Top 5 Strategies to Pay Off Your Debt

Believe me, I know – if you’re in debt, whether it’s big or little, getting started on paying it off can be overwhelming. Here are my top five strategies to get you started and moving in the right direction and tackle that debt. Find a strategy that works for you and stick with it!


1. Pay off your most expensive debt first

If you have one particular debt with a super high interest rate, try making that debt your priority. You’ll need to maintain minimum payments on your other debts, but really putting everything you can into your most expensive debt will help to make your overall future debt less. The power of compound interest means that this debt has the possibility to grow the fastest, so eliminating it first is a solid step in the right direction.

2. Pay off your smallest debt first

This is a strategy for when you really need a win to get you motivated. By maintaining minimum payments on all of your debts and focusing on the one that will be the fastest to pay off, you’ll quickly get a little victory to keep you moving forward with the rest of your debt repayment plan.

3. The cash diet

Especially if you can get yourself into trouble with a credit or even debit card, the cash diet is a strategy where your budget becomes absolute law. You plan your budget (give our budget calculator a try), then take out cash to see you through a set amount of time like a week or the whole month. Once the cash is gone, that’s the end of your spending. It’s helpful to break up the cash into your individual budgets for things like groceries, gas, or pet expenses.

4. Use a tool to track your spending

If you’re struggling to find the money to pay off your debt, knowing exactly where all of your money goes is an important first step on finding room in your budget. Use our spending analysis tool or there are lots of great free apps that you can hook up to your bank account and credit cards that will track and categorize every transaction. Maybe you’ll realize you’re spending $30 a month on subscriptions you don’t even use, or that your grocery budget is way more than you thought it was. Knowledge is power, and with detailed knowledge of your spending, you can build better habits and cut out excess. For recommendations on how much of your income should go to which areas of your life, check out our how much money should I spend blog.

5. Ask for help

The burden of debt is worse if you’re suffering in silence. Talking to your friends, family, partner, or trusted mental health professional about how you want to start tackling your debt can help to make the stress more manageable. You can also talk to a financial expert, like one at Conexus, on your best path forward, and they can even help you refine your game plan. You can also talk to your creditors. It’s worth a phone call to see if any of your creditors are able to lower your interest rates, especially if you’ve been keeping up with minimum payments.

Debt is personal, so any strategy for tackling it that will work for you is the right strategy!

What debt strategy have you found success with? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

A woman is making an online purchase and is holding her credit card in her hand and entering her credit card number

The Real Cost of Carrying a Balance on a Credit Card

Do you know what it actually costs when you carry a balance on your credit card?
We’ve broken it down and even have a tool to figure out how long it might take you to pay off your balance.


Balance is a good thing… right?

Sometimes because of unexpected costs or not enough planning, you end up carrying a balance on your credit card. But what, exactly, does it cost when you don’t pay your credit cards in full each month?

Let’s start by defining a few important terms when it comes to credit:

Principal – The amount you originally borrowed. Yes, anything you spend on your credit card is borrowed money.

Interest – What your credit card charges you for the privilege of borrowing money. This is usually presented as an annual percentage rate.

Compound Interest – Interest that is added to your principal … which is then charged interest. Interest on your interest is how credit card debt can stack up so quickly.

Minimum Payment – The smallest amount of money you can pay in order to keep your credit card and not damage your credit score.

Credit Score – This is essentially a measure of how good you are at fulfilling your financial commitments. A good credit score can help you buy a house or a car, get a loan, start a business, or even get you better interest rates.

Interest grows your debt

Let’s use an example. Say you’ve got $1,000 on a credit card with a 19% interest rate. That’s not bad, right? $1,000 isn’t that much at all, and 19% is a pretty standard interest rate. So, let’s say you put $20 each month toward paying off that debt, which is an approximate minimum payment. Do you want to know how long it would take to pay that balance off? More than eight years! And what would it cost you? About $997, which is basically doubling your debt load! And that’s with only paying off your principal with no additional borrowing.

With compound interest, every dollar you leave on your credit card ends up costing you more and more. It’s a powerful thing that can be used to your advantage when it comes to saving, but that’s another blog post.

The example above is just that, an example, but you can use our repayment calculator to help you figure out exactly what your debt might cost you.

A credit card can be good

There’s an obvious solution here, right? Just don’t get a credit card!

Well … it’s not quite that simple. In order to build credit, you need to use credit. So, if you hope to own a home one day, or even get a car loan, you’ll have to work to build your credit. The best way to do this is to use your credit card and pay off the entire balance each month.

Some good tips on using credit with care are:

  • Keep your credit limit sensible
  • Use credit cards for recurring payments that are a regular part of your budget
  • Plan for larger purchases
  • Use credit cards to build good credit within your budget, not as a tool to spend more than you earn
  • If you can’t trust yourself with your cards, leave them at home

See how long it’ll take to pay off your credit card balance

Credit is an important part of your financial life, but carrying a balance, or not managing it well can lead to a struggle with debt. Try our repayment calculator and remember that debt is something that can happen to any of us, so never be embarrassed to talk about it.

Did you learn something about credit cards? Are there other questions you still have about them? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Couple reviewing how debt stacks up against other Canadians

How Does Your Debt Stack Up?

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


Debt

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

What Canadians owe

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

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

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

Canadians have a lot of debt.

Gen X are the most in debt

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

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

D*bt happens

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

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

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

Man and woman sitting on couch talking about finances

Honey, can we talk finances?

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


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

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

What’s the underlying issue?

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

How can we fix this? 

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

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

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

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

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

Expenses of homeownership

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


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

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

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

Expenses you don’t have a choice about

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

Expenses you may not expect

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

Expenses you can choose

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

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

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

engaged couple holding a sign that says I said yes!

I’m engaged! Now what?

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


Congratulations! Now it’s time to freak out

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

Hit pause

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

Start the budget

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

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

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

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

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

race track with lanes three and four

7 simple ways to improve your finances

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


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

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

1. Stop making excuses

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

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

2. Set limits on your purchases

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

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

3. Set savings goals

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

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

4. Pay off debt

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

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

5. Think long-term

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

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

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

6. Be realistic

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

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

7. Experiment

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

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

 

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

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

Person putting credit card into ATM

Cash advances | What to know and advice

Here are some things to know about a cash advance and tips before you withdraw.


It’s the first Monday of the month…payday isn’t until Friday…you’re already into your overdraft, and…your three kids forgot to tell you that school pictures are on Wednesday which they need $20 each in cash. Cash that you don’t have – what do you do? You start to weigh the options:

  1. Call the grandparents and ask for picture day money.
  2. Stop at a local Cash Store or Moneymart (but you already know the fees are outrageous and don’t want to get caught in the vicious cycle of payday loans).
  3. Borrow money from another parent at the school.
  4. Swing by the ATM and get a cash advance from your credit card.

Option #4 is your decision, and it’s what we’re here to talk about – The Cash Advance!

So what’s the big deal? You’ll be able to pay off the cash advance at the end of the month when you pay your credit card bill. True, but what will you be paying?

A cash advance works a little different than just paying with your credit card. The biggest difference being that interest is calculated the moment the money comes out of ATM until it’s paid back. You pay a fee to get the money and continue to pay interest until the money is returned. So, by the end of the month your $60.00 may end up costing closer to $70.00 when you pay it back!

CashAdvance_Shock_CreditCard_Interest_Monkeys

Yep, that’s how I felt, when I learned about cash advance interest.

In contrast…when you tap (or swipe) your card to make a purchase, and pay it back “in-full” by the end of the month, you only pay the amount you spent (no interest is charged) – we call that a grace period. A grace period is the period of time the credit card company gives you to pay your new charges without charging interest on the balance. This period typically runs from the end of a billing cycle to the next payment due date – for most credit cards it’s about 21 days. For cash advances though, there is no grace period.

So that is that short and sweet about cash advances, but not the end of our blog. Let’s take this one step further and give you some practical advice on how to avoid needing a cash advance.

Practical advice #1 – Create a budget

The best thing to do is to create a budget. The purpose of a budget is to help us manage the money we make, the money we spend, and the money we save. My budget includes things like rent, gas, groceries, entertainment, music gear and my tall, 1/2 sweet, non-fat, extra espresso shot, vanilla latte from Starbucks. Because let’s be honest with each other, there should always be a budget line for Starbucks coffee – maybe not all the time, but every so often to treat ourselves for a job well done.

Practical advice #2 – Add cash to the budget

Once you have your budget all figured out, think about adding cash or a misc. expense line into your budget. I run on a bi-weekly budget because I get paid bi-weekly and part of my budget is adding $40.00 – $60.00 of cash into my wallet. The cash isn’t there for a specific purpose, but for moments that I need cash – those miscellaneous expenses I didn’t plan for, such as picture day fees. If I still have the cash in my wallet the next time I get paid, I celebrate because I’m now saving money that I would have normally taken out as cash, which leads me to my final piece of advice…

Practical advice #3 – Save when you’ve over budgeted

What do I mean by that? Sometimes we set out a budget and at the end of the month, we didn’t spend all the money we budgeted and have money left over. I don’t know about you, but my first reaction is usually…

Though I’m tempted to spend it, what I’ve learned to do instead is put that money into my savings account, TFSA, or talk with my financial advisor to get advice on what I could do; especially if it happens often.

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of cash advances, along with tips to help you prepare for those unexpected expenses. If you have any questions about a cash advance or budgeting, please ask in the comments section below. We’d be happy to chat with you!

Finally – here are a few additional action items that can help you improve your overall financial well-being:

  1. If you’ve never created a budget I would recommend you take 10 minutes and try our newly updated BUDGET CALCULATOR! It’s free to use!
  2. If you want some free financial advice fill out the form on the bottom of our site!
  3. Leave a comment and ask more questions! Conexus #MONEYTALK blog is meant to be a 2-way-conversation!
  4. Read Laura’s amazing blog on “10 Ways to Control Your Finances” 
  5. If you really want to take your financial journey to the next level why not Become A Member of Conexus, where your financial well-being drives everything we do!
filing system for income taxes

Why you should file an income tax return

Filing a tax return is important, even if you had no income for the year, as you may be eligible for credits that could result in a refund. Here are several reasons why you should file a tax return. 


It’s that time of year again – tax season. Whether you have income or not, there are many reasons why you should file an income tax return each year.

You owe tax or will receive a refund.

When you file your taxes, there are two outcomes – either you’ll owe tax or you’ll get a refund.

Of Canadians who have filed their 2018 income taxes, approximately 71% have received a refund, with the average refund being just over $1,600.

Owing tax is not as fun as receiving a refund, but it’s important to file a return and pay these taxes by the deadline to ensure you’re not charged interest which will increase what you owe.

Take advantage of non-refundable and refundable tax credits

You may be eligible to receive certain credits from the government but must file an income tax return in order to determine eligibility and your benefit amount.

Non-refundable tax credits:

Non-refundable credits lower your tax payable. They are named “non-refundable” as these credits cannot, by themselves, get you a refund. A few examples include:

  • Tuition
  • Charitable donations
  • First-time homebuyers amount
Refundable tax credits

Refundable tax credits are a specific amount of money deducted from the amount of tax you owe and is the same amount whether you owe $100 or $1000. For refundable tax credits, the government will pay you the refundable tax credit you qualify for whether you owe tax or not, meaning if you had no tax payable, theses refundable amounts would result in a refund on their own. Examples include:

  • Working income tax benefit
  • GST/HST credit

Recuperate any tax you overpaid from your pay cheque

If you’ve switched jobs part way through the year or worked multiple jobs last year, you may have overpaid taxes on your paycheque(s). When you file an income tax return, it allows you to recover any taxes you may have overpaid.

Carry forward or transfer any unused tuition, education or textbook amounts

If you attended a post-secondary level course, you may be able to claim the tuition credit. This credit is non-refundable, meaning if the tuition is greater than the tax you owe, the tax credit can only be used to reduce or eliminate what you owe. Any unused amounts can be carried forward to a future tax year, or you can also transfer to a spouse/common-law partner or parent/grandparent.

Even if you have no tax to pay, it’s important to file an income tax return to claim your tuition, education and textbook amounts so that you can update any unused amounts, and carry them forward to future years.

 

When it comes to doing your income tax return, there are many tools and resources to assist you including information on the Government of Canada’s website.  As well, often organizations within different communities offer free income tax preparation services which you can usually find through a quick Google search. Are there any free income tax preparation services available within your community? Share with us below by telling us which community and who offers the services.

living room of home filled with moving boxes

5 tips for anyone moving out for the first time

Moving out on your own for the first time can be quite overwhelming, especially when it comes to your finances and all of the extra expenses you now have. Here are some tips for managing your finances when moving out on your own for the first time. 


Moving out on your own for the first time is a big life decision. Like any big life decision, it comes with its own set of challenges and excitements. Often, we focus on the excitement of it all – the freedom we’ll have in our own place, being able to make it our own, and more. Yes, those things are exciting, but what we forget or be naïve to is all the #adulting that comes with it, including all the extra expenses we didn’t have before. Paying rent or a mortgage is often a financial obligation people are aware of before moving out, but what often comes as a shock is the actual costs of maintenance, utilities, insurance, groceries, toiletry items, cleaning supplies and decorative items for your new home – really, a throw pillow is $35?!?

Growing up, my family required everyone to help. Whether you were running small errands to the grocery store, cooking meals or helping clean the house, everyone was expected to do their part. We also talked about money including the importance of budgeting, the difference between wants and needs and spending wisely. Although I did not enjoy this or see it as a good thing back then, I now understand that this was preparing me for the day that I moved out on my own.

This day came just a few months ago for me. Though it’s only been a short time of me being on my own, I’ve learned quite a bit. Here are all of the things I’ve learned and a few tips to anyone considering living on their own for the first time.

Shopping & cooking for yourself

I come from a family of five, all of whom were very active and ran on different schedules. This resulted in having large meals that provided many leftovers for the week. Large meals also meant large grocery hauls and bills. As someone who has very little experience in the kitchen, this was all I knew. Needless to say, the first grocery shopping trip was large and the few meals I cooked on my own were enough to feed my entire neighbourhood. This led to a lot of wasted food by the end of the week.

Tips:

  • Make weekly meal plans. Planning your meals also allow you to make a list of only the items you need. When you go grocery shopping, this will help reduce you from buying things you don’t need and save money. Here’s a tool I use: Mealime, a meal planning app for healthy eating.
  • Use a recipe. Often recipes provide serving sizes which can help you understand how much food you’ll be making. Cut the recipe in half in only cooking for yourself or two of you, helping ensure you’re not wasting a bunch of food

There’s food in the fridge

You know when you were younger, and you’d beg your mom or dad to take you out for food and they’d say no we have food at home? Yeah, I never thought I would have that talk with myself. However, eating out or ordering in all the time can add up quickly especially nowadays with all the food delivery apps available.

  • Don’t give in to cravings. Yes, I agree, movie theatre popcorn is way better and why make it at home when you can have it delivered, right? The reality, that craving will cost about 20X+ what it would cost you to do at home and though you may be craving it, your stomach won’t know the difference.
  • Delete your apps. Gone are the days of waiting on hold to place an order and in are the days of clicking a few buttons, within just a few seconds, to place an order for takeout. Because it has become too easy, we don’t take the time to ask ourselves if ‘we really need this’ or convince ourselves ‘there’s food at home’. By deleting your takeout apps, you’ll be forced to go online or call for takeout, decreasing the convenience and providing you time to rethink your spontaneous takeout purchase.
  • Pinterest is your friend! Cooking supper doesn’t have to be difficult. For someone like me though who doesn’t overly enjoy being in or is comfortable in the kitchen, I’m often tempted to just order in. I’ve quickly realized living on my own that ordering out often is not financially feasible and there are many quick and easy recipes out there – I just need to take the time to find them and make them.

Make a budget & stick to it

A budget can be a great tool for staying in control of your finances. It is something most people know they should be utilizing and to some extent do; however, most often this is a tool we start and then forget about or don’t stay on top of. When you move out, your expenses can quickly feel overwhelming if you don’t know how to manage them. My advice, create a budget and stick to it!

Tips:

  • Create a monthly budget using a budget calculator such as the Conexus Budget Calculator. This calculator allows you to get a clear picture of where you are financially and see how your expenses with within the recommended percentages.
  • In order to stick to your budget is to know what you’re spending. Use an expense tracking app such as Mobills. By tracking my expenses daily, I have forced myself to think about and know where I am spending my money, and not just on the big things like rent.
  • Set monthly goals. By setting goals it will feel like you have something to work towards and can get excited about at the end of each month to see if you achieved your goal. And be realistic; if you set unrealistic expectations this will only deter you from your budget as you might feel discouraged.

Be mindful of your spending

As eluded to above, tracking your daily expenses can be a great way to be more mindful of our spending.

Prior to moving out this is not something I did because it was never a worry of mine. I would buy a pair of shoes or a new sweater and not blink an eye. This quickly changed once I moved out.

Tips:

  • Create a list of wants and needs. Now, I don’t just mean your obvious list of food and shelter, but also all those ‘nice-to-haves’. A new pair of shoes or sweater may be needed, but having a list of wants and needs will help you set priority to your needs. This will help you to think through your purchases instead of impulse buying and can make a big difference.
  • Challenge yourself to no spending. Take the day, week or month off from spending on things you don’t need. Instead of eating out, challenge yourself to only eat at home. Or instead of going out with friends, have a game or movie night in. You’d be surprised how much money you can save this way. And hey, we have a blog on that to show you how!

Turn off the lights!

I don’t know how many times I’d leave the lights on while living at home to hear my Mom yell, “turn the lights off if you’re not in the room!” When we live at home there are many things we take for granted because we aren’t the one having to pay for them. The cost of electricity was something I quickly realized was one of those things.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I did know that energy costs money and you need it to power your house. What I didn’t realize though is how my bad habits impacted these costs. Mom was right after all these years – but shhh, don’t tell her I said that!

Tip:

  • Cut your energy costs. Energy costs money and you can control/lesson your bill by watching how much energy you’re using. Check out our Cut Your Energy Costs blog for 8 great tips on how you can reduce your energy consumption. And remember, turn off that light if you don’t need it!

 

Though my parents prepared me for success in the adult world, there were many things I had to learn on my own. #Adulting can be hard, but with a bit of planning, tracking and self-control, at the end of the day it can be fun.

Have you recently moved out on your own, and have learnings of your own? I’d love to hear them – share with me by commenting below.