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

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


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

Condo Pros

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

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

Condo Cons

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

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

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


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

Cracking open the books and not the piggy bank

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


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

Budgets do work

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

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

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

Entertainment in moderation

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

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

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

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

Take advantage of student discounts

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

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

Use credit wisely

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

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


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

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

Help! I Need a Mortgage!

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


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

Step 1: Check, Check, Check It Out

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

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

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

Step 2: Evaluation Time: What Can You Spend?

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

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

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

Step 3: What You Should Spend & Knowing the Fees

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

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

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

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


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

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

The Cost of Being Single

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


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

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

Grocery Shopping 

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

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

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

Home Ownership & House Expenses 

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

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

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

Maintaining a Social Life  

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

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

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

Retirement Planning &  Benefits 

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

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

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

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