Yes, Couponing is Still a Thing!

Lady Gaga, Kristen Bell, Hilary Swank, Kourtney Kardashian and me. What do we all have in common? The love of a good deal through couponing! Couponing has come a long way from sitting around the Sunday paper with your grocery list and your scissors risking a paper cut, which is still a 100% legit option and something I do every so often. Now, you can find coupons for restaurants and services and experiences and tons of different options to get a great deal and try new things that fit your lifestyle.

Want to try new things and pay less? Here’s how you can keep up with the Joneses while paying like the Smiths!


Daily Deals – why pay more for something you’re going to do anyway?

Do you remember when Groupon first came out and then every day after there was another site launching that offered daily deals or group discounts? At the end of it, in Canada, 33 different sites had been launched. Of those, there are still 5 that are not only existing, but going strong! And why? Because people love a good deal! I’ll admit it, I sometimes forget about Groupon but then when I rediscover it, it’s a gold mine. This past year, I’ve gotten huge discounts on restaurants, massages, wrapped canvas prints, scent diffusers and much more. It was great, because I was already planning on paying for these things, but because of the deals I got, I was able to save money and do even more than I expected. Another great thing about these programs is that you can check them out online or just download the app, so you can find deals on the go.

Tip: Know what you want to buy friends and family, or yourself, as a gift? Planning a date night? Need to get a massage? Planning on spending money on anything? Check if there are any Daily Deals first as flash sales typically offer a higher discount since they are only offered for a limited time!

Trying New Things – it’s all the rage

Another great thing to use Daily Deals for is to find new experiences or things to do where you live or when you’re travelling. I recently went to Las Vegas, and because of Groupon, we saved money on shows, discovered new restaurants and spent a lot less than we thought we would. This meant we had some extra money for the outlets, where we used a coupon book, of course, to score even better deals. Using a Daily Deal is a great way for you to find out about events going on and get ideas for things to do when travelling to a new place, all for a discounted price!

Moving to a new place? Daily Deals can even help you meet people! When I moved to Australia, I didn’t know anyone. Fortunately, a few of the daily deal sites had group meet up events sponsored by local pubs. Not only did I get to check out a new place, I got to make a few friends too.

Supporting Local – discovering hidden gems in your backyard

Wherever you live, I’m sure you have some great, local businesses that you don’t even know about, or haven’t visited lately. When new businesses, or even those who’ve been around for a while, are looking to increase business and get their name out there, many will advertise on Daily Deals. Purchasing a deal will allow you to not only save some money, but maybe discover your new “favourite place”. Looking at Groupon today, you can find deals for spa services, rock chip repair, boot camps, tastings, oil changes, scavenger hunts and hundreds of others that are local to your community. Chances are good if you want to check something new out, or there’s something you have to do, like get an oil change, there’s a daily deal for you!

Here are some of my favourite daily deal sites:

Groupon https://www.groupon.com/

WagJag https://www.wagjag.com/

Living Social https://www.livingsocial.com/

Tip: It’s not a good deal if you wouldn’t normally spend money on it. I know first-hand how exciting it is to see a great sale and how tempting it can be to purchase it (just ask my very full closets) but if you’re just buying it because it’s a good deal, it’s not worth it. Although it’s possible to sign up for emails from these sites, and generally I would encourage it, you need to make sure that whatever you’re spending still fits into your budget.

To find out some great tips when entering into the world of extreme, or just every-so-often, couponing, check out this site!

Honey – can we coupon?

Sometimes finding the right coupon can be time consuming and tedious. A simple way to save money on things you are already shopping for is to download an extension for your browser that scours the internet for discount codes on products you are already looking at. For instance, an extension named Honey has saved me so much money when I’m online shopping on things like soccer cleats, headphones and even dog food by finding me coupon codes to apply at checkout.

There is no better feeling when shopping than getting to the checkout counter and the person at the till says “This is actually on sale for an additional 20% off!” This extension pretty much does the exact same thing for you!

Whether you’re looking for a gift, planning date night or looking to try something new, hopefully you’ve gotten some ideas how to find a great deal and save some money. Now we’d love to hear from you, what’s the best deal you’ve scored? Let us know in the comments 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!
Pile of sticky notes with New Year resolutions written on them

Adjusting your New Year’s resolutions

If you’re struggling to stick to your resolutions or have already failed trying, don’t give up. Instead, adjust or re-start your resolutions following these tips to help you succeed.


We go into the New Year saying this is going to be the best year yet. And it is…for the first few days anyway. Then the holiday excitement wears off, we go back to our normal routines and continue with the same habits we did before. By mid-January, we start to realize the resolutions we set were a bit more than we could chew and we soon give up on what we said we were going to do.

When it comes to sticking to our New Year’s resolutions, statistics show only 8% of people actually succeed. Why? Often the resolutions we make are unreasonable, unrealistic or we’ve set too many.

Does this sound familiar? If you’re struggling to stick to your resolutions or have already failed trying, don’t give up. Instead, adjust or start your resolution over. The only way to succeed is if you continue trying.

Here are a few tips to keeping your resolutions.

Have an action plan

Resolutions are goals and should have an action plan showing you where you want to go and how you’ll get there. Review these plans every so often and adjust your plan based on your personal situation, helping you to stay on track for success.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew

We can only do so much at once. Instead of trying to do everything at once, prioritize your goals in order of what’s most important to you. Focus on completing one or a couple goals at a time to not feel overwhelmed with trying to do it all.

Celebrate the small wins

Create milestones within your plan and celebrate when you achieve them. Smaller goals are easier to reach and help keep you motivated in reaching your goals.

Ask for support

Share your resolutions with your friends and family. Ask them for support and to hold you accountable to these resolutions. Speak to professionals for advice on your goals and tips for achieving them.

Whatever your goal is, it’s important to be agile and take the time to pause and adjust as necessary.  We may only be a few weeks into the New Year, but now is a great time to re-examine your resolutions and make any adjustments to ensure they’re realistic, reasonable and set up for success.

Did you make any New Year resolutions this year? What were they and are you on track to achieving them? What are some of the challenges you’ve come across? Share by commenting below.

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.

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.

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.

Girl holding a credit card

Building blocks of credit

Credit isn’t a bad thing if used responsibly and can be a tool that can help your future.


The word credit may be scary or viewed as something negative, but it can be the opposite. Credit isn’t a bad thing if used responsibly and is a tool that can positively help your future. Looking to get a mortgage? How about a loan for a new set of wheels? Building and having a good credit score is essential throughout your life and enables you to borrow money for these life events.

Importance of credit

Building credit is important as it identifies how you manage debt. By paying back the money you borrow with on-time payments, it shows you can responsibly manage debt and sets you up for the future.

A credit score will be given to you based on your credit behaviours. Credit scores range from 300 up to 900 points. When you’re first starting out, you’ll be at the lower end of the range. As you build your credit and display good credit behaviours, this score will increase. A score of 700 or above is considered good while a score of 800 or above is considered excellent. As good behaviours help improve your score, it’s important to note that bad credit behaviours can decrease this score. This score is with you forever, and it’s important you display positive credit behaviours.

You may think playing it safe by avoiding credit all together is the way to go, but in fact, it may be hindering you in the future. Without credit, you can’t show if you can manage debt responsibly which can impact your ability to get a loan, mortgage, etc.

Building credit

Start building credit as soon as possible. Start by applying for a low limit credit card after high school and paying the entire balance monthly. Credit cards are a great credit-building tool and can offer great additional features and benefits above and beyond just helping to build credit. Benefits from credit cards can range from insurance coverage to rewards points and even cash back to help pay your balance!

Good credit behaviours

Remember, good credit means you display positive credit behaviours showing you can responsibly manage debt. You can do this by:

  • Paying your monthly bills (utility, cell phone, etc.) on time each month. Consider setting up automatic payments.
  • Understand your spending and talk to a financial advisor to ensure the credit you have (credit cards, loans, etc.) is manageable and fits within your financial situation.
  • Pay your credit card balance in full each month. Remember your credit card statement ‘due date’ is the date the money is due on the account and payments typically take a few days to process. Make payments at least 2-3 days prior to your due date to account for processing times.
  • Do not apply for multiple loans or credit cards all within a short amount of time. Each time you apply for a loan, mortgage or credit card, the issuer does a hard credit inquiry or ‘a hit’ on your credit score showing that your credit has been checked. Excessive applications could affect your ability to be approved as it may look like you’re a riskier borrower or could be perceived as desperation.

Understanding your credit score and how your behaviours impact this score is important.  You can do a soft inquiry (an inquiry only visible to you and that doesn’t affect your credit score) by using www.transunion.ca. We also recommend speaking to your financial advisor. They’ll work with you to understand your credit and create a plan to help you reach your financial goals.

As you can see, credit doesn’t need to be a bad word. Building and developing good credit behaviours early on, help set you on the right track for life. Contact your financial advisor today to see how credit can be a positive for you.

What questions do you have about building your credit? Ask below and we’ll be sure to answer.

person holding a phone in front of a computer

Kick-start your finances: tracking your spending

In order to make your budget successful, you’ll need to keep track of your spending. In this blog, learn how to easily track your spending daily, weekly and monthly.


You’ve set goals, analyzed your spending habits from the previous year, and created a budget for the year to come. The next step is to keep track of your spending and ensure you don’t go over budget.

To track your spending, every transaction, whether cash, debit or credit, needs to be accounted for. This means everything! If you find $20 in your coat pocket and buy lunch, you need to track it. If you scour the couch cushions for lost change to buy a coffee, you need to track it. Every penny you spend needs to be tracked to ensure you have an accurate picture of what you’re spending, which will also help you budget later on.

There are many ways you can keep track of your spending. Below are a couple of our favourites:

  • Create an expense tracker similar to the image below. Record each transaction you make under the expense category it belongs. Each week, total up the transactions and subtract from your monthly budget totals to show what amount you have remaining for the month.

  • Create envelopes for each expense category and write the monthly budget on the envelope. When you make a purchase, be sure to get a receipt and place in the correct envelope. Daily or weekly, total up the receipts and subtract the total from your monthly budget amount directly on the envelope.

You can also find a variety of apps and templates online to use. Some even give you the ability to enter your budget and spending and set up notifications when you’re getting close to your budget.

Whatever method you choose, don’t forget to include transactions that may automatically come out of your accounts such as fees, payments, etc. Throughout the month, be aware of how your spending compares to the budget you set. Make sure you know how close your spending is to your budgeted amount. Are you close to overspending? Think about what kind of behaviours, like buying lunch daily, you can change or which categories you can shift money from so you don’t overspend.

At the end of the month, cross reference your expense tracker to your monthly statements to ensure you haven’t missed anything. Then, look at the monthly spending and budgets and analyze how you did. What were your challenges? Were there any categories you thought you’d spend more in than you did? Can any adjustments be made to future budgets?

For example, during your analysis, you see that under the fuel category you budgeted $300 for the month but only spent $150. Is it possible you over budgeted? If so, could you lower the amount in future budgets and place the difference in categories that challenged you or to help grow your savings faster?

To be in control of your finances, being organized and consistent is key. Remember to start with goals and look at how you spend your money. Create a budget specific to you and then hold yourself accountable by keeping track of your spending. Remember to review and adjust as things may change.

person holding sign that says budget

Kick-start your finances: creating a budget

Create a budget that works for you using the information and templates in this blog.


Let’s create a budget. A budget is a tool that helps you manage your money. It shows you your full financial picture – the money you bring in each month and where you plan to spend it. It helps you determine what a want vs. a need is and shows you where you can cut expenses to ensure you only spend what you have. It also allows you to see where there may be any extra money that you can put towards reaching your overall goals quicker.

This blog focuses on creating an annual budget that works for you. You can complete this challenge manually on a piece of paper or online. If doing online, here are several great budget templates that can assist you:

Whatever method you choose, the process will be very similar.

Determining your monthly income

The first step of a budget is figuring out how much money you’ll have each month (see Kick-start your finances: where’s my money going). Under the income section of your budget, list all sources of money (pay, support, grants, etc.) you’ll receive in the coming months. Remember, this is the take-home amount as it’s the money you actually have available to spend.

For those with a regular pay cheque – one that is the same each time – your income should be around the same amount each month. Note: If you’re paid bi-weekly, there are two months each year that you’ll receive three pay cheques.

For those that have irregular or seasonal income, it can be a bit more difficult and there are two ways you can determine a monthly income amount for your budget:

  1. Use your average monthly income. You can find this by taking your last six months’ total income and dividing by six.
  2. Use your lowest amount of monthly income that you received in the last six months. For example, if you’re monthly income over the last six months ranged between $1,900 and $2,200, use the $1,900 amount in your budget.

Whether you have a regular or irregular monthly income, it’s important to not over-estimate this amount when creating a budget. A budget provides you guidance on how you will spend this money and over-estimating will cause you to budget money you don’t have. If you end up receiving more money in a month than what you budgeted, use this extra money and put towards reaching your saving goals faster.

Remember, you shouldn’t include any non-guaranteed income such as tips and money received as gifts into your anticipated monthly income budget. Non-guaranteed money is exactly that – not guaranteed and unknown – and should be treated as extra money for your goals.

Creating a budget based on what you have

Now that you have noted your income for each month, it’s time to create a plan to spend this money. First, create a list of all your expense categories. The spending analysis you completed in the Kick-start your finances: where’s my money blog can assist you in creating categories specific to your spending habits. Be sure to include categories for your saving goals and any debt payment expenses, such as credit cards, you may also need to budget for each month. Once you have these categories, take it one step further and create sub-categories for each expense. This helps provide a detailed understanding of each category and identifies fixed expenses (ones you can’t change) and variable expenses (those you have control over and can change).

Example:

Next, you’ll need to allocate money to each expense. It may be easiest to start with expenses that are fixed such as mortgage/rent, utilities, etc. and then move into the variable expenses such as groceries, entertainment, etc.  Don’t forget to include expenses that aren’t monthly such as sporting fees, gift purchases, etc. – for these expenses, place the budgeted amount under the month they’ll occur. It’s also okay to leave a category at $0 if you don’t plan on spending anything in that category within a given month.

Once you have your amounts allocated, look to see how it measures against your monthly income. If you’re under-budget, woohoo! With this extra money, look at adding more to your saving goal categories to help you reach your goals faster.

Example:

If you’re over-budget, some adjustments will need to be made. First, look at your variable expenses – are there any places you can reduce your budget such as groceries, entertainment, etc.? Adjust as needed until you become balanced, or even better yet, under-budget.

If money is really tight in one particular month, consider not budgeting money for one of your saving goals. Use this as a last resort though and ensure it doesn’t become a consistent thing. If you’re noticing a trend in not having enough money to cover your expenses month after month, consider bringing in extra income or making some changes in your day-to-day life. For example, pick up a part-time job to bring in more income or start using public transit to help reduce costs related to your vehicle.

One-time, occasional expenses

Expenses that only occur once or twice throughout the year can have a big impact on our monthly budget. For these expenses you can do two things:

  1. Budget the full amount in the month the expense occurs; or
  2. Budget smaller amounts each month leading up to the expense.

The second option helps reduce the pressure of finding these one-time costs within your budget all at once and is especially helpful if you have several large, one-time expenses that all occur within the same timeframe.

For example, your child plays soccer and club fees of $400 are due every September. Consider putting smaller amounts into your budget each month that can be used to pay for the expense when it comes due. If you were to start in February, by putting $30 away each month, you’ll have $210 by September which would only leave you with $190 extra to budget in September to help cover this expense.

Example:

Create separate savings accounts for your goals

When saving for your goals, place this money in a separate account for each goal. Set limits on accessibility (i.e., must go to a branch to access the money) to reduce the spending temptation. By placing in a savings or investment account, you’ll also gain interest and see the money grow faster.

If you put these all together, you have your annual budget – your full financial picture.

Setting a budget helps you focus on what’s important and gives you guidelines on how you’ll spend your money. It’ll be up to you though to ensure it actually happens the way you say it will. You can do this by keeping track of your spending – see Kick-start your finances: track your spending for more information.

Have any questions? Ask below in the comments!

van with luggage tied to top, driving on a beach

Planning a vacation? Consider this to save & be prepared

Planning a vacation somewhere hot? Or maybe to the mountains to hit up the slopes? Whatever your travel plans may be, here are a few tips to help you save and be prepared for your next vacation.


A recent Ipsos poll showed that 59% of Canadians said they aren’t confident they’ll take a vacation this winter. Given the deep freeze we’ve been experiencing here in Saskatchewan recently, some may be reconsidering. If you’re planning a trip this year, or in the future, here are a few things to consider to save you money as well as be prepared for your travels.

Do your research

You wouldn’t buy a car without doing your research, would you? The same rules should apply when planning a vacation. Go online or talk to a travel agent to determine the best options for you. You don’t need to plan every detail down to the minute, but knowing when you want to travel, where you want to go and how you want to get there will help you start gathering information on what best meets your needs and your wallet.

Avoid travelling during the peak season times

We know this isn’t always possible, especially if wanting to travel when your kids are out of school, but travelling during the off-season could mean lower prices. Christmas break and family week break tend to be busier and more expensive. Being flexible on your travel dates, sometimes by just a day or two, can help you not only save money but also avoid the crowds.

Look for seat sales

Many airlines offer seat sales throughout the year, especially to celebrate holidays and events such as Canada Day or Cyber Monday. Watch for these sales and compare airline prices to find your best price. A great app to use is Hopper – not only does it compare prices for you, it also send you a notification the instant a price drops. Don’t rush into booking your tickets. Allow yourself some time to watch ticket prices over a longer period of time. The extra time spent could keep a few extra dollars in your pocket.

Unfortunately, we know all too well the feeling of booking a flight and then seeing it go on sale a few days later. If this happens, be aware of any price guaranteed rules your airline may have. Some airlines will honour the new price within a certain time period from booking.

Utilize family discounts

If travelling with kids, look for family-friendly retailers that offer family discounts. There are many hotels and vacation packages that offer discounts such as kids stay and eat free. There may be a few restrictions, but it’s worth the money you could save in the end.

Get travel insurance

It’s always important to be prepared for the unexpected. Before travelling, know what type of travel insurance you have and purchase any additional insurance if necessary. When looking to see what coverage you have, be sure to check out any insurance your employer or financial institution may offer. Many credit cards also provide insurance if the card is used for booking/purchasing. If you’re unsure what insurance your financial institution offers, contact them directly to find out.

Protect your finances

Like at home, you should also protect yourself and your information when travelling. Only take cash, debit and credit cards that you’ll be using on the trip and leave the rest at home. Use your hotel room’s safe to store your items when you’re not using them such as extra cash, credit cards and valuable items (e.g., laptop, camera, phone, etc.). In the unfortunate event that you lose or have your card stolen, contact your financial institution immediately.

Whether travelling to a hot destination or just to the next province over, there are many ways you could save money. With all of the excitement of a trip, it is also important that you prepare yourself for the unexpected and keep yourself protected.

Are you planning a vacation this year? What other tips do you have that help you save money? We’d love to hear them – join the conversation by commenting below. Safe travels.