How Take-Out Almost Took Out My Budget

With so many options for ordering meals via delivery, it’s becoming increasingly hard to resist the convenience of take-out and maintaining the discipline to stick to your meal prepping schedule. Let’s look at a real-life example of how creating and sticking to a budget can save your bank account from landing in the trash with your leftover to-go containers. 


Step One is Admitting the Problem

Hello, my name is Mason and I’m a recovering take-out-aholic.

I used to eat out an embarrassing amount. If I were to get married tomorrow, my Uber Eats driver would be the best man at my wedding. Okay, maybe not – but for a couple of years, unless I had access to a free meal, I was likely getting food delivered to my home or picking it up at lunch time. It’s a dangerous habit that I would justify by saying “I’m saving so much time not having to worry about buying groceries, cooking and doing the dishes after”. The number one question I would get was “How do you even afford this?” Good question. Back then, I had a tenant that was basically paying for my mortgage payments and as a single guy who doesn’t really travel or shop a ton (exciting life hey?), this seemed manageable at the time.

One blessed day, my addiction hit rock bottom. Let’s just say that you’ve never really experienced shame until you’ve had the same Skip the Dishes driver twice in the same day. This was the epiphany I needed to take a hard look at how much I was spending per meal and think about all of the other places where that money could be allocated. The problem was that I didn’t even know how much money I was letting drain from my bank account. I was blindly swiping my card two-three times a day without any idea of the impact this would have on my monthly expenses. So where do you even begin to get things under control? It all starts with a budget.

Basic Budgeting Facts

We throw the term “budget” around quite loosely as a noun and a verb, but budgeting is simply taking the time to identify how much money your household can afford to save each month. In essence, it is the process of mapping out whether you have enough income to cover your monthly expenses and how you plan on allocating the remaining money left over. For you, it may mean making sure you have enough to pay for your kids’ piano lessons or education. For me, it means making sure I can afford to pay for a cable bill to support my fantasy football obsession. 

According to this study, just over 60% of Canadians use a budget, though, 32% of Canadians said their income does not always cover their living expenses and 13% said they’ve borrowed to make ends meet. I was one of the 40% who did not use a budget and was not tracking where my money was being spent without any guidelines around where my money should be going. I did a little bit of digging and this same study broke down recommended percentages of spending:

Recommended percentages of spending:

  • Housing – 30-40%
  • Transportation – 10-20% 
  • Living Expenses – 20-30% 
  • Debt Repayment – 10-20% 
  • Savings – 10%+ 

After tracking a month of my spending, I realized that my percentages were all out of whack. Outside of paying a small amount towards pension, the entire recommended 10% of Savings were inflating my Living Expenses and I was up to 60% thanks to my dependence on delivery. I knew something had to change and after a few months of being really intentional in my spending and eating habits, I shrunk my monthly spending on meals by over 40% and $600! Here’s some tips I learned along the way:

Weekly Meal Prepping Pays Off

Part of the reason I was eating out so much was to save myself from the time it takes to buy the groceries, prepare the meal and then do the dishes. It can also be expensive to cook for one person (check out our Cost of Being Single blog) because of grocery sizes and a lot of recipes are for more than one person. One of the best purchases I ever made was an Instant Pot that allows me to create easy recipes with large portions in a short amount of time. This allows me to do all of my meal prepping on Sunday and I don’t have to spend any time during the week preparing or cleaning up after meals. Think about it: if you are spending $20 on a portion where you can get 3-4 meals out of it instead of spending $20 on one take-out meal, you are saving up to $60! No wonder my living expenses were so high!

Ask For The Receipt

I get it. When the cashier asked “Do you need a receipt?” it’s so much easier to say “No thanks” and watch them crumple it up on your way out the door. I’ve learned that holding onto the receipt and making sure it’s added to your budget spreadsheet not only holds you accountable to your spending, but also saves you in the long run. Tracking your spending throughout the month and comparing it to your budget will help show you where you’re on track, may be under budget and where you may need to refrain from spending due to almost reaching your budget. When your mind tries to trick you into ordering out on a Sunday night, you’ll have the budget numbers to rationalize staying on budget.

If you have a significant other that you share expenses with, be sure to create your budget together. This ensures you’re on the same page when it comes to the money you’re generating and spending. It’s not a bad thing to have the other person holding you accountable either! 

Leave Room for Buffer, Not Guilt

If you are dramatically changing your habits, it’s not going to happen over night. Whether you have a busy week or a night where you need to recharge, you may have no choice but to order delivery. Leave a buffer in your budget for those unexpected expenses to make sure you have a realistic picture of how much you’ll spend in a month and so you aren’t feeling guilty that your saving progress has all been lost. 

You know what the say, “Old habits die hard” and it’s true. However, it’s hard not to be motivated when a budget shows you just how much money you are saving. Sometimes all it takes to make a major life change is to just start with a budget.


Do you have any tips to keep your budget numbers low?! Share them below!

Cracking open the books and not the piggy bank

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


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

Budgets do work

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

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

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

Entertainment in moderation

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

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

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

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

Take advantage of student discounts

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

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

Use credit wisely

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

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


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

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

Get The Quarter Back: Saving Money at a Stadium

It’s an exciting time for professional sports in Saskatchewan right now! The Riders home opener is kicking off on Canada Day, Saskatoon has two brand new sports franchises in the Rush and the Rattlers and the NHL is hosting the Heritage Classic at Mosaic Stadium in the fall. But be careful – not only can it be expensive to buy a ticket to the game, the game day atmosphere may have you whipping out your wallet a little more than you’d expect. Let’s get you set up with some spending hacks from a former sports marketer for how to save some green when cheering for the green and white or attending any other sporting event.


According to a CNBC article, Americans spend $56 billion USD on sporting events each year. For comparison, that’s more than double than what they spend on book purchases. We’re not immune to this fanatic spending north of the border, and in some instances, we go above and beyond. We just witnessed how ridiculously expensive seats can become during a playoff run when the Raptors entered the NBA Championships and seat prices in Toronto STARTED at $800 and topped out at $60,000! It’s just not fair that I could have given up my chocolate milk addiction for an entire year and I STILL wouldn’t have been able to afford a seat in the nosebleeds.

That’s a grandiose example, but you can easily rack up a pretty large bill at a local sporting event if you aren’t careful. Berkeley Data Science produced an in-depth report that breaks down the cost of attending a game (ticket, parking, hot dog and a beer) for every team in each of the four major professional leagues (MLB, NBA, NHL and NFL) and measures them against winning percentages, fan loyalty and in-game experience to give the best deals in professional sport. Here are the most expensive game day experiences around each league:

    • NFL – Dallas Cowboys ($199.20 USD)
    • NBA – New York Knicks ($176.38 USD)
    • NHL – Boston Bruins ($144.95 USD)
    • MLB – Chicago Cubs ($104.07 USD)

How does a CFL game day experience at Mosaic Stadium stack up? An average ticket to a Rider game would cost you $69 for a ticket in the bronze section (including ticketmaster fees), $25 for stadium approved parking and $16 for a beer and a hot dog (depending on the vendor). Granted, Mosaic Stadium is touted as one of the nicest outdoor facilities in Canada and a CFL game puts on one heck of a show, but $110 CAD on a relatively lean budget is a pretty penny!

I spent five years working in marketing for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and have seen first hand how deceptively expensive attending a professional sporting event can be. Here are some inside secrets from a former sports marketer and some tips on how to save money at a stadium:

BUYING TICKETS FOR THE GAME:


Choose your game wisely

Not all games are priced equally. If you are wanting to just check out a casual game and don’t really care about the opponent or the importance of the match – don’t go to the big game. There is a trend in ticketing right now called “Dynamic Pricing” where the cost of a ticket is variable based on the demand (airlines use a similar pricing strategy). Essentially, an algorithm increases or decreases the price based on how quickly the game is selling out. To put this in perspective, I went to two Raptors games last year in Toronto that were only two days apart and sat in the exact same seats for both games. One game’s seats were $71 and the other was $131. The ONLY difference was that the first night the Raptors played the Minnesota Timberwolves (a team fighting to even make the playoffs) and the second night hosted the Golden State Warriors (the reigning NBA champions at the time). The Riders don’t use dynamic pricing – but they do charge more for “premium games” like Labour Day or when the rival Calgary Stampeders come to town.

PRO TIP: If all else fails, you can always purchase the cheapest ticket offered and roam around the stadium for the game. There are plenty of drink rails that offer great vantage points before you mosey on over to your new location.

Check out the re-sale market before you buy!

I once went to a garage sale and found a Super Nintendo being sold for $14 (I know, right!?). I snatched that sucker up in a heartbeat and walked away from that garage sale giddily feeling like I robbed the place. How does this relate? I would compare the re-sale market to that garage sale where you can find some tickets being sold at “What a STEAL!” prices. A lot of times, people post their tickets on the re-sale market in hopes of recovering some costs for a game they can’t attend (because Cousin Randy just HAD to get married on Labour Day). Buying tickets from StubHub or Kijiji is very risky due to fraud or double selling tickets. It really does happen – one day over a beer I will tell you a heartbreaking story that involved a Montreal Canadiens game, fake StubHub tickets, and a very heartbroken Mason.

What a lot of people don’t know is that Ticketmaster has their own verified re-sale network where you can sell tickets you originally purchased through Ticketmaster. You can even set your own prices which drives ticket prices down as sellers fight to undercut each other. Speaking from experience, I’ve been there when you scan your tickets at the gate and are turned away due to suspicious activity from third party re-sellers (again, Mason’s Misery in Montreal is a tale for another time) and I highly recommend purchasing through a verified re-seller to avoid that experience.

Tips for families

That same CNBC article estimates that it costs the average family of four approximately $500 to attend an NFL Football game. Yikes! There has to be a more affordable way to pack up the kids in the mini-van and get them to the stadium for their first game day, right? Sadly, there is no magical solution that will help you spend less than the college kid “having a little too much fun” in Pil Country, but there are ways to make it a little more manageable! Most stadiums have family pricing to help break down some barriers to get your family through the gates. The top sport franchises will even take a loss on family priced tickets in order to play the long-term game and build life-long fans. Before you buy, do some research to see if your team is having a “Family Day/Night” where they offer bundled discounts and bring in kid friendly entertainment each game. (In my last season with the Riders, we did a Family Day game where we brought in Paw Patrol mascots and kids lost their minds!) Finally, before you complete your purchase, sometimes it is worth calling the ticket office to see if they have any special family promotions to help knock down a few more dollars. If they can’t save you some money, sometimes they’ll throw in soft drink or popcorn vouchers for the inevitability of your kids wanting a snack immediately after kickoff.

Hit up friends who are season ticket holders

If you have friends who are season ticket holders, it’s worth asking them to let you know if they ever have a free ticket. They would have purchased their tickets at a volume discount and almost always purchase with one of their friends or family members. When one of them can’t make a game (probably for Cousin Randy’s second marriage. He never learns.), they’ll be looking to avoid the inconvenience of finding a suitor for their ticket and will pawn off it off to you. Best case scenario, they’ll give it to you for free or at the very least (providing you aren’t friends with a tycoon) will give it to you at cost – which will be below the price of a single game due to the volume discount AND you’ll avoid Ticketmaster & facility fees.

PRE-GAME:


Public transit & stadium shuttles are your friend

We’ve all been there where you’ve missed kick-off because you had to circle the surrounding area of the stadium for an hour trying to find a parking spot, only having to park 16 blocks away in an abandoned lot where they still charged you $15. Not only does it cost you money, but likely 10 years off your life. What if I told you there was a way to save on parking, gas, food AND you could be dropped off at the doors of the stadium?  If you are a local to the city, any professional sports team will have public transportation shuttles that will transport you back and forth from various access points around the city FOR FREE. If you can bear listening to the drunk guy beside you screaming Sweet Caroline – it’s worth it. Outside of the city? There are options, too! The Riders offer the “Rider Express” which are transportation shuttles from Saskatoon for only $50. That’s cheaper than a tank of gas and gives everyone in your squad the freedom to enjoy a couple of adult beverages without the pressure of someone having to be the designated driver.

Seek out game day food & shuttle packages

Sometimes restaurants/pubs within or just outside of the city will source their own shuttle service and package it with a meal. For them – it gets you in their doors before and after the game. For you – it’s a cheap way to save money on meals so you aren’t spending a ton of money on food at the stadium and you also don’t need to worry about the hassle of traffic and parking. It’s a win for everyone involved! For example, Broncos Pub and Grill in Pilot Butte charges $30 for a shuttle to the game, a burger, fries and a draft beer! If you were to pay for that at the stadium while paying for parking – it would cost more than double!

AT THE GAME: 


Tailgate! … or whatever we do in Canada

Once you get to the game, check out the pre-game festivities outside of the gates. Sponsors pay a lot of money to be able to set up shop in the tailgating areas and a lot of them will have give-aways or products to sample. Whether you are there to party with some friends or you showed up with your kids hoping to have them burn off some energy before the game – there’s something there for everyone and might save you some money on food and drink before prices skyrocket when you walk through the gates.

Beware of the dreaded impulse buys

When you get through the gates – you are going to be incredibly excited and there will be money grabs hitting you from all sides. On your left you’ll see the 50/50 stand, on your right you will encounter the merchandise store with the new game day special you’ll want to snatch off the shelves, and if you are like me, your first stop will be at the mini donuts cart. The atmosphere on game day can be incredibly exciting but if you are not careful, you’ll find yourself whipping out your wallet and blindly spending more than you can afford.

PRO TIP: Make a budget for the day before you leave your house while you are in a calmer, more rational mindset to look at your account and decide what you can realistically allocate to elevate your game day experience. This will make it much easier for your wallet to survive the cash grabs around the stadium that seemingly become irresistible once you drink the home team kool-aid. Make sure you stick to it, too! If you don’t trust yourself to not overspend at the game – take out cash that matches the amount you budgeted before the game. That way, when the cash runs out – you know when to stop spending. Trust me, it will save you from buying that celebratory round of shots after a touchdown that will not only save your money, but will also save yourself from a headache in the morning.

Study the prohibited/permitted items list

Every major sport team will have their Permitted & Prohibited items listed on their website. Review it beforehand and buy supplies in advance to avoid vendor markups and avoid wasted money when grumpy gate attendants confiscate your bottle of Orange Crush. For instance, every stadium allows you to bring in water bottles as long as they are clear and sealed. I highly recommend hitting up a Walmart and grabbing water bottles for you and your group. It may seem like you are only saving $2 per water bottle but if you are attending a number of games this season – this adds up fast!

PRO TIP: If you bring your supplies in a clear bag, you will save A TON of time at the gate and won’t have a security guard sifting through your purse.

Cheap end-of-game munchies

In sport, “crunch time” means the pivotal final moments that can decide the outcome of a game. In the last quarter or period of the match, your definition of “crunch time” could mean cheap snacks. If you aren’t really tied to the outcome of the game or the score is lopsided in one direction – walk around the concourse to see if any vendors are offering deals on food that they made too much of. If you can hold off your in-game snack attack until the end of the game, you can score some really great deals on food that vendors are trying to recoup some costs on before they throw it away.

Sport fans – there’s nothing more powerful than when we unite around our team and a common goal. Let’s band together and share some tips and tricks that you’ve learned about saving money at a stadium. Comment below with your wisdom and check out our other #MONEYTALK blogs to further help your financial well-being!

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.