couple sitting on couch, looking at a computer

10 ways to take control of your finances

A New Year means resolutions and often times have a financial component to them. Here are 10 ways you can take control of your finances this coming year.


New Year. New financial you.

It’s hard to believe the New Year has already begun. With a New Year often comes resolutions – creating a plan for the future using lessons from the past – and many times have a financial component to them.

Here are 10 ways you can take control of your finances this coming year.

1. Set goals

We all have dreams of what we want to do and what we want to achieve. Make these dreams a reality by setting goals to achieve them. Organize your goals by priority and be sure they’re realistic and achievable. Tip: Start small. Small goals are easier to reach and help train your brain into believing you can achieve it, increasing your chance for success of future goals. Get started by checking out our Goal Setting Blog.

2. Take action

It’s one thing to say you’re going to do something and actually doing it. Put action to your words by creating an action plan setting dates you want to achieve parts/milestones of your goal by. Hold yourself accountable and reward yourself when achieving each milestone helping you to keep motivated.

3. Create a budget

A budget helps you manage your money, showing you how much you’re bringing in each month and where you plan on spending your money. It can help you not spend above your means and focus on what’s important to you. To make budgeting easier for you, we recommend using our online Budget Calculator.

4. Track your spending

By tracking every nickel you spend, you’re able to get an accurate picture of your spending habits – sometimes it can be very shocking how quickly or how much your purchases add up. Tracking your spending will also help you create a more precise budget based on your spending habits and allow you to identify areas where you may need to change your spending behaviours.

5. No-spend challenges

Each month challenge yourself to a spending freeze for a day, weekend or even the full month for all non-essential items. Or pick a different non-essential category to not spend on such as ‘No Eating Out March’.

We recommend challenging yourself for a day or weekend if doing for the first time. Check out our No-Spend Weekend Challenge Blog helping you succeed in taking an entire weekend off from spending.

6. Save for an emergency

Life can sometimes throw us a curveball, threatening our financial well-being and causing us stress. Set money aside each month into an emergency savings fund for those unexpected life events. Having a fund ensures if your car breaks down or your furnace goes in the middle of winter that you’re prepared and gives you peace-of-mind knowing you won’t need to stress trying to find money to cover these unexpected expenses.

7. Prepare for retirement

We all dream of the day we’ll retire – no more alarm clock, being able to take a nap whenever we’d like and playing that golf game on a Wednesday afternoon. Being able to retire the way we want though requires some planning in advance. Start preparing now by checking out our blog, Retirement: will you have enough?

8. Save your extra money

Throughout the year we come across extra money such as an income tax return or a cheque from our Grandma for our birthday. Though we may be tempted to treat ourselves, consider putting any extra, unexpected money you come across into savings – you’ll thank yourself at the end of the year when you have extra savings in the bank!

9. Invest in a TFSA

A tax-free savings account (TFSA) is a great way to save for just about anything, whether it be a short-term or long-term goal. What you save is not tax deductible nor are you taxed when you withdraw your earnings. As well, in 2019 contribution maximums have increased to $6,000. Learn more here.

10. Plan/review your estate

We often think that planning our estates is something we do when we’re older but in fact, everyone young or old should have an estate plan in place in case something unexpected were to happen to us. Having an estate plan helps our loved ones understand our wishes and how to carry them out if we were to pass. This can include naming guardians for children, instructions for your burial/cremation and how you’d like your property divided up and should be updated at each life event such as marriage, children, divorce, retirement, etc. Start your plan by speaking with a local estate planner or lawyer today.

A New Year symbolizes a fresh start and new beginnings. Hopefully, these quick tips help you feel more prepared to take on the new year and take control of your finances. For more financial advice, we encourage you to check out some of our other blogs or contact us today to set up an appointment with a financial advisor.

five friends celebrating New Year's Eve

Ring in NYE without all the bells

Tired of being let down by the hype of New Year’s Eve? Us too! Here are some tips to help you ring in the New Year without breaking the bank.


New Year’s Eve is a day to look back on the past year, whether that be celebrating your successes or reflecting on some challenges you had experienced. It’s the day to start thinking of the year ahead and what goals you want to achieve.

However, for many, instead of reflecting and goal setting, we get caught up in the hype of the night’s activities. As soon as Christmas ends, we start worrying about what we’re going to do for New Year’s Eve and what we’re going to wear. We tend to forget what really matters, spending the time with the people who helped make the past year what it was. Yes, you may have a killer outfit on and the best party to attend but if the people that matter most aren’t with you, does it really matter?

No expectations approach

This New Year’s Eve eliminate all the stress of finding the perfect outfit or the best event to attend and plan a casual night to hang with family and friends instead.

For a more relaxed day and evening, consider doing one of these activities:

  • Go for an afternoon coffee with a friend you haven’t seen in a few months. Not only will you get to catch up, but the coffee may help you stay awake for when the clock strikes 12!
  • Have a pajama movie marathon – did someone say Harry Potter? Grab some popcorn and snacks and make a whole evening out of it.
  • Get outside and take part in some winter activities such as skating or a game of shinny, tobogganing or build a snowman. Too cold outside? Have a ‘snowball’ fight inside using rolled up socks… clean of course!

Don’t break your bank

Yes, it may be fun to treat yourself for the last night of the year, but we often overspend, waking up the next morning with the feeling of regret. You don’t need to fork out a bunch of money to have fun. Consider some of these fun activities that allow you to celebrate NYE without breaking your bank.

  • Start your day off with breakfast in bed – skip going out for brunch and make yourself eggs benny and pancakes at home. Even better, you can stay in your pajamas!
  • Make your own extravagant meal or have a potluck. Make it even more fun by having a theme. Who doesn’t love a good meal filled with great conversations with friends?
  • End the year with some competition by playing board games. Guaranteed for some laughs and hopefully not too many arguments. A few of our party favourites include Catch Phrase, charades and Pictionary.
  • Have a cocktail potluck. Have everyone bring a bottle of their favourite liquor and make your own fancy cocktails at home. Need some drink inspiration – check out some NYE cocktail recipes here.
  • A party isn’t a party without some music. Have each of your party guests send you their top five favourite songs from the past year and make a NYE playlist to dance the night away.
  • Make a time capsule for the last year. This allows you to celebrate the New Year and reflect on the previous year at the same time.  Have each guest think of a question (e.g., what was the best thing that happened to you last year or what was an obstacle you faced but overcame) and put into a box to look at later in the night and reflect with your friends or family.

This year don’t get caught in the hype of NYE.  Spend the time doing things with the ones you love and create more memories to reflect on in the years to come.

What are some ways you’ve rung in the New Year that didn’t break the bank? Share with us below.

holiday wrapped presents

Giving the gift of time

It’s not about how much you spend on a gift or how big the gift is, but about the emotions and experiences you create. Check out these 30 time/experience gifts, guaranteed to create memories with your loved ones.


Have you ever received a gift during the holidays that you thought was useless junk? If you said yes, you’re not alone! Last year, an Ipsos poll exclusive to Global News showed that one-quarter of people surveyed said most of the gifts they get during the holidays are useless junk.

How we feel about a gift usually comes from the emotions we get from it. Receiving another coffee cup provides us little emotion or satisfaction while receiving some type of experience can cause a variety of emotions and satisfaction, especially those that leave a lasting memory.

This holiday season consider giving the gift of time/experience and making homemade coupon vouchers for your loved ones – guaranteed to create smiles, build relationships and make memories.

Below are 30 voucher ideas to give to your loved ones.

10 ideas for kids

  1. Picnic at the park
  2. Car cleaning – inside and out
  3. Breakfast in bed
  4. Personalized chef for the day
  5. Control of the remote for one evening
  6. Breakfast for dinner – your choice
  7. Backyard camping night
  8. Date night – you pick an activity
  9. Foot rub
  10. Day of ‘I Love You’ – every hour list one thing you love about your significant other.

10 ideas for parents

  1. Sleepover at Grandma’s house
  2. 1-hour reading time with parent or grandparent
  3. You pick the supper menu tonight
  4. Movie night in – your choice
  5. Pillow and blanket fort building contest
  6. Game night – your choice
  7. Stay up 30 minutes past bed time
  8. Pick one item to add to the grocery cart
  9. Day of tobogganing
  10. Day of skating

10 ideas for couples

  1. 1-hour yard work
  2. Breakfast in bed
  3. An evening of babysitting so you can go on a date night
  4. Folding and putting away all laundry
  5. Spa day at home
  6. Cleaning of the bathroom – toilet included
  7. Parents day off – stay in pajamas all day
  8. DIY photo album day
  9. Homemade dinner including serving and kitchen clean up
  10. Design a scavenger hunt for the whole family

 

When creating vouchers for the ones you love consider their age, who they are and what their interests are.

This holiday season remember it’s not about the amount you spend on a gift or how big the gift is but about the emotions and experiences you create. Gifts that come from the heart are usually the best gifts of all.

What other gifts of time/experiences ideas do you have or have you given? Share with us in the comments below.

Hand scrolling through social media on a tablet

The financial pressures of social media

Social media has transformed the way we see things and how we share things. It’s important to understand our true identity vs. digital identity and how social media impacts us in order to keep balance in the digital world.


Have you ever scrolled through your social feeds and saw something that you wanted? Or saw photos of what your friends were doing such as a recent vacation or night out and started comparing your life to theirs. For many, the answer is yes.

Social media has transformed the way we see things as well as how we share things. The digital world allows us to capture every moment on camera and social media has caused us to feel the need to share all of these experiences. How much of what we share though paints the full picture of our true selves?

In reality, what we share on social media is what we want others to see – the food we’re eating, the vacations we’re taking and all the family and friend experiences we’re having. We create a digital identity that often differs from our true identity.

What’s not being shared is those not-so-good things, our behind the scenes – the food mishaps that caused for that pizza to be ordered, the credit card debt we have from going on that vacation or the meltdown we had trying to get our child out the door to their activity on time and realizing team fees were also due that day. We create a false sense of reality and the picture we’ve shared is only giving part of the story to those seeing it.

Outside viewing in

From the outside, when seeing these photos we tend to forget that there’s more to the image than what we’re seeing. Most often, we forget to look at the fuller picture and make ourselves believe what we see is a reality. We don’t think about all the unknown behind the scene details. We start to compare our own lifestyles and experiences to those of others and at times, start doing things outside of our comfort zone to keep up with those around us. We then share these experiences on social to show that we are doing fun, exciting things as well, creating our own digital identity.

It becomes a domino effect. Just like you’re feeling the pressure to keep up and share all the ‘fun’ experiences, others – including those you’re trying to keep up with – are watching your feeds and feeling the same pressures to keep up with you.  The cycle is never-ending as everyone continually tries to keep up with others and at the same time, fails to provide some of the truths of the behind-the-scenes.

Staying balanced

This never-ending cycle can impact us mentally, emotionally and financially. It’s important to stay focused and live the way that works for you, not the way others make you feel you need to live or how you feel you need to share with others. Here are a few tips to staying balanced in today’s digital world.

  • Know the difference between a want and a need. Do you really ‘need’ that pair of shoes you saw on Instagram? Before making a purchase on something you saw, ask yourself if it’s a want or a need? How will it make you feel and will this feeling last or be short-lived? Asking these questions help you be mindful when shopping and could prevent you from making a purchase spontaneously that you later regret.
  • Don’t just do it to check off the box. We grow up thinking we need to check the box based on where we ‘should be in life’. We find ourselves trapped by the mindset that we should have the house, the car, the family, etc. by a certain age, especially if we’re seeing our friends doing it on social media and it can normalize the movement of over-spending. Reality is we’re all at different life stages and all have different goals and priorities. Just because someone else is checking that box doesn’t mean you have to do so as well. Remind yourself of this and do things on your terms – when you’re ready and feel it’s the right thing for you mentally and financially.
  • Quit comparing yourself to others, especially financially! Do you actually know how much each one of your friends makes? Most likely not, yet we make assumptions and then compare ourselves to them. We think ‘well I make about the same as so-and-so, so I too should be able to take a hot vacation each year’. This creates an unhealthy relationship of what reality is, as we don’t really often know the behind-the-scene details. Instead of comparing yourself and keeping up to what others are doing, understand your well-being and set goals for you. Taking a hot vacation may be possible every year but do it on your terms and ensure you create a financial action plan to help you achieve this goal.
  • Be present and make personal connections. Our digital identity is just one piece of the story. By being present and interacting with friends outside of the digital world, you’re able to connect with their true identity. Often times, you’ll start to see the fuller picture of those posts – the behind the scenes – and get a better sense of the true reality of what’s being shown.

Social media impacts everyone’s mental, emotional and financial well-being differently. Understand how it affects you personally and be conscious of this next time you’re scrolling through your social media feeds. Remember that what you’re seeing is just what others want you to see and there’s usually a lot more to the story.

Like what you read and what to hear more? Check out our recent The FOMO Effect – A Panel Discussion, where we spoke with four, amazing local Saskatchewanians to hear their views on the pressures of social media and the impact it can have on our financial well-being.

We want to know – has social media had an impact on you financially? Share your experiences and your tips & advice on staying balanced in a digital world below.

building with credit union logo

Why I made the switch to a credit union

Not happy with your bank, but scared to make the switch? Read the experiences of one of our members who recently switched financial institutions after realizing her bank was not helping her to achieve her financial goals.


My financial institution was determined at a young age and like most, who I banked with was the same as my parents. As I got older, my banking needs changed yet I continued to bank with the same financial institution. Was my inherited bank actually doing what I needed it to though?

I started to realize how important this decision was. As I’m trusting an institution with my hard earned money, it shouldn’t be about staying with the bank that was chosen for me but instead being sure that who I was banking with was an institution that met my financial needs. That’s when I began to understand what type of bank I needed for me, and if I needed to make a change.

What I took into consideration

  • Is my bank listening to me and addressing the financial needs that benefit me – not my bank?
  • What are my financial goals and how is my bank helping me to achieve these?
  • Does my banks’ values align with my personal values?
  • How is my bank contributing to my local community?

I soon came to realize that I didn’t have a relationship with my bank. My account was very transactional but the bank never made me feel like I was anything but a number. I did some research about other financial institutions and through this research, I discovered a few key differences between credit unions and banks.

Here’s what I learned.

  • Credit unions are member-owned while banks are owned by its shareholders. What this means is you have a say on how your credit union operates while banks answer to its shareholders.
  • Credit union profits go back to their members such as offering No-Fee Chequing Accounts.  They also invest their profits back into the local community. Bank profits are paid to their shareholders and your local community rarely benefits.
  • Credit unions are driven by their members. They take the time to listen, ask questions and help you achieve your financial goals. You are their number one priority.
  • Credit unions have a one team model approach and are all part of the Ding Free network, allowing members to access a number of ATMs across Canada for free. With banks, you can only use their products and services and you will be charged for using other banks’ resources.

Overall, the biggest thing I learned was that credit unions and banks offer similar products and services. The way they operate though and treat their members are different. To learn more about the differences between credit unions and banks, I recommend checking out Credit unions vs banks: What’s the difference?

After considering what my current bank offers and evaluating the difference between credit unions and banks, I wondered why I hadn’t started looking into this earlier. Why hadn’t I made the switch – by switching to a credit union, I’d be able to save $185 each year just in bank fee savings – so what was holding me back?

My fears

  • Time! I didn’t want to spend a lot of time having to switch all my payments over or learning a new bank’s products such as mobile and online banking.
  • Was it really worth the effort to make the switch? How much work was involved?
  • What if I missed payments due to the switch resulting in added interest or canceled services.
  • Would I have to give up my credit card? I liked the credit card that I had at my other bank and didn’t want to cancel it.

I started to realize that most of my “fears” were excuses and if I really wanted to take control of my finances I needed to take the time to invest in myself. Ultimately, I liked how a credit union was local and I felt that their values aligned to my personal values. I decided to reach out to Conexus Credit Union, and after speaking with a financial advisor I soon realized they really did care about my overall financial well-being and knew that it was time to make the break up with my current bank and make the switch.

Making the switch

Switching over to Conexus was quite easy, especially with their tool called Click Switch. It allowed me to switch over all of my payments within a few minutes and just the click of a few buttons. My fear of time quickly disappeared.

Tips

If you’re like me and some of your fears include missing a payment due to switching or losing a credit card you love, consider some of the tips below before making the switch.

  • Do not close your current bank account until all of your payments are switched over. Keep the account open for a few months to ensure you haven’t missed anything.
  • Leave a small amount of money in your old account to cover any payments you may have missed switching over to avoid non-sufficient funds.
  • You don’t have to switch everything over at once. It’s perfectly fine to keep your loans or mortgages with your old bank until they expire or are paid off.
  • You can keep your current credit card if you’re not wanting to depart from it quite yet. Check to see if you can link your credit card from another bank to your new credit union account. This will allow you to still view your credit card balance in your new account and help you manage your finances in one spot.
  • If you are looking at getting a new loan to pay out a previous loan at your bank, make sure you get all of your approvals and payout amounts first before closing out your account or changing your direct deposit.

In the end, I made the decision to move to a credit union because I believed in their values as an organization. I felt it was easier to have an open and trusting conversation and it saved me money on bank fees. Ultimately, when determining your financial institution consider how your financial institution can impact your overall financial well-being. For me, choosing a credit union was the perfect fit.

List of payments

How much money should I spend on…

Where should you be spending your money? This blog shares the recommended percentages on where you should be spending your money on things such as housing, transportation and more.


 

A budget is a plan that can prioritize your money. It allows you to see how much money you’ll bring in each month (income) and where you plan on spending (expenses) your money. It also allows you to understand where you may be able to decrease budget within some categories such as living expenses or increase your budget in other categories such as savings. Most importantly, it helps to set a plan to not spend above your means.

A budget can also help you see what percentage of your income you’re spending within the different expense categories. Below we break down the different expense categories and the recommended percentage of income you should be spending within each.

Housing

We recommend keeping your housing expenses to 30-40% of your income. Housing expenses include your mortgage/rent, condo fees, property taxes, insurance, maintenance and utility payments.

One popular rule of thumb says that you should set aside 1% of your home’s value each year for ongoing maintenance (vent cleaning, paint refresh, etc.). For example, if your home is worth $250,000, you should budget $2,500 each year for maintenance. We recommend setting money aside each month into a savings account to cover these maintenance costs when they occur. Doing so, will help you be prepared for those larger expenses and not be ‘scrambling’ to find money within your budget to cover a large expense.

Though many of these expenses are fixed, meaning you can’t change the expense amount, there are a few ways you can reduce these expenses. Consider reducing the amount you use/spend on utilities. This can include installing a rain barrel to collect rainwater to water your yard or trying out one of these eight energy-saving tips.

Transportation

We recommend keeping your transportation expenses to 10-20% of your income. Expenses in this category include vehicle loans, gas, insurance and maintenance.

Some ways to reduce expenses in this category include using city transit, carpooling or saving on gas by using GasBuddy.com to tell you where the nearest and cheapest gas stations are.

Living expenses

For living expenses, we recommend keeping to 20-30% of your income. These expenses include childcare, groceries, eating out, entertainment, phone, personal care, clothing, gifts, donations, medical, etc. Though there are a lot of expenses in this category, many of these are variable expenses meaning they can be adjusted based on your financial situation.

You may not be able to change your childcare fees, but expenses related to groceries, eating out, entertainment, phones, etc. can be adjusted. Things such as cooking at home vs. going out to eat or picking a smaller cable package or cell phone package are all ways to help reduce these expenses.

Budgeting doesn’t mean you can’t have fun but instead helps you be aware of how you’re spending your money and to treat yourself in moderation and within your means. Here are a few creative alternatives to consider to help keep expenses down within these categories.

Debt repayment

If you have debt, such as a balance on a line of credit or credit card, we recommend keeping your debt repayments at 10-20% of your income.

It may be tempting to reduce expenses in this category before others when adjusting your budget, but we recommend trying to reduce elsewhere, like your living expenses before adjusting these expenses. Setting 10-20% of your income towards paying off your debt sets a plan in action for eliminating your debt and helps towards your financial freedom.

It’s important to always budget money to ensure your debt’s monthly minimum payment is covered and then apply extra money to your debt to reduce the amount owed even faster. For additional advice and tips on eliminating debt, we recommend checking out our Eliminating Debt blog.

Savings

For savings, we recommend putting 10% or more of your income into savings each month. This includes savings for your goals (short-term, intermediate and long-term), retirement, emergency savings, RESPs and more.

This category is truly about being sure to pay yourself first. Not sure what we’re talking about – discover more here.

To make budgeting easier for you, we recommend checking out our online Budget Calculator. All you have to do is insert your monthly income, expenses and savings and you’ll get a clear picture of where you are financially. You’ll also be able to see how your expenses fit within the recommended percentages we just discussed.

At the end of the day, setting a budget can help you stay focused on what’s important and give you guidelines on how you’ll spend your money. As for ensuring you stick to this budget though, that will be up to you.

mortgage documents and pen

Fixed vs. variable: picking a mortgage that’s right for you

Fixed or variable? When it comes to picking the type of mortgage rate you want, there are many things to consider. 


There are many questions and decisions to make when buying a house. How much can I afford? Where do I want to be located? How much can I put down? Something you may not be considering though is the type of mortgage rate you want – a fixed rate mortgage or a variable rate mortgage.  Understanding and picking the type of mortgage rate you want is a big decision, and without the proper knowledge and resources, can be quite difficult to make. When choosing the mortgage rate for you, it’s important to look at your situation and ask yourself what you are comfortable with.  Like any big decision someone makes in their life, it often starts with a good old-fashioned pro’s and con’s list.

Fixed

A fixed mortgage rate is one that remains the same throughout the entire term of your mortgage, no matter how much the market fluctuates. With a fixed rate, you’ll know exactly what you’re paying towards the principal and the interest on your mortgage.

  • Pro: Known as the ‘set it and forget it choice’, a fixed rate mortgage provides no risk if interest rates change and can provide a sense of security for people, especially if raising interest rates cause you stress.   
  • Con: Fixed mortgage rates often are higher than variable mortgage rates and are locked-in, meaning if interest rates were to decrease, you wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the lower rates. They typically have higher payout penalties than variable mortgage rates if having to break a mortgage prior to the term being up.

Variable

A variable mortgage rate is one that fluctuates with the market interest rate, known as the ‘prime rate’. What this means is the amount of your mortgage payment that goes to the principal and towards interest can change month-to-month.

  • Pro: Generally, variable mortgage rates are lower and can result in interest savings and provide you with the option to pay your mortgage off faster. Variable mortgage rates also have a lower payout penalty (3 months interest) if the mortgage is broken prior to the term being up.
  • Con: Variable rates have a bit of risk associated with them, as they’re unpredictable due to fluctuating markets. If interest rates increase, the amount you pay towards interest will also increase.

When people hear the term variable, many believe this means that your payment fluctuates. What many don’t know is that when choosing a variable rate you have the option to set your payment amount so it’s the same each time. What this means is that each payment date your payment amount stays the same, but depending on an increase or decrease in interest rates the portion of your payment that goes towards interest and to the principal may change. To learn more, talk to a mortgage specialist.

To help explain the difference between fixed and variable rates further, we recommend checking out this great Know How video by Ontario’s Northern Credit Union.

Your buying situation

There are many factors to consider when choosing between a fixed and variable rate. To help break it down, here are the three questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is your risk tolerance?
  2. What is your financial circumstance?
  3. What are the chances of you breaking your mortgage before maturity?

Risk Tolerance

Everyone’s risk tolerance is different and depends on your personal and financial situation. For some, a bit of risk may be scary, while for others they may be comfortable taking one. If you’re someone who lays awake at night worrying about increasing or changes to payments, choosing a variable rate may not be for you.

Financial Circumstance

Your financial circumstance can have a large impact on determining if a fixed or variable rate is right for you. Do you live pay cheque to pay cheque or frequently spending above your means? If so, a fixed rate may be the better option for you. If interest rates increase causing your mortgage payment to increase does this cause you to worry? If you can handle an increase, a variable rate might be better suited for you.

Breaking your mortgage before maturity

Life happens and things change that may cause you to break your mortgage before your term is up. It’s important to understand when choosing a mortgage the rules around payout penalties – the fee you would pay if you were to break your mortgage before the term ends. Variable and fixed rates have different payout penalty rules and a mortgage specialist can help you to understand the penalty payout rules, but also calculate the payment.

Consider factoring in your personal situation and future goals to help pick a mortgage term length (one-year, three-years or five-years) based on your situation. Ask yourself:

  • What stage of life are you in?
  • Are you purchasing the house with anyone? (e.g. friend, sibling, etc.)
  • Is this home big enough to grow into?
  • Do I plan on relocating for work anytime soon?

With any decision, it is always important to do your research and speak with a mortgage specialist. They can provide you with guidance and advice based on your personal situation, help you to understand market trends and forecasts and assist you in making one of the most important decisions of your life.

To learn more, contact one of Conexus’ Mobile Mortgage Specialists today.

Baby lying down with silly face

Surviving the first year of parenthood: advice from Moms

The first year of parenthood can be stressful – financially and mentally. We spoke to several Saskatchewan Moms to get their advice on the first year of parenthood and things to consider.


If you recall from our blog, Costs of Raising a Child, the average Canadian spends approx. $10,000 – $15,000 each year raising a child – diapers, clothing, activities and more, it all starts to add up. When starting a family, creating a financial plan is essential. This is especially important for the first year of parenthood when finances can be a bit tighter due to not working and being on a reduced income.

Earlier this year, we spoke to several Saskatchewan Moms to get their advice on the first year of parenthood when it comes to their financial and mental health and things to consider. Here’s what they had to say:

  • It’s never too early to start preparing. Your due date is just an estimated date and your baby can come at any time. Be prepared for an early arrival by having your bag packed, finishing the baby’s room and applying for employment insurance in advance of your due date.
  • Budget. Budget. Budget. Creating a budget is key for the first year of parenthood especially due to an increase in expenses and for most, a decrease in income.  Use an online budget template to help you understand your new financial situation and to create a plan for the year.
  • Know the benefits you may qualify for. Other than employment insurance, there are a few other benefits that parents may qualify for depending on their family income including the Child Tax Benefit and GST credit. These additional benefits can help supplement your income, especially while on parental leave, and be used to help cover the costs of baby essentials. To learn more, visit Canada.ca.
  • Stock up on household items. A few weeks before the baby’s arrival stock up on household items such as laundry detergent, toilet paper, etc. This will help you to do smaller shopping trips once the baby arrives and are working around feeding and sleeping times.
  • Use coupons and cash rebates. Diapers, wipes and more can be expensive and many companies offer coupons to parents to help reduce costs. Another way parents can save money is by using cash rebate sites such as Checkout 51, which frequently has cash-back offers on baby related item purchases such as diapers.
  • Treat yourself. Once the baby is born, it can be hard to take time for yourself, especially in the first few months. Prior to the baby being born go out for supper or to the movies to enjoy a little you time. Once your baby is born, continue to treat yourself every so often, even if it’s grabbing a quick latte here and there.
  • Host girls night: Invite your close friends over one last time before the baby comes. Supply some appies and beverages. To help when the baby arrives, have each friend bring a pre-made freezer meal that you can heat up quickly for supper when time may be limited.
  • Buy used clothing: Try not to buy everything brand new as babies outgrow things quickly. Use sites such as VarageSale or attend clothing sales to find barely, worn clothing for a fraction of the store price.
  • Save, Save, Save: It’s never too early to start saving for your future family. Create a savings account that can be used to purchase baby items, help supplement your reduced income for when on parental leave and to get you started on planning your child’s future (e.g., RESPs).

With all the Moms we spoke to, the advice that came up over and over again was knowing you’re not alone. Having a baby can cause many things to change including our hormones, sleeping patterns, etc. and at times you may feel stressed or exhausted. Whatever you’re experiencing or feeling another parent is most likely going through the same thing and it’s important to connect with other parents, such as joining a parent group, to relate and go through these new experiences with. This not only helps to get you out of the house a bit each week but also is a great way to share experiences and connect with other parents going through the same thing as you.

The first year of parenthood can sometimes be challenging but it’s also the most rewarding as you get to spend the time with your newest addition and watch them grow.

Other parents out there – what tips or advice do you have for the first year of parenthood? Tell us below.

computer by picture of stick figures with word finance

The power of financial literacy

Financial literacy is a critical life skill that helps you to make smart, responsible decisions about your money. Build your financial knowledge using these tips.


When it comes to your knowledge of finances, how confident are you? Would you be able to answer basic financial literacy questions, such as:

  • What’s the difference between a savings account and a chequing account?
  • What is compound interest?
  • What’s the difference between a variable rate and a fixed rate?
  • What is an emergency savings fund and how much should you save?

According to an Ipsos poll conducted in 2017 on behalf of LowestRates.ca, 78% of Canadians believe they’re financial literate. When it came to taking a basic financial literacy test though, almost 57% of Canadians failed.

Financial literacy is a critical life skill and just as important in life as any other basic life skill. Why? Because money is all around us and something we deal with every day. Being financially literate means you understand all things money – how it works, how it’s generated, how to manage it, how to invest it and more. It means having the knowledge and confidence to make smart, responsible decisions about your money.

Improving your financial knowledge

It’s never too early, or too late, to improve your financial knowledge. Here are a few ways you can expand your financial knowledge and confidence with money:

  1. Take the Fin-Lit Challenge: Testing your financial knowledge will you see how much, or how little, you may know. This will help you identify topics that you may want to focus on to expand your knowledge.
  2. Talk to a Financial Advisor: Your financial advisor is an excellent resource for advice and knowledge, ensuring you’re not alone when making financial decisions.  There is no such thing as a dumb question. Meet with your financial advisor often and ask questions to ensure you understand your money and financial decisions.
  3. Read a Conexus #MONEYTALK Blog: Each week, Conexus #MONEYTALK publishes a blog providing expert advice, solutions and guidance on financial topics important to you. Savings, budget, investment 101 – we cover it all. Commit to reading the blog each week to continually expand your financial knowledge.

What financial topics would you like to know more about? Share below and we’ll be sure to do an upcoming blog on them.

stack of pancakes with fruit and syrup

No-spend weekend challenge

Weekend spending can add up. Consider taking the weekend off from spending and see how much money you can save. You may be surprised by the results.


When it comes to the weekend, how much do you spend? Think about the last few weekends and all the things you did. Did you eat out at all? Go shopping? Had a coffee date with a friend? When you start to look back at your last few weekends you may be surprised by how many of your weekend activities had a cost to them.

Many of us tend to spend more on the weekend as we’re not working to make money, but instead, we’re out spending the money we worked hard to make. This is because instead of having work to occupy us, we’re looking for ways to keep us busy.

What if you could take an entire weekend off from spending? What could you do with that extra savings? Give it a try and take our No-Spend Weekend Challenge this weekend.

The challenge

What qualifies as a no-spend weekend? It’s taking two days in a row such as a Saturday and Sunday and making an effort to not spend money on non-essential things. No dinners out. No brunches. No weekend coffee. No shopping. It means getting creative with what’s in your fridge and weekend activities, and only spending money on necessities such as groceries if needed.

Game plan

Ready to take the challenge but unsure where to start? We’ve got you covered. To help you succeed, we’ve planned an entire no-spend weekend for you below. All you need to do is accept the challenge and enjoy the savings!

Saturday

Get your day started off with an activity like free yoga in the park, a bike ride or grab your tennis racket and hit the court. In the afternoon, set some time aside to finish that project around the house you keep putting off or doing some of that dreadful cleaning such as washing walls and baseboards. Finishing it will make you feel so good and accomplished without spending any extra money.

In the evening, pack a picnic and blanket and walk to your neighbourhood park for an early dinner in the park. Too cold? Why not have a picnic in the living room?

End the evening with a game or movie night, dusting off games or DVDs in your collection that haven’t been used in a while.

Sunday

Start your lazy Sunday off with coffee and breakfast in bed while watching your favourite TV show. Use items in your fridge to make the ultimate omelette or whip up a quick batch of pancakes using this simple recipe.

Then head outside with your camera or smartphone to take some family photos. Explore your neighbourhood to scout out cool back alley or coloured walls for your backdrop.

For supper, take the pantry challenge and make a Sunday family meal with only the ingredients that you have at home. Spend the rest of the evening doing a puzzle or reading a book, then head to bed early for a good night’s rest.

 

Not spending money doesn’t have to be boring. The key to success is planning ahead so you take out the obligation of spending. The above schedule can be used as just a guideline for your no-spend weekend and feel free to sub in other free activities that you and your family enjoy. Need some more ideas? Try some of these no-spend activities out!

Taking the no-spend weekend challenge may be easier than you think and something you want to incorporate into your life more often. Challenge yourself to a no-spend weekend once a month, or if you’re ambitious, consider having a no-spend day at least once a week. Whatever you decide, remember there are endless ideas out there that don’t have to cost a thing and will help you save dollars in the end!

Completed the challenge? How did it go – hard? Easy? What did you learn? Share your experience below.