A Grad Student’s Guide to Going Back to School

Contemplating heading back to university for grad school? This blog breaks down the obvious and hidden costs while providing tips to manage the change.


Here I go again!

Just when I thought I was done with being a student, I’m heading back to university, but this time as a business grad student at the University of Calgary.

Back in June 2020, I made the decision I wanted to go back to school to complete my Master’s Degree in Business Administration. This decision is one I didn’t make lightly as it comes with some big costs, sacrifices, and a lot of life changes. From the moment I made the decision to accept my spot into grad school, I spent many hours thinking about why I wanted to do this, what I wanted to get out of it, researching various schools, studying for the entrance exam, preparing my applications, and doing interviews.

After being out of school for so long you forget about how much time and money it takes to even just apply.

3 things to know before applying to grad school

This new adventure hasn’t come without some big changes. I’m living in a new city, balancing work and my studies, and managing the pressures of increased financial demands. Depending on your situation, you might find yourself in a similar situation. But if it’s the right path for you and something you are determined to do, then in the end, its worth it.

Here are three questions that helped me determine that this was the right path, complete my applications, and prepare for all the changes that were about to come:

  1. What are the financial demands?

To put this simply – graduate programs are expensive! However, every program and school are different and there are many options available to lessen the financial load. It’s important that you understand what to expect for tuition, student fees, books, etc. so that you know what supports you might need and how much you’ll need to save.

  1. What’s my why?

On top of the financial demands of a graduate program, they are also quite intensive and require a lot of time in and out of class. Knowing your “why” will ensure going back to school is the right decision for you, assist in choosing what classes you want to take and help give you that push to study when your motivation is running low.

  1. What program is right for me?

There are endless options when choosing a program. Once you choose a discipline, you’ll also have to map out your specialization or focuses, executive programs, accelerated programs, part-time/full-time course load, etc. Make sure to do your research and tailor this experience to you.

Costs to consider

When I was thinking of going back to school, I immediately considered all the obvious costs like tuition, books, and student fees. What I didn’t expect were all the expenses that would come before I even got in. According to Stats Canada, on average a Master’s in Business Administration costs roughly $27,000 and that only includes tuition. In the table below, I break down my expenses from applications to tuition.

 

Note: My program is accelerated meaning it has fewer classes. If I was applying for a typical MBA at this school, the total costs would be approximately $7,000 more.

On top of the costs that come with school, I also had to consider the costs that would come with this big life change. Including:

  1. Moving to a new city
  2. Lost income

Not being from Calgary meant I would be moving. These costs include rent or the purchase of a new house, moving costs to rent a U-Haul, packing boxes, and all the fees that come with it. For some, it will also mean lost income. For full-time programs, you are typically required to take three classes at a time and they tend to be during the day, making it much more difficult to work.

Tips on managing the costs

While all the expenses outlined above can seem overwhelming, there are lots of resources available to support students:

  1. Look into scholarships and grants – do this early and do your research!
  2. Employer education programs – talk with your employer to see if they offer any supports to employees looking to further their education.
  3. Student financing options – such as student loans or student lines of credit.
  4. Personal savings – if you can, start putting money away each month into a savings account.
  5. Look into part-time programs or executive programs – both are designed to allow students to work while completing the program.
  6. Ask yourself, where can I start cutting costs now to save more? Consider your wants versus needs.

In the long run, depending on your career goals, going back to school is worth it. But it doesn’t come without an adjustment period. Just remember, make sure you understand the financial demands, know your why, and do your research to find the right program for you.

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.

Eliminating the Stress in Buying a House

Buying a house is stressful. At least, that’s what I hear. As someone who is planning on buying a house within the next few years, I want to make sure my experience is stress free… or at least as stress free as humanly possible. That’s why I decided to do a little sleuthing to see if I could uncover some tips and tricks to improve the home buying experience so that you can enjoy the process as much as possible. 


Tip #1: Use a Real Estate Agent

Simple, right? Using a real estate agent will definitely cut down on the amount of stress you feel while purchasing a house, especially if you’re working with someone you can trust. Yet as of 2020, 12% of people still don’t use them. Why?

Well, most people who aren’t using a real estate agent are looking to save money. This can work out if you’re already familiar with the property and are buying from someone you trust, like a family member. But if you’re looking at properties that you’re not familiar with, it has the potential to lead to all sorts of issues. Long-term, not using a realtor has the potential to cause far more stress than using one.

But what about the money? Well, using a realtor may not be as expensive as you think. Of course, it’s not free either. You will need to pay realtor fees. But the real estate agent’s commission generally comes from the seller, not the buyer. So, it may not add up to quite as much as you expect.

Using a real estate agent does come with its own stresses (we’ll get to some of those later) but overall, it’s the correct choice for most people.

Tip #2: Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

While doing my digging, I decided to reach out to our team of Mobile Mortgage Specialists to see what the number one tip they would give prospective home buyers was. The answer was nearly unanimous: get pre-approved for a mortgage!

What exactly does that mean? Well, it’s just like it sounds. Having a mortgage pre-approval means that a lender has reviewed your financial information and has determined that they would be willing to provide you with a mortgage to buy a house. Having this in-hand while you’re shopping for a home makes it easier for agents and sellers to take you seriously and can possibly save you from future disappointment.

Don’t believe me? Here’s what Lehanne Potts, one of our Mobile Mortgage Specialists, had to say about getting a preapproved mortgage:

“Getting pre-approved for a mortgage is your first step towards homeownership! It’s important whether you’re a first-time home buyer or an experienced purchaser. When you have a pre-approval, you can shop confidently knowing that you are looking in the right price range. And if there are any issues with the application, we’re able to develop a game plan to set you up for success in the future. By taking this very important first step, you can help avoid any disappointment or frustration that may come along if you skip this process.”

Tip #3: Know When to Compromise

Home buying involves compromise. Odds are that you aren’t going to find that perfect home with the attached two car garage, huge walk-in closet in the master bedroom, partially covered back deck with a hot tub. And if you do find a house that has everything you want? Odds are that it’s probably going to cost twice as much as you can afford. What I’m trying to say is, it’s important to know what sorts of things you’re willing to compromise on and which ones you aren’t before you get started.

The budget for your home isn’t something that you should typically be making changes to halfway through the process. A study by homes.com in 2018 showed that 13% of people feel that they overpaid for their home. That’s not a good feeling and it’s not one that’s going to go away anytime soon either. Avoid bidding wars and stay away from spending above your budget on the things you “want” for your house (like that hot tub) and focus on the things you “need” your house to have (like enough bedrooms for your growing family).

Another thing you don’t need to compromise on is your timeline. I know I was just talking about how great realtors are a few paragraphs ago, but sometimes they will try to get you to work on their schedule instead of your own. That’s because they’re likely working with several potential home buyers and the sooner you purchase your future home, the sooner they can switch their attention to helping someone else.

Well, that speed has the potential to add stress. There are a lot of important things to do and decisions to make during the home buying process, even after you’ve put an offer in, and this is not something you want to feel rushed while doing. If you are feeling the pressure to move through the process too quickly, talk to your realtor and let them know you need more time.

Tip #4: Talk to Someone Who’s Done It Before

There are a lot of things to consider when you’re buying a house – more than we could possibly cover in just this one blog. It can be overwhelming, especially if you’re buying a home for the first time (and if you are a first-time home buyer, you might want to check this blog out as well). Like so many things in life, it can start to become clearer and you will start to feel better if you talk to someone about it.

Obviously, you can always go to your realtor to ask them questions. But you can also learn a lot by speaking to other people in your life who have already gone through the process of owning their own home. They might have great tips to share with you about what they thought they did well when buying their house. Or, more likely, they might be able to share things they wish they’d done differently during their own home buying experience.

To test this out, I decided to ask some homeowners from my own life what advice they’d have for me. Here’s what they had to say:

“Buying a new house for the first time can be filled with a lot of emotions – but the first one should always be excitement!

If I could go back to the first time my husband & I bought a house, I would make sure I sat down and prioritized a “wants” and “needs” list. My needs list would be the things that the house would HAVE to have and I would not budge on. The wants list would be filled with things that I really want in my first home, but that when push came to shove, I could sacrifice. For example, something that was on my needs list was three upstairs bedrooms and something that was on my wants list was an attached garage. I ended up sacrificing my attached garage in order to find something with three bedrooms upstairs.

Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the process – you only get to be a first-time homeowner once!”

Amanda, Moose Jaw

“As a first-time homebuyer, I found working with an experienced realtor to be extremely beneficial throughout the process. I had lots of questions, and they were able to answer everything I asked in terms I could easily understand. By using a realtor, I found that it took a lot of the stress of the process off my shoulders. I would also recommend doing your research into the home buying process beforehand so that you are able to ask the important questions.”

– Jarvis, Watrous

“I would recommend that people shop around. Don’t let the real estate agent dictate what you do or the speed you do it at – they are there to serve your needs. Also, make sure you get a house inspection. If you can’t afford one, you probably can’t afford a house.”

Eric, Swift Current

The Answer to The Question…

So, can buying a house be totally stress-free? Honestly, probably not. There’s always going to be a certain level of stress that comes with making such a costly and impactful purchase.

But as I’ve learned while writing this, there are a lot of things that you can do to reduce the amount of stress you feel throughout the process. By using the tips in this blog as a starting point, you’ll be setting yourself up for a successful experience.

Happy house hunting!

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!

Retirement Homes: When, Where & How Much

Beginning the conversation with a loved one about transitioning to a retirement home can be emotional, intimidating and overwhelming. This MONEYTALK Blog breaks down tips on how to have the conversation, retirement home options, and factors to keep in mind when making your decision to make the process as easy for you and your loved ones as possible.


Ready Or Not?

Over the past couple of years, my mom has been dealing with some health issues. She just celebrated her 84th birthday and is still living in her own home. For the most part, she is capable of taking care of herself but my siblings and I are starting to wonder if her living situation is safe and healthy. We’ve been gathering information on retirement homes and have learned a lot along the way. Here are some helpful tips and things to consider so you or your loved one are best equipped for a seamless transition to an assisted living facility.

Time to Talk

There are so many options available for retirement living. Seniors are no longer resigning themselves to the retirement homes of old. They are choosing a lifestyle, a new freedom to focus on, and a place that brings them happiness with reduced chores and responsibilities. They are living their best retirement taking advantage of safe, social and active living opportunities. Sounds like a dream, right? But not everyone, including my mom, is ready for such a big change. Now what do we do?

First and foremost, we had to accept that this is her life decision, not ours. She needs to be ready to make the move when the time is right for her. Although we have good intentions and want only what’s best, we also have to adhere to her wishes. My advice to you, if you are nearing the same situations with your parent(s) – plan ahead. Start planting the seed for them to think about what their plans are for the future so that they don’t feel defensive or offended when they are older. Be proactive while they are in good health to start exploring their options without the sudden urgency to decide for them.

Retirement Living Options

Here are some info and tips on the different options available based on needs and affordability we learnt:

Independent Living

Mom, like many seniors, is determined to live in her home as long as she can. Many communities have home care services and emergency life-line communications systems available to assist those wanting to maintain their independence. You can also make a few changes to their home like lifts, handrails, or step in tubs so that your loved ones are able to continue living safely and comfortably. To assess if this was still a possibility for my mom, we considered:

  • Could she manage her day to day care (ie: cooking, cleaning, shopping)?
  • Was additional care available in her community if needed? Home care costs vary depending on the type and level of care.
  • Does she have friends and a social life? My mom is a social butterfly so we knew this is really important for her mental health.
  • What is the actual cost of staying in her home?

Together we made a detailed list of all of the expenses incurred on a monthly and yearly basis. The mortgage may be paid for, but there are other costs including:

  • Vehicle: gas, maintenance, insurance, license plates
  • Medical: prescriptions, lifeline medical alert, ambulance
  • Home: upkeep, appliance replacement, insurance, taxes, yard care
  • Groceries/personal items or meals on wheels
  • Utilities: phone, cellular service, power, gas, cable, internet,
  • Entertainment/Gifts
  • Home care
  • House keeping
  • Miscellaneous expenses

Retirement Residence

Retirement residences are not just a home, but a community. They are privately run but provincially regulated. This presented an option where she could kick back and enjoy a worry-free lifestyle in her own self-contained suite and where her daily needs (meals, housekeeping, laundry) would be met. A place where she was free to socialize and take advantage of all the active living opportunities and amenities available. How to choose which is the best facility really comes down to personal choice. It’s good to have choices but too many can be overwhelming. So, we started to do our homework:

  • First, we needed to determine what general area or community she wants to live in – close to her current home or closer to her kids and grandkids.
  • We asked friends whose parents are in homes for their advice and feedback.
  • We started searching online. Most residences have a website you can poke around to see what they offer. Does it look clean and well kept? Does it meet her needs and have some nice to haves?
  • We created a list of questions
    • What are the size options and any extra costs in the personal unit (ie: internet, cable and telephone service)?
    • Is there transportation available for personal appointments?
    • What amenities are included (ie: housekeeping, laundry)?
    • Are pets welcome?
    • What is a typical weekly menu?
    • What are the recreational activities included?
    • Are there outdoor areas to enjoy?
    • Are guest stays available?
    • And the big question: “What does it cost per month? What are considered “extra care costs”?
  • Next, we started booking tours. Take advantage of staying overnight or for the weekend. It will give you the option to try out the food and talk to the residences and staff in order to get a feel for the place. Ultimately you should be able to envision yourself staying there long-term.

Everything comes with a price and there can be a big difference between facilities. We found monthly costs ranged from $2,500 to upwards of $10,000. In some communities, low income housing options are available. Keep in mind that the cost is like choosing and paying for an all-inclusive vacation. You truly get what you pay for. Remember: it’s your loved one’s choice. Don’t push your preferences on them. Let them weigh the pros and cons of each place.

Other Options Down the Road

When the time comes, we know we may have to consider other living arrangements when Mom needs more hands-on care:

Assisted Living

These can be government or privately run for people with some limitations in physical or cognitive health. They provide 24-hour care with assistance with grooming and personal care, mobility, medications or anything related to your disease care. There is usually a base cost and then additional charges based on care required. It’s important to find out the level of care. Some offer level 1-4 care so you won’t have to move multiple times.

Long Term Care

With these type of facilities, you need to be assessed and referred by your family doctor. The cost of long-term care is actually shared by the government. They pay for everything to do with care and you pay for the space. They do provide basic furnishings including a bed, nightstand and chair. It’s up to you to make it as homey as possible given the limited space. Cost is based on your income.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. For every place we have been in contact with so far, the staff have been wonderful and very helpful. They have dealt with many individuals and families who are struggling to make one of the biggest life changing decisions they have ever made. Their patience and empathy were welcomed and they provided us packages of information and checklists to help in our decision making.

Like with retirement savings, you’re never too young to start planning and educating yourself. I’ve already started asking my spouse where he sees us in the next 10 – 20 years.

The Decision

In closing, remember whose decision this is and that as long as your loved one is happy, safe and cared for, there will be less worry all around. Hey, if things don’t work out, they can always come live with you. I’ll save that blog for another day.

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How Debt Can Impact Your Relationship

Over half of Saskatchewan people say that they would have no issue pursuing a relationship with someone if they had a high level of debt. Debt may be low on your list of deal breakers, but it can severely impact the health of your relationship if it isn’t talked about or there isn’t a plan in place to pay it off. This blog recounts how debt struggles negatively impacted the author’s relationship with their partner and the small but impactful steps they took to fix it.


Let’s talk about debt baby

How much debt would be too much to prevent you from exploring a relationship with someone? According to 52% of Saskatchewanians, no amount of debt would stop them from dating or marrying a partner.

Though debt may not impact you from choosing a partner, it could have an impact on your relationship. According to Canadian divorce statistics, Canada’s divorce rate has increased by 44.15% over the last 20 years, and it’s estimated one out of every 309 adults are divorced in Canada. As to the reason for the divorce – many say money!

While you may not chat about money on your first date, finances should be a topic that is talked about as your relationship becomes more serious. From the assets you possess to the amount of debt you have, it’s important to be open and honest with your significant other to ensure both parties know what they may be getting into. It’s important to continually have this conversation with your partner in order to reduce any stress or tension that may negatively impact your relationship.

This advice is something I wish I knew and started talking about sooner. This is my experience.

How it started

I met my husband when I was 15, and though we didn’t start dating until a few years later, money was not even a topic of mind. I mean, is it for anyone at that age?

Skip forward 21 years to where we are today and money is something we talk about regularly. However, this wasn’t always the case, and up until about 5 years ago, money was not part of our conversation. Looking back, I realize how not talking about money with one another was putting a lot of stress on us and taking a heavy toll on our relationship.

Five years ago, we were in debt and struggling to get a hold of our finances. We each had our own bank accounts, individual vehicle payments, different credit cards and line of credits – everything was separate. Because of this, we didn’t have a full grasp on our finances as a whole. We continually tried to pay our debt down, but no matter what we did it seemed to continually go up. There was tension. There were fights. Our relationship was rocky. We knew we needed to do something before our debt and our relationship got worse.

With our mortgage up for renewal, we decided it’s now or never to make a change. We sat down with our financial advisor and looked at what options we had.

Consolidating our debt

After talking with our financial advisor, we decided to consolidate our debt. What this means is that you take all of the debt you have – loans, credit cards, vehicle payments, mortgage, etc. – and roll it into one monthly payment. Consolidating your debt doesn’t make it go away, however, it can help you gain control of your finances a bit easier.

Now that we had all of our debt in one spot, we needed to be able to manage all of our money from one channel, so we decided to join our bank accounts and have a joint credit card. While joint accounts may not be for everyone, it was the best option for us and showed us how each of us was spending individually. This wasn’t something we hid from one another when we had individual accounts but it also wasn’t something we talked about. With time, we started to get a grasp on our spending habits and were able to hold each other more accountable.

Tip: The one downside with having a joint account is that each of you can see all the transactions in the account and it can ruin the surprise if you buy a gift for your loved one. We recommend using cash for any gifts in order to keep the element of surprise.

To see change, you must make change

We had gotten ourselves into debt before because of our spending habits and behaviours, and if we didn’t change, we’d most likely wind up in a similar situation. To see difference, we needed to change how we talked about money and how we spent money.

The first order of business was introducing the word “money” into our conversations. It was UNCOMFORTABLE, to say the least, and didn’t begin well. We started with financial goals and quickly realized we were on two separate pages: one of us wanted to save for trips and a new vehicle and the other wanted to think retirement. It was frustrating and we wanted to give up immediately.

Once we figured out our financial goals, we started to create a plan on how to change our spending habits. This included building a budget and actively tracking our transactions each month.

Creating the budget was the easy part. The challenging part was changing our behaviours and the first few months were tough. Over time it got easier and after making some significant changes in our spending behaviours, openly talking about our money, and ensuring each other knew where we were at in our budget, we started to see some positive changes. This included starting to actively put money into our savings and seeing it grow – something we hadn’t really done until this point.

Tip: Build your budget together and be realistic. The first few months will be tough, but if you do it together, you’re able to support one another and hold each other accountable where needed. This allows you to celebrate and succeed together.

How it’s going

It’s unbelievable how much of a positive impact a few simple conversations about money and behaviour changes have had on our household.

We continue to set a monthly budget and compare our spending to these amounts which keeps us on track to reach the goals we set. Though we still have our consolidated debt, in five years we have not gotten ourselves into any new debt and are even actively working to pay our mortgage and debt down faster!

What used to cause us stress and a lot of tension has turned into an ongoing positive conversation and even celebrations when we hit our goals. Where we were previously embarrassed to talk about our situation with friends and family, we now openly talk money and do so together (my husband’s even sitting beside me now and helping me write this blog as we speak). And the best part of all, our relationship has never been better.

Looking back, we wish we would have started the conversation a lot earlier. All we can do is share our story to help others learn from it. Money is something that needs to be talked about. No matter how uncomfortable or awkward it may be, it’s important to talk about your financial goals and spending habits– trust me, you’ll thank yourself and your relationship for it later.

Puppy Ownership: Financial Costs, Tips & Advice

A puppy or a Peleton Bike: two things that you saw a lot of people invest in during the pandemic. Many of us had savings or discretionary income that wasn’t being used due to travel being restricted. The result: the pandemic puppy. While the addition of an animal can provide companionship, it doesn’t come without costs. On average, owning a dog can cost up to $5,000 annually. This blog will highlight the obvious costs of getting a pet, help you expect the unexpected and provide tips to save.


Meet Nash!

Nash is my puppy and he’s a 10-month-old golden retriever. As you look through the budget below, keep in mind that these costs will vary. For example, Nash is a pure bred, so the initial investment was much higher compared to if we had got him from a rescue or humane society. As well, if you have a smaller dog, there are certain expenses that might not apply to you or will be much lower, such as food.

These are just a few of the costs I’ve experienced – but there are many other expenses that may come up depending on your pet and your lifestyle. For most of this past year many of us have been working from home. However, in a typical year this may not be the case at which point you might need to consider pet care, which can cost up to $400 per month.

Obvious and hidden costs of getting a pet

A recent article by the Leader Post stated, many animal shelters have seen spikes in the demand and interest in pet adoptions. Another CBC article notes, “more than one third of Canadian households now have a dog, and 40 percent now have a cat.” With travel restricted and a lot more time being spent at home, many people opted to use the savings or discretionary income that was being saved for trips and invest it in a dog. I was one of these people.

On April 27th, 2020, I hopped on the pandemic puppy train when my dog Nash came into this world. I knew there would be costs that would come with it but I also wasn’t expecting some of the hidden costs of dog ownership.

In 2019, seven Canadians broke down their monthly spending and found, on average, a dog can cost up to $5,000 annually. Ranging from $14,000 on the high-end to $1,600 on the low end, these costs can vary depending on the type, size, and health of your dog, and didn’t include the initial investment.

To help you break down the costs I created a quick budget of all the obvious costs I’ve experienced.

Expect the Unexpected

They say bringing a puppy home is like bringing home a baby – they eat, sleep, poop, cry a lot, and get into everything – these are the costs I didn’t expect!

This has meant ripped apart throw pillows (too many to count), chewed up bed sheets and duvet, shoes, hats, gloves, rugs, and so many toys. On top of the cost of replacing or repairing these items, this can also lead to surprise vet visits. On average, a routine visit can cost between $200 to $400 for dogs and $90 to $200 to cats. When you factor in accidents or injuries, these tend to cost a variable amount more.

We’ve been lucky that despite everything Nash has gotten into, we haven’t had to make any surprise visits to the vet *knocks on wood*, but if we had, these are not expenses we would have been prepared for. Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way on how to save:

Start saving early

Unless it’s a spur of the moment decision, you often have a few months to prepare before bringing home your new pet – especially if it is from a breeder. For me and my partner, what worked well was setting up a separate savings account. Each month we would each put away $200. We knew the initial investment of bringing Nash home would be a lot, so this made that cost much more manageable.

Keep saving

Once you’ve started a savings account, keep it going. This is a great way to accumulate funds for those emergency situations and utilize compound interest.

Space out your purchases

There is a lot of planning that goes into the days, weeks or months leading up to bringing home your new pet. You need to buy food, beds, leashes, toys, and much more. One thing that worked well for me was spacing out my purchases. Over the 2-3 months leading up to bringing Nash home I would slowly start buying what he would need. This also helps the day you bring him home to not be nearly as overwhelming because you already have everything you need and you aren’t making costly impulse purchases at your nearest pet store.

Cut costs where you can

You’ve just brought home the newest member of your family and you want nothing but the best for them, right? There are certain items you’re going to want to splurge on, including food, bones, and treats. These are what will help keep your pet strong and healthy. But when it comes to toys or bed, you don’t necessarily need to buy the $25 chew toy. This was my lesson learned. We splurged on expensive toys in the beginning and I quickly found out that Nash will rip or chew a toy to shreds within 15 minutes, regardless of the price tag. If you’re looking for cheaper items, Dollarama has a great pet section.

A pet can be a great addition to any household – especially this past year when many of us were feeling isolated, lonely, and craving companionship. But it’s important to understand the costs and what you can afford. While some costs like food, basic vet care, and toys are a must, there are always options to accommodate any budget. Good luck with your new fur baby!

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.  

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.

How COVID-19 Affected My Wedding Day

Uncertainty, frustration, sadness – not the things I was expecting to feel in the months leading up to my wedding and not something that was stopping me from becoming Bridezilla. Unfortunately, COVID-19 took the decision out of my hands and I was forced to let go of the wedding vision I had dreamed of since I was a little girl. Read on to find out how I managed my stress levels, changed plans (sometimes on the fly), managed the fluctuating budget and ended up having an amazing wedding day during COVID-19. 


You know what they say about the best laid plans…

I got engaged at the end August 2019 and to say I was excited to plan the wedding is an understatement. Not only do I love to plan things, but like most women, I’d been thinking about my wedding day for years and had more than one Pinterest board all queued up and ready to go. My new fiancé asked me to marry him and then promptly left for three weeks to work up in northern Saskatchewan – great timing, I know. Fortunately, this gave me the perfect opportunity to plan the whole wedding. I created our wedding website, booked the majority of our vendors, chose a date (I did consult with him on this part), booked a venue, lined up my bridesmaids, started dress shopping and let the people know who were traveling when they needed to be here. We were going to be married in Regina at the Wascana Country Club on June 13, 2020. In the next few months, I ordered my dress, chose the bridesmaid dresses and got all of the invitations sent out. Things were cruising along really well. I was buying everything in advance so that we were ready and so we could sit back and not have much stress in the months leading up to our wedding day. Queue the global crisis…

Who needs pre-marital counseling when you have a pandemic

When we first heard about the coronavirus, I initially thought it wouldn’t affect us or our special day. Then the borders closed, the cases started to rise, and we were both home – 100% of the time. During those few months, we were able to work through and talk about a lot of things. To say the stress levels were high would be an understatement, but we really focused on making decisions together and keeping open lines of communication. Except for the part where I unanimously made the decision to push our wedding reception a year, including all of our vendors, and then told him after the fact.

“Sorry honey”.

Vendors, deposits and budgets, oh my!

I was very fortunate that we didn’t lose any money when we chose to change our wedding plans and we were able to simply shift everything by one year. This meant that all of that planning I had done wasn’t going to go to waste. I did hear about a lot of people that made the decision to cancel their wedding and lost money and I feel for them. It’s always a great idea to create a wedding budget and stick to it because weddings are expensive and it’s easy to go into serious debt in the planning and spending, especially when you go to wedding expos and see what others are doing. But one thing you can’t budget or plan for is when you end up losing your deposits and that can make a stressful time much worse. I’m not going to go into the debate of signed contracts, non-refundable deposits and whether or not a pandemic that is out of your control is grounds for a deposit return, however, I will say that every single one of my vendors was very easy to work with and they, and their businesses, were feeling the financial burdens and uncertainty we all were.

If you are currently in the position of deciding whether to postpone and are afraid to have the conversation with your vendors – I highly recommend just ripping off the band-aid. Although we are all feeling the financial burden of the global pandemic, these businesses survive on positive word-of-mouth and referrals and many will deliver on good customer service in order to win your endorsement. They will understand and the sooner you let them know – the more flexible they can be.

So what did we do?

Well, I am now a Mrs., and our wedding picture is at the top of this blog, so we did get married June 13. We chose to get married at my parents’ lake house with those of our bridal party that could attend and my parents’ best friends (limited numbers made it easy to cut down the guest list). The biggest thing we learned is that missing out on many of the material things did not make the day any less memorable or perfect. Although we had to shift our initial vision of what the day was going to look like. at the end of the day I was able to get married to a wonderful man surrounded by love and even those far away were able to be part of it via live steam – and that, I wouldn’t change for anything. We are going to have a reception next June (fingers crossed) and we will be able to celebrate with everyone at that time.

Tips for getting married during COVID-19 (or any pandemic)

  1. Breathe – you can do this. It may feel like it, but it’s not the end of the world (hopefully). Plans will change and you will have to be agile and flexible, but I believe in you.
  2. Lean on others – there are lots of others going through the same things and you can get lots of tips from them. Talk to your family and your future spouse, they want to be there for you and help you through this.
  3. Take time to pause and process what you’ve lost – at the end of the day, it’s sad when your sister and best friend literally cannot come to your wedding because it means traveling or your grandma can’t attend because it’s too dangerous. It’s important to take a minute to just say “this sucks”, maybe yell or throw things or go find a batting cage or hit some golf balls. Whatever it is, let yourself feel the loss.
  4. Don’t dwell on what can’t be – you will drive yourself crazy focusing on all the things you can’t have and your wedding will be overshadowed by sadness rather than being a celebration of love and happiness.
  5. Decide what you need and what you can do without – whether you are going ahead with a paired down version of your wedding or moving it to next year, decide what things you can’t do without and what you can. The same goes for guests.
  6. Look for ways to include those who can’t be there – for us, it was live streaming the wedding, calling people after the ceremony and FaceTiming my sister from Australia for the entire dinner and speeches. Best part, all of that was free.
  7. Stick to your budget – there is a good chance you may lose some deposits if you decide not to postpone or reschedule and that will have a huge impact on your budget. If you decide, like us, to have a wedding now and a reception in the future, you need to decide if your wedding budget will remain the same or if you are going to create a different one for each event and that may mean more money is going to be spent. Either way, make your budget and stick to it.
  8. Talk to your vendors – regardless if you are postponing or going ahead, keep in contact with your vendors. They are probably wondering, just like you, what’s going on. Be patient with them as well – they didn’t plan for COVID-19 either and are going to be a lot more willing to work with you to find a solution if you don’t go bridezilla on them.
  9. Make it a memorable day – no matter what, it’s still your wedding day and you need to make it about you and your future spouse. Find ways to keep the day about you and not the pandemic and what you’ve lost.
  10. Don’t let people call you a COVID bride – COVID-19 may have forced you to change your plans, but it’s not what should define your wedding. Unless that is your theme, then you do you.