reaction is often triggered by fear or worry which causes us to make irrational decisions like pulling your investments before they have the chance to recover.

In this article by the Financial Post, they discuss how strong emotions can influence investor behaviour in ways that may jeopardize their long-term investment goals.

Ryan explained it best using the “airplane analogy”. If you’ve been in an airplane, you’ve likely experienced turbulence. In these circumstances, our brain doesn’t say ‘oh it’s bumpy, let’s jump out and swim the rest of the way’, because eventually the plane gets back on track and to our destination a lot faster than we could swimming.”

He also shared, “investing is best if it’s boring and you do the basics of paying yourself first, investing early, staying invested and having a diversified portfolio. In 2008 I had been in the industry for two years and decided I should day trade my investments. This was the worst decision of my life.” Day trading is the practice of purchasing and selling a security within a single trading day. This involves buying a stock when it was low in price range and selling it as it moved up in range. Day trading can lead to obsessive behaviour and constantly watching your investments which can lead to urges to pull investments when they are better left untouched.

Sometimes it’s a matter of reducing your investment amount versus stopping all together. “If I would have reduced my investment instead of stopping it, I would be further ahead. That is a key learning for me.” says Natasja. But remember, it should always come back to your goals. What are you investing for? What is your risk level? Is this a short or long-term investment?

Investing isn’t one size fits all – it’s personal and is based on your individual goals, risk tolerance, or stage in life. You’re also going to hit some bumps along the way and make some mistakes – even with all of this advice. You know why? You’re human. My hope is that this blog at least encourages you to start and removes some of the worry or fear standing in your way. If you’re ready to get the conversation started with a financial advisor, book an appointment at www.conexusmoments.ca. 

What 3 Saskatchewan Businesses Learned From Navigating COVID-19

To say that this past year has led to financial uncertainty for many businesses and individuals would be an immense understatement. We virtually sat down with three local Saskatchewan businesses (22Fresh, Zu and Stone’s Throw) to learn how they are navigating COVID-19 and what they’ve learned through it all. After all, understanding your finances is the first step to gaining financial confidence and taking back control. 


A lot of stigma exists around talking about finances, specifically financial struggle. In fact, in a recent study we conducted, 63% of Saskatchewanians (it’s a technical term) say they aren’t comfortable talking about money with friends, family or co-workers. This past year disrupted everything we thought we knew leading to financial uncertainty for many. During times of struggle is when we need to rely on the support of others most, but this often isn’t the case with financial struggleIn the same study, we found that 29% of individuals say they find it embarrassing to ask for help with their finances which further enables the stigma.  

Before we jump in, I first want to introduce you to these three amazing businesses and their leaders: 

  1. Kip Simon, President & CEO of 22Fresh, a branded clothing and apparel manufacturer based in Saskatchewan.
  2. Albert Jame, Strategy Director of Zu, a Saskatoon based digital consultancy company focused on tech innovation and digital solutions.
  3. Kim Zacaruk, Owner of Stone’s Throw Coffee Collective, a local Regina coffee shop and café (or how Kim put it: “WHAT we do is community, kindness and making people feel welcome and part of something; coffee and food is just HOW we do that.”) 

At first glance, you might think these businesses have nothing in common, but when I sat down to talk with each of them I found there were a lot of similarities. No, not in the products they sell or services they offer, but in their experiences, emotions and fears of navigating uncertainty and how they responded. We took what we heard from each of them – the challenges, stories of resilience, learnings and success, and summarized it into four things you should know during times of financial certainty. Let’s get into it! 

Keep track of your money

Budgeting is a great tool for keeping track of your money. It empowers you to be in control by guiding your spending so you can understand where your money is coming and going. In times of financial uncertainty, this is especially important because where your money was once coming and going from may not be true anymore.  

 This was the case for 22Fresh:   

 “Right off the bat we knew we were going to be losing a few streams of revenue, so it was a matter of how we are going to survive off just one stream,” said Kip. Much of their business relied on wholesaling products to local storesmany of which were now closing, and custom team apparel, which was also no longer happeningThis meant a lot of budgeting and going over different scenarios to understand what they might look like two or three months down the road 

Kip continues, “… we had to pay attention not on a month-to-month basis, but day-to-day in order to weather this storm. But, if there is a silver lining, it was forcing us to get out of cruise control and really start doing a deep dive into our expenses, cost of goods sold and what amount of revenue we can survive off of in our current landscape.”

Minimize your expenses as much as possible

This can be easier said than done and often means the “fun stuff” gets put aside. However, COVID-19 made some of the decisions easier on us. With social gatherings restrictedthis meant saved costs from no events or parties (especially the ones we didn’t even want to go to in the first place). With people working from home, some businesses were able to save on operational costs of office spaces and are now realizing maybe they don’t need office space at all anymore.  

When we think about how this translates into personal finances, the decisions become a little more difficult. Albert shared perspective that really hit home for me, which was that we all need to learn to “accept our finances and love the things we have.”  

COVID-19 forced us to slow down, which although difficult, had positive impacts. When we are moving at full speed all the time, we don’t necessarily take the time to stop and think. This leads to impulse shopping and over-consumption. I like buying clothes (okay, I LOVE buying clothes) but our new reality has helped me realize that I often buy things just to buy them and not because I need them.  

So, I want to challenge you to stop and think: “Where could I minimize my expenses?” Take five minutes (after reading this blog, of course) and jot down 3-5 things you currently spend money on that you could likely live without. I challenge you to go one month without buying these things and see if this was a need or a habitual want. You might be surprised with your results! 

Don’t forget to focus on your mental well-being

COVID-19 disrupted our lives in many ways, both personally and professionally. Kip mentioned “I never had to think so deeply about whether or not this was the end of our company” which was likely the case for many other businesses. On top of the stress of trying to keep your business afloat, many people were working from home while also trying to homeschool or care for kids and were feeling isolated and anxious about not connecting with people in the ways we were used to. Heavy stuff. 

Kim shared “Our 24-year-old daughter had just moved to New Zealand and couldn’t get home. My parents were in the United States and I felt (and still do) a huge responsibility to staff and public safety, both physically and mentally and I wanted to lead with kindness and empathy.”  

That is a lot for one person to carry alone. A common response I heard from all three businesses was the importance of leaning on others for support: “It’s impossible to be everything, and there is no shame in reaching out and asking for help.” said Kip. It’s important to recognize what your strengths are and when you need to rely on the strengths and experience of others 

Build good financial habits

 It’s never too early or too late to start. As humans we seek gratification, but when building new habits, we don’t get gratification right away.” said Albert. “It’s progress and progress often looks like a bunch of little failures overtime, until one day when we get it right. But what’s important is that you start.” Ain’t that the truth.  

But building good financial habits starts with understanding. “It really is amazing if you take the time to dig in to understand your finances.” said Kip. For Kim and her team at Stone’s Throw, they have also learned a lot from their internal introspection: “We now have a better idea of revenue levels, customer eating and drinking habits, traffic patterns, and where we can save time to focus on other things.”  

Being comfortable is a scary place to be. Understanding and staying on top of your finances is what can make all the difference during challenging time. “Keep it simple, educate yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask for help” says Albert.  

Let’s talk

Understanding your finances is so much more than just knowing your income and expenses. It’s messy. There are emotions intertwined with every decision because it impacts our relationships. Now throw in a pandemic and it just became a whole lot messier. If there is one message you take from reading this blog, let it be this – start talking. Kip, Kim and Albert all made mention about the positive impact that asking for help and talking about their financial stress had on them. We all have our differences but this past year has taught us that we’re stronger together and are united by this shared struggle of the pandemic. Share your experiences, talk about money with your kids, ask for help from your financial advisor and don’t be afraid to rely on the support of others When you do this, it opens the door to understanding and taking the first step to improving your financial well-being.  

Travelling on a budget and getting more than I bargained for

Guest blog alert! This year’s Saskatchewander, Leah Mertz, has travelled all across the province during a challenging year and has picked up some travel tips along the way. From spending and budgeting tips to the best spots in Saskatchewan to check out, Leah has some great advice for what to check out in the province’s own backyard (when it is safe to do so) and how to save some coin while doing it. 

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Hi, I’m Leah!

For the past 10 years, the Government of Saskatchewan has selected a ‘Saskatchewanderer’ to explore the province—showcasing its hidden gems and best kept secrets. To my surprise and excitement, I became the 2020 Wanderer after applying last fall. But within weeks of being on the job, things quickly shifted as the pandemic took hold. However, my determination to see Saskatchewan remained. With Conexus as the program’s new title sponsor, I became more motivated than ever to find ways of keeping travel affordable during uncertain times.

Where it began…

Growing up on a farm, times were busy. My father was a poultry farmer, and as all keepers of livestock know, there’s usually very few days off in a year—if at all. That’s why every summer, I couldn’t wait for our annual road trip. Each year in August, he would leave the farm in good hands for 10 days, and my family would pile into our Ford Aerostar for our next adventure.

As a kid, vacations almost seemed like a fantasy. There’s very little concept of time as the days become full of swimming, ice cream, bike riding, games, and… more ice cream. You don’t have to worry about paying for accommodations or gas, preparing or finding meals, and driving long hours with impatient kids in the back seat. I look back on our annual family vacation and wonder how exactly my parents kept their sanity. It’s a lot to manage! My siblings and I would have the best time without a care in the world. As an adult, it’s sobering to realize how hard my parents worked to not only afford taking time away from the farm, but also keeping costs at a minimum while on vacation.

Fast forward to 2020

Since becoming the Wanderer, I’ve found myself in charge of planning and executing the largest road trip of my life. I’ll admit, it’s been very challenging and I’ve been reminded of my parents’ hard work every step of the way. However, seeing so many beautiful places (Cypress Hills, Greig Lake, Castle Butte, etc.) and meeting dozens of wonderful people has helped put me at ease.

In the past few months, I’ve learned some hard and fast lessons surrounding money. Here are a few things that have helped me cut excess costs, save in unexpected places, and keep morale high while traveling in high-stress times.

Reusable anything keeps money in your pocket

Two reusable items I’ll never leave home without are a water bottle and a microwavable container. I’ll always fill up my water bottle at a hotel and therefore eliminate the urge to buy one when I stop for gas. Since I’ve been eating out on the road a lot, more often than not a takeaway container isn’t microwavable. Nearly every accommodation will have a microwave and since I started bringing my own container, I’ve never let my leftovers go to waste. We all know how generous Saskatchewan restaurants can be with their portions so on many occasions I’ve happily turned one supper into two—the enormous Perogy Poutine from the Black Grasshopper in Estevan comes to mind!

Preparedness pays off

This may seem like a no-brainer, but unexpected expenses can add up when traveling. Make a packing list before your trip and include everything you could possibly need. Early in the year, I would forget something simple, end up buying it, and then immediately regret it when I returned home to find it sitting in my drawer. I’ve unnecessarily spent hundreds of dollars on duplicates like: sunscreen, bug spray, gloves, hair ties, tweezers, vitamins, and even flip flops for the hotel pool. Plus, if you have to pick something up at a gas station or a convenience store, products like Advil or chapstick have a higher markup compared to where you’d purchase them otherwise. Convenience can be costly.

Oh, and speaking of pools, the Residence Inn in Regina has one of the fastest waterslides I’ve ever been on. Seriously, I might have experienced some g-force on that thing.

Score with loyalty points

Many food chains, and even local establishments have their own loyalty programs that allow you to earn free food, discounted prices, and more. Thankfully our smartphones conveniently allow us to store our loyalty numbers or barcodes. I used to absolutely hate keeping track of loyalty cards, but now that I can have them in my phone or through an app, I’m all in. I won’t admit how many free coffees I’ve scored this year from a certain green mermaid, but I will tell you that she’s been very kind to me. Also, I’ve kept loyalty points with every hotel I stay at, and in a matter of months have earned my way to free nights, higher loyalty point accumulation, and guaranteed late checkouts. Doesn’t get any better!

Keep tabs on your data

On some of my early trips, I was on Google Maps non-stop and endlessly streaming music and podcasts while on the road. I quickly noticed my cell phone data was going over and incurring extra charges. Now, I’ve been diligent in trying to download music, podcasts, and even map directions to my phone while I have Wi-Fi. It took one egregious cell phone bill at the beginning of my Wanderer term for me to be more mindful of data usage while out and about.

Seeing the best of Saskatchewan

With those money saving tips in mind, here is my unofficial list of the best places I’ve been in 2020!

Best food: Just Chicken in Kindersley. Think chicken tenders but like schnitzel. They have some of the best side dishes I’ve ever had—candied bacon, homemade slaw, fry bread, and more.

Best accommodation: The Resort at Cypress Hills. When a fresh blanket of snow falls, it’s a magical winter wonderland with tons of things to do. You can go cross country skiing, snowshoeing, or cozy up by the fireplace in the lodge.

Best trail: Sunset Interpretive Trail in Douglas Provincial Park. This is a beginner level trail that all can enjoy. Halfway into the loop you’ll have one of the best views for a classic Saskatchewan sunset. It’s simply stunning looking out over Lake Diefenbaker as the waves crash against the shoreline below.

Best campground: Anderson Point in Great Blue Heron Provincial Park. With plenty of walking trails and a secluded beach, this area truly feels off the grid while still being close to the amenities of Christopher Lake. Many locals have expressed that this is their favourite place to spend winter too. I hope to return before the year is over!

Best coffee shop: Route 26 in St. Walburg. This place has probably one of the most immersive ambiences I’ve ever experienced. It’s in an old character house adorned with hundreds of nostalgic artifacts. Outside there are plenty of picturesque places to sit as you hear classic country tunes playing in the background.

Best sightseeing spot: Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park. The rolling hills of the southwest truly look incredible anytime of year. Once you drive down into the valley, you’ll have a 360-degree view of some of the finest natural wonders in Saskatchewan.

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What I Learned From My 90 Day Spending Freeze

We’ve all heard of “cleanses” or “detoxes”. Although traditionally meant for weight loss or breaks from social media, spending freezes are gaining popularity as a means to cut spending and flush out bad money habits. Here’s a personal story where one of our writers was forced to check herself before debting herself and what she learned from a 90-day spending freeze.


Setting the Scene

Earlier this year, before COVID-19 entered the Canadian news cycle and Taylor Swift released her Folklore album, I put myself on a 90-day spending freeze.

Let’s go back to December. I received an email from the corporate payroll team, “SUBJECT: Important – Response Required – Pension Enrollment Form.

I guess I forgot I would start contributing to the employee pension program after my first year of employment. I was already saving for retirement and contributing 5% of my net income to my RRSP every pay period.

Hot Tip: If you’re entering the job market or changing careers, consider if an employee pension program is offered in the compensation package. If you’re comfortable with accepting a compensation package that doesn’t include an employee pension program, you can create your own “DIY pension program”. Have a conversation with a financial advisor, or someone you trust, to choose a retirement savings plan that works for you and build scheduled contributions into your budget that come directly from your paycheck.

Time to Freeze

I’m a single income earner, so saving more for retirement through the employee pension program meant my household income would be shrinking.

I knew that I could adjust my budget in real time to manage my cost of living with a lower net income, but without knowing how to adjust my budget to spend less, I could easily fall into a cycle of spending more than I was earning. You can’t lie to yourself and have healthy money habits.  I chose to enter a 90-day spending freeze, starting on January 1.

“Like, you didn’t spend any money at all?”

I set very specific criteria for this spending freeze. It was an ambitious goal, like Taylor Swift’s cross-over from country music to pop music. It had to be calculated and fearless.

The purpose of the spending freeze wasn’t to deprive myself or to remove joy from my life but to understand how to protect two healthy money habits I practice: 1) not spending more than I was earning, and 2) contributing to emergency savings, long-term savings, and saving for retirement. My mission was to  reveal how I needed to adjust my budget to spend less, with a lower income.

The most common reasons people aren’t successful in budgeting is because they haven’t built a realistic budget or they aren’t committed long enough for it to become a money habit. I made a deal with myself that I was in this for the long haul and would track every receipt and be disciplined for the full 90 days. I was already a budgeter before I started the spending freeze, but if you’re not a budgeter, that’s an important foundation to start with. I track every receipt and enter it into my budget, and during the spending freeze it showed me how much money I wasn’t spending. You need to see how you’re spending your money to know how much you’re saving or not spending during a spending freeze.

I began by considering all the things that I valued most from my lifestyle that was discretionary spending and excluded those categories from my spending freeze. For instance, I didn’t even consider freezing my fitness membership. I like the accountability my barre studio puts on me to hold a plank for a minute longer and that doesn’t translate to home workouts for me.

I froze spending money on restaurants and food deliveries, unless it centered around an experience with friends. The relationships in my life are important to me, so I was intentional about which invitations to accept and which invitations to decline knowing that it’s hard to go out with someone and not spend money. For example, when my friend was going through a difficult time in her life, I arrived at her house with pizza and wine. But when I was starving on my way home from my barre class, I didn’t give into ordering food and would make something at home.

What I removed from my budget during my spending freeze:

  • Clothing (I’m a big shopper so this was an accomplishment for me!)
  • Housewares
  • Alcohol
  • Tickets to entertainment
  • Travel
  • Spa & Salon experiences
  • Personal care items that I didn’t already use.

What I kept in my budget during my spending freeze:

  • Fitness membership
  • Personal care items (ie: lipstick) but ONLY if I was replenishing a product I already use
  • Gifts for others
  • Streaming subscriptions (ie: Netflix, Amazon Prime)
  • Cable subscription
  • The routinely scheduled hair cut & color I get quarterly, but no other spa and salon experiences
  • Massages, supplemented by my benefits coverage

What I Learned…

I began the spending freeze on January 1 and retail stores and restaurants closed in mid March when the State of Emergency was declared in Saskatchewan so I made it 77 days on my own without stepping foot in HomeSense. Even without the option of entering a store, I wasn’t in the clear because the convenience of online shopping can still tempt you – especially when you are cooped up in your home with nothing else to do. There were some close calls but I made it the full 90 days without spending money outside of the criteria I listed above. Outside of cutting my spending by 10%, I was able to nail down realistic goals for my budget categories knowing what I could and could not live without. Thanks to this 90 day cleanse, I have eliminated any sort of excuses to pad my budgets for categories like eating out or shopping because I know I’ve done it before. It’s amazing how much money you can save with a little confidence in yourself and the discipline to make it happen.

If you need help starting your own budget or want to see for yourself how much cutting your spending will impact your income, check out Conexus’ budget calculator tool!

What else did I learn from a 90-day spending freeze?

  1. You do not need to deprive yourself to practice healthy money habits.
  2. Avoiding the stores where you commonly spend money is way easier than visiting those stores and trying to limit yourself to one purchase.
  3. Choosing not to browse online or in-store completely removed the temptation to spend money. A lot of the time you are shopping for a distraction so if you are watching a TV show and your mind gets antsy, pick up a book or grab a paper and pen to doodle to keep it occupied.
  4. Talk about money! I was open about challenging myself to a 90-day spending freeze and so many others responded by sharing their money goals. We celebrated, leaned on each other as accountability partners and learned from each other along the way.
  5. Spending less than I earn felt so much more satisfying than abandoning my budget to buy whatever Jillian Harris is promoting on Instagram.

What else do you want to know about my spending freeze that I didn’t answer in the blog? Ask your questions in the comment section below! Let’s break the myth that it’s impolite to talk about money! Let’s learn from each other and celebrate each other’s healthy money habits.

More COVID-19 Scams to Monitor

During this pandemic, it’s not just your physical health at risk, your financial health may be as well. Throughout times of uncertainty we are seeing fraudsters launch sophisticated scams, exploiting public fears for targeted attacks – and we’re definitely in uncertain times.  In addition to the scams we went over earlier, here are five more of the most prevalent COVID-19 scams we’re seeing used to attack people’s financial health and how you can protect yourself from being a victim.


You don’t think it can happen to you, until it does. We often think we will never fall victim to a scam, but it can happen to anyone. Fraud scams are under reported because victims are too embarrassed to admit they were exploited, and this perpetuates these crimes.

Fraud doesn’t discriminate and the tactics become more predatorial and sophisticated in health and economical crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic. More than one million Canadians applied for Employment Insurance between March 16 – 22, 2020 because of COVID-19 job losses. The Government of Saskatchewan started introducing public health orders on March 17 that restricts social gatherings and business closure for non-essential services. People are more isolated than they’ve ever experienced, they’re feeling financially insecure, and their sense of normalcy has been disrupted. Criminals target these feelings and with the increase of information about COVID-19 in media coverage, on social media, and direct email, it can be difficult to know what is trustworthy. Let’s make sure you are aware and protected from the following scams:

Social Media Questionnaires

Have you ever used your first car or your pet’s name as the answers to security questions? I know I have. Although harmless at first glance, these questionnaires are an easy way for a fraudster to gain access to your personal information to either answer your security questions or even pose as you to gain financial access.

You might be thinking, “I would never post this”, but someone you care about might or maybe has already. You may also think “I trust everyone in my friend list to not share my information.” They may be trustworthy, but it just takes one of them to get hacked and all of a sudden your personal information is in the hands of a fraudster.

Here’s how you can protect yourself:

  • DO NOT participate in these questionnaires and delete any old ones that you’ve posted. Spread the word to your friends and family as well.
  • Do not accept any friend requests from people you do not know and remove anyone that somehow slipped through the cracks.
  • Restrict the privacy settings on your social media accounts
  • Use secure passwords that include letters, numbers, and characters. Change your password routinely
  • Avoid security questions that could be easily guessed

CRA Text Scam

Do you know the warning signs of a scam? With all the uncertainty in the world right now, it’s easy to want to believe the best in people. This is what fraudsters are thriving off – vulnerability. This news story from CBC, warns Canadians of a text scam exploiting the new emergency relief program.

However, this isn’t the only scam going around. Some other scams to be alert for are text messages or emails from fraudsters impersonating the Canada Revenue Agency. This article outlines what to actually expect when the Canada Revenue Agency contacts you.

Here’s how you can protect yourself:

  • If it’s an unfamiliar phone number or email, don’t automatically trust the source
  • Look for spelling and grammatical errors in the text
  • Ask yourself “Does the URL look credible?” If you have ANY doubt, contact the company and fact check the message.

For more information on how to protect yourself, here the CRA outlines how to ‘Slam the Scam’.

Work From Home Scams

The provincial government recently warned against a work from home scam during the COVID-19 crisis. Fraudulent ads by companies offering opportunities to work from home as securities traders are appearing on social media. These ads promise that traders can keep a large percentage of the profits and they don’t need experience or a license. They only need to pay fees to the would-be traders.

If you’ve experienced job loss from COVID-19 and you’ve lost childcare, this would seem like a good way to replace your income – which is exactly why this tactic is being used. In Saskatchewan, anyone in the business of trading securities must be registered with Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority (FCAA), unless an exemption applies. The FCAA expects that similar scams will continue to increase during the COVID-19 crisis.

Fraudsters Posing as Financial Institutions

In times of uncertainty or struggle is often when individuals turn to their financial institution for advice, services or products to help them navigate their financial situation.

A text message scam has been circling around where fraudsters are posing as a financial institution, using scare tactics to try and gain access to your information.

 

 

As seen in this message below, someone impersonating Scotiabank has used a scare tactic to make you think your access has been disabled to get you to click the link. As we touched on before, here are some things you want to look out for:

  • Unfamiliar phone number
  • Spelling and grammatical errors
  • Unusual links

Here’s how you can protect yourself:

  • Don’t click any of the links in the message – go directly to your financial institution’s website through your web browser
  • Always log in to your account directly online or through your mobile app
  • Double check the source of the text – when using scare tactics people often just react, but in reality, you may not even have an account with Scotiabank
  • If something serious was happening to your account, your financial institution would definitely call you, not text you.

Exploiting Grocery Delivery for seniors

As we all take measures to social and physical distance ourselves, common tasks such as grocery shopping have become difficult, especially for some of the most vulnerable in our communities. Unfortunately, fraudsters are posing as helpful citizens offering to deliver groceries to seniors who are socially isolated or are physically unable. These scams ask for e-transfers or credit card numbers in advance with the grocery list. They’ll also ask for your address – not so they know where to deliver the groceries, but so that they can list it as the billing address when they charge the card. Disgusting, right?

Here’s how you can protect yourself:

  • Utilize delivery services offered directly through grocery stores/business in your community. Many grocery stores have started offering special shopping hours for seniors
  • Rely on friends and family to shop for you
  • Be alert and aware of other scams that exist right now
  • Have conversations with your parents and grandparents to educate them on how they can protect themselves

Remember, fraud does not start and end here – it’s important that you remain alert even as the COVID-19 pandemic comes to an end. If you have been targeted or have fallen victim to an attack, it’s nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. It can happen to anyone.

For more information about protecting yourself from fraud and to learn about different scams out there right now, visit https://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/features-vedette/2020/covid-19-eng.htm.