Retirement Homes: When, Where & How Much

Beginning the conversation with a loved one about transitioning to a retirement home can be emotional, intimidating and overwhelming. This MONEYTALK Blog breaks down tips on how to have the conversation, retirement home options, and factors to keep in mind when making your decision to make the process as easy for you and your loved ones as possible.


Ready Or Not?

Over the past couple of years, my mom has been dealing with some health issues. She just celebrated her 84th birthday and is still living in her own home. For the most part, she is capable of taking care of herself but my siblings and I are starting to wonder if her living situation is safe and healthy. We’ve been gathering information on retirement homes and have learned a lot along the way. Here are some helpful tips and things to consider so you or your loved one are best equipped for a seamless transition to an assisted living facility.

Time to Talk

There are so many options available for retirement living. Seniors are no longer resigning themselves to the retirement homes of old. They are choosing a lifestyle, a new freedom to focus on, and a place that brings them happiness with reduced chores and responsibilities. They are living their best retirement taking advantage of safe, social and active living opportunities. Sounds like a dream, right? But not everyone, including my mom, is ready for such a big change. Now what do we do?

First and foremost, we had to accept that this is her life decision, not ours. She needs to be ready to make the move when the time is right for her. Although we have good intentions and want only what’s best, we also have to adhere to her wishes. My advice to you, if you are nearing the same situations with your parent(s) – plan ahead. Start planting the seed for them to think about what their plans are for the future so that they don’t feel defensive or offended when they are older. Be proactive while they are in good health to start exploring their options without the sudden urgency to decide for them.

Retirement Living Options

Here are some info and tips on the different options available based on needs and affordability we learnt:

Independent Living

Mom, like many seniors, is determined to live in her home as long as she can. Many communities have home care services and emergency life-line communications systems available to assist those wanting to maintain their independence. You can also make a few changes to their home like lifts, handrails, or step in tubs so that your loved ones are able to continue living safely and comfortably. To assess if this was still a possibility for my mom, we considered:

  • Could she manage her day to day care (ie: cooking, cleaning, shopping)?
  • Was additional care available in her community if needed? Home care costs vary depending on the type and level of care.
  • Does she have friends and a social life? My mom is a social butterfly so we knew this is really important for her mental health.
  • What is the actual cost of staying in her home?

Together we made a detailed list of all of the expenses incurred on a monthly and yearly basis. The mortgage may be paid for, but there are other costs including:

  • Vehicle: gas, maintenance, insurance, license plates
  • Medical: prescriptions, lifeline medical alert, ambulance
  • Home: upkeep, appliance replacement, insurance, taxes, yard care
  • Groceries/personal items or meals on wheels
  • Utilities: phone, cellular service, power, gas, cable, internet,
  • Entertainment/Gifts
  • Home care
  • House keeping
  • Miscellaneous expenses

Retirement Residence

Retirement residences are not just a home, but a community. They are privately run but provincially regulated. This presented an option where she could kick back and enjoy a worry-free lifestyle in her own self-contained suite and where her daily needs (meals, housekeeping, laundry) would be met. A place where she was free to socialize and take advantage of all the active living opportunities and amenities available. How to choose which is the best facility really comes down to personal choice. It’s good to have choices but too many can be overwhelming. So, we started to do our homework:

  • First, we needed to determine what general area or community she wants to live in – close to her current home or closer to her kids and grandkids.
  • We asked friends whose parents are in homes for their advice and feedback.
  • We started searching online. Most residences have a website you can poke around to see what they offer. Does it look clean and well kept? Does it meet her needs and have some nice to haves?
  • We created a list of questions
    • What are the size options and any extra costs in the personal unit (ie: internet, cable and telephone service)?
    • Is there transportation available for personal appointments?
    • What amenities are included (ie: housekeeping, laundry)?
    • Are pets welcome?
    • What is a typical weekly menu?
    • What are the recreational activities included?
    • Are there outdoor areas to enjoy?
    • Are guest stays available?
    • And the big question: “What does it cost per month? What are considered “extra care costs”?
  • Next, we started booking tours. Take advantage of staying overnight or for the weekend. It will give you the option to try out the food and talk to the residences and staff in order to get a feel for the place. Ultimately you should be able to envision yourself staying there long-term.

Everything comes with a price and there can be a big difference between facilities. We found monthly costs ranged from $2,500 to upwards of $10,000. In some communities, low income housing options are available. Keep in mind that the cost is like choosing and paying for an all-inclusive vacation. You truly get what you pay for. Remember: it’s your loved one’s choice. Don’t push your preferences on them. Let them weigh the pros and cons of each place.

Other Options Down the Road

When the time comes, we know we may have to consider other living arrangements when Mom needs more hands-on care:

Assisted Living

These can be government or privately run for people with some limitations in physical or cognitive health. They provide 24-hour care with assistance with grooming and personal care, mobility, medications or anything related to your disease care. There is usually a base cost and then additional charges based on care required. It’s important to find out the level of care. Some offer level 1-4 care so you won’t have to move multiple times.

Long Term Care

With these type of facilities, you need to be assessed and referred by your family doctor. The cost of long-term care is actually shared by the government. They pay for everything to do with care and you pay for the space. They do provide basic furnishings including a bed, nightstand and chair. It’s up to you to make it as homey as possible given the limited space. Cost is based on your income.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. For every place we have been in contact with so far, the staff have been wonderful and very helpful. They have dealt with many individuals and families who are struggling to make one of the biggest life changing decisions they have ever made. Their patience and empathy were welcomed and they provided us packages of information and checklists to help in our decision making.

Like with retirement savings, you’re never too young to start planning and educating yourself. I’ve already started asking my spouse where he sees us in the next 10 – 20 years.

The Decision

In closing, remember whose decision this is and that as long as your loved one is happy, safe and cared for, there will be less worry all around. Hey, if things don’t work out, they can always come live with you. I’ll save that blog for another day.

Celebrating 100 MONEYTALK Blogs: Top 10 Blogs

Can you believe it!? We’ve made it to MONEYTALK Blog #100! For our 100th blog, we are going to look back at ten of our most viewed and relevant blogs that provides relatable financial literacy advice for a variety of different topics, events and life stages. 


Money is stressful and everyone is experiencing their own unique life stages and financial situations. There is no one-size-fits-all model when it comes to providing financial advice.

In November 2017, we launched the Conexus #MONEYTALK Blog with a purpose to share expert advice, practical help and real-life experiences for relatable topics and life stages. Time flies when you are exploring financial literacy from a different lens because it’s hard to believe that three and a half years later – we are celebrating our 100th Blog! From blogs on money saving hacks at Rider games to renewing your mortgage during a global pandemic, our authors have explored topical and relevant events and have provided advice to ensure you are best equipped to navigate your financial well-being through whatever life throws at you.

To celebrate this milestone, blog #100 is looking back at ten of our most popular and still relevant blogs that have been published over the past three and a half years. These ten blogs approach financial literacy from a number of different perspectives so it is no surprise that eight of our authors are featured in this list. Enjoy our walk down memory lane and here’s to the next 100 blogs!

What I Learned From My 90 Day Spending Freeze

We’ve all heard of “cleanses” or “detoxes”. Although traditionally meant for weight loss or breaks from social media, spending freezes are gaining popularity as a means to cut spending and flush out bad money habits. Here’s a personal story where one of our writers was forced to check herself before debting herself and what she learned from a 90-day spending freeze. (Author: Melissa Fiacco, November 2020)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

More COVID-19 Scams to Monitor

During this pandemic, it’s not just your physical health at risk, your financial health may be as well. Throughout times of uncertainty we are seeing fraudsters launch sophisticated scams, exploiting public fears for targeted attacks – and we’re definitely in uncertain times.  In addition to the scams we went over earlier, here are five more of the most prevalent COVID-19 scams we’re seeing used to attack people’s financial health and how you can protect yourself from being a victim. (Author: Rachel Langen, April 2020)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

3 Key Money Tips for High Schoolers

No matter how old you are – you likely aren’t satisfied with the amount of money you have and you want more. When you are in high school, you want to be able to buy the things you want, go out with your friends, and maybe even save for your future education. So, if you are a high schooler – here are a few things you can do with your money to make it work best for you!  (Author: Kailyn Carter, January 2020) 

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

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. (Author: Mason Gardiner, November 2019)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

The Cost of Being Single

Single and ready to mingle? Well, if you didn’t need another reason to despise Valentine’s Day,  I’m about to give you one more – independence is expensive. Whether you are choosing to live the single life or you just haven’t met the right catch yet, you’ve probably experienced some of the nuisances that come with taking on the world on your own. (Author: Mason Gardiner, June 2019)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

The Real Cost of Carrying a Balance on a Credit Card

Do you know what it actually costs when you carry a balance on your credit card? We’ve broken it down and even have a tool to figure out how long it might take you to pay off your balance. (Author: Kailyn Carter, May 2019)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

5 Activities for Young Kids: Introduction to Money

Introducing your kids to money early on can create a foundation for financial knowledge and positively impact how they manage money later. (Author: Laura McKnight; June 2018)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

Tips for First-Time Home Buyers

Purchasing your first home is a big life decision. Our Mobile Mortgage Specialists share advice for first-time homebuyers on what to know and consider when purchasing your first home. (Author: Nicole Haynes-Siminoff, March 2018)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE 

The Importance of Having an Emergency Fund

Life happens and sometimes an unexpected curveball is thrown our way, threatening our financial well-being and causing stress. Having an emergency savings fund helps us be prepared for these unexpected life events. (Author: Courtney Rink, March 2018)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

Credit Unions vs Banks: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to managing your finances and choosing where to bank, there are many things to consider including whether you should choose a credit union or a bank. (Author: Francis Dixon, December 2017)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

Conquering the Resale Market & Building a VarageSale Empire

Ready to make a little extra money and declutter your space and mind through a resale empire? You don’t need to have a history of garage saling on your resume to take advantage of this and rule Facebook Marketplace, VarageSale or Kijiji. In this blog, I’ll share the benefits of reselling your items in order to turn the unused and unwanted into vacation funds or a new wardrobe.


The Day the Empire was Born

As a kid, one of my favourite things to do in the summer was to go garage saling with my mom and sister. Although Spice Girls merchandise (don’t act like you didn’t collect the stickers from the bubble gum) or rare Pokemon cards to bring home to my brother were on the top of the list, we also kept our eye out for hidden gems or brand new items to snag for a fraction of the price.

As a trio we weren’t just treasure hunters, we had garage sales of our own. Every year we’d play the game of “keep or sell” with our toys in order to decide which ones we’d be willing to part with. The decision was a bit easier to make knowing that we’d get to keep the money we made to put towards something else we had our eye on – another Ty beanie baby, a fresh Skip-It, or save up to buy Mario Party for Nintendo 64.

Back then I had my first taste of what it was like to resell my items and use that money to buy something new or save up for a bigger ticket item. Fast forward to 2015 when I discovered an app called VarageSale. For those of you who don’t know, VarageSale is essentially an online garage sale where you can buy and sell locally. After a quick review, I HAD to share with my mom and she was quickly on board to try this out with me – this will forever be the day the empire was born.

Started from the Bottom Now We’re Here

App downloaded, check. Profile created, check. Items to sell (we can thank many years of low-key hoarding for this one) – check! If the rush of selling our first items wasn’t enough, it was seeing items we no longer use or wear turn into money. On top of that, the amount of space cleared after the decluttering and the quality time my mom and I spent together bonding and reminiscing over years of possessions were so valuable.

What started as a mother and daughter cleaning spree turned into a mini side hustle. We were not only selling our own stuff but we started to sell for my sister, brother, and a couple aunts. Even my dad was getting into it! I know you must be thinking, doesn’t this take time and effort? The answer is: yes it does, but I would also say it is worth it. According to this article, 82% of Canadians participate in second-hand transactions and this has grown steadily over the last several years. If you’re willing to put in a bit of effort you will see a big return! Let’s talk about some of the benefits of reselling your items.

Benefits of Reselling

Money Maker

This is probably the most rewarding benefit – you make money! Depending on the quantity, size and quality of items you’re selling, you could be bringing in an additional income ranging from $20 a week to a couple hundred dollars a month or more. According to that same article, Canadians have earned an average of $961 and saved an average of $723 each year through buying and selling second-hand items. This is tax free money in your pocket – and if you think about it, you’re getting paid to declutter your home!

It wouldn’t be a #MONEYTALK blog if I didn’t talk about what you could do with this extra money. For me, I’ve graduated from those Ty beanie babies and N64 games to putting this money aside to feed my travel bug. When it is safe to fly again, these savings will go directly to a flight to Hawaii and a couple cocktails on the beach.

This is a short-term savings goal I have my eyes set on. Your short-term savings goals can range from purchasing a few new pieces for your wardrobe, to buying a treadmill for your home gym, to adding dollars to your kitchen renovation fund. It’s also important to consider topping up your emergency savings fund as this comes in handy when your furnace needs repairing. Living in Saskatchewan, we all know how important that is!

Another option is to put this collection into something long-term like an RRSP for your future self or an RESP for the future of your little one. If you’re looking to set a savings goal, this “Kick-start your finances: goal setting” blog will help get you started!

Reduces Clutter in Your Space and Mind

If you’ve ever gone through the process of decluttering and reorganizing, you understand the both calming and energizing feeling that comes from the result.

I’m sure everyone has their own method to their madness but if you’re looking for a tip, I’d suggest starting the decluttering and organization process with one section or category of the house at a time. For instance, starting with your closet first and working your way to each room of the house. It is a little less overwhelming and makes you feel like you are finding success as you are accomplishing smaller, attainable goals rather than one big one.

I find it helpful to put items in each room into piles of keep, sell, donate or toss. If you get stuck, just think to yourself “what would Marie Kondo do?” If you haven’t been introduced to Marie Kondo, now is the time you become familiar– you’ll thank me later!

Ballin’ on a Budget

As I mentioned, VarageSale is a way to buy and sell. As a budget conscious person, using this app provides access to buying used items that are almost brand new for half the price. After all, you’ve worked hard for this extra money and here you’ll get more bang for your buck.

Ready, Set, Sell – Tips for Resell Success

Now that you’ve identified the items that you are wanting to sell, let’s get you set up to best position your products and connect you to buyers on apps and websites such as Varagesale, Facebook Marketplace, eBay and Kijiji. Here are some tips when reselling your items to set you up for success:

Good Quality

To be a reputable seller, you want to make sure the items you are selling are in good shape. Avoid selling items that are broken, torn or missing pieces – these should end up in your “toss” pile. By misleading buyers on the quality of the items you are selling, you are setting yourself up for a bad review and a horrible reputation which will deter buyers from trusting you. You will not find long-term success as a reseller without positive seller scores and reviews.

Clear Description and Photos

Be transparent! Include a clear description of what the item is, color, size, condition, and for everyone’s sake, hold the phone still when you’re taking photos. Nothing is worse than a blurry photo of the floor titled “brand new t-shirt”. To set yourself up for a smooth transaction, it also wouldn’t hurt to include the area of the community you are living in and how you prefer transactions to take place. For example, a mailbox transaction with an e-Transfer as payment is a popular choice. These are all questions that will be asked when the buyer negotiates with you so you can save yourself some hassle by listing it up-front.

Price Fairly – Have Some Wiggle Room

Ultimately you get to decide what price you are willing to part with your items. If you price a bit lower, it may get rid of the items quicker. I recommend pricing a little higher than your goal for each item. Part of the fun of garage saling is bargaining and by allowing the seller to negotiate the price down a bit, they will feel better about the purchase.

Answer Quickly and Friendly

You’re more likely to make a sale if you respond promptly and friendly to potential buyers. I find this makes the transaction a lot smoother and more enjoyable.

Leveling Up

As I mentioned earlier, my Mom and I started selling for my sister, brother and aunts and as much as we love the time spent together – it’s still a lot of effort. We charge a 50% commission rate to manage the resell of their items. When an item sells, we keep 50% of the total sale price and 50% goes to them. If you’re looking to level up your reselling game, reach out to friends and family and watch that side hustle grow!

Remember to have fun when building your empire. After the novelty wears off, it can feel like a lot of tedious work so keep track of your progress, celebrate the victories and enjoy connecting with buyers from across your community. Good luck!

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How Debt Can Impact Your Relationship

Over half of Saskatchewan people say that they would have no issue pursuing a relationship with someone if they had a high level of debt. Debt may be low on your list of deal breakers, but it can severely impact the health of your relationship if it isn’t talked about or there isn’t a plan in place to pay it off. This blog recounts how debt struggles negatively impacted the author’s relationship with their partner and the small but impactful steps they took to fix it.


Let’s talk about debt baby

How much debt would be too much to prevent you from exploring a relationship with someone? According to 52% of Saskatchewanians, no amount of debt would stop them from dating or marrying a partner.

Though debt may not impact you from choosing a partner, it could have an impact on your relationship. According to Canadian divorce statistics, Canada’s divorce rate has increased by 44.15% over the last 20 years, and it’s estimated one out of every 309 adults are divorced in Canada. As to the reason for the divorce – many say money!

While you may not chat about money on your first date, finances should be a topic that is talked about as your relationship becomes more serious. From the assets you possess to the amount of debt you have, it’s important to be open and honest with your significant other to ensure both parties know what they may be getting into. It’s important to continually have this conversation with your partner in order to reduce any stress or tension that may negatively impact your relationship.

This advice is something I wish I knew and started talking about sooner. This is my experience.

How it started

I met my husband when I was 15, and though we didn’t start dating until a few years later, money was not even a topic of mind. I mean, is it for anyone at that age?

Skip forward 21 years to where we are today and money is something we talk about regularly. However, this wasn’t always the case, and up until about 5 years ago, money was not part of our conversation. Looking back, I realize how not talking about money with one another was putting a lot of stress on us and taking a heavy toll on our relationship.

Five years ago, we were in debt and struggling to get a hold of our finances. We each had our own bank accounts, individual vehicle payments, different credit cards and line of credits – everything was separate. Because of this, we didn’t have a full grasp on our finances as a whole. We continually tried to pay our debt down, but no matter what we did it seemed to continually go up. There was tension. There were fights. Our relationship was rocky. We knew we needed to do something before our debt and our relationship got worse.

With our mortgage up for renewal, we decided it’s now or never to make a change. We sat down with our financial advisor and looked at what options we had.

Consolidating our debt

After talking with our financial advisor, we decided to consolidate our debt. What this means is that you take all of the debt you have – loans, credit cards, vehicle payments, mortgage, etc. – and roll it into one monthly payment. Consolidating your debt doesn’t make it go away, however, it can help you gain control of your finances a bit easier.

Now that we had all of our debt in one spot, we needed to be able to manage all of our money from one channel, so we decided to join our bank accounts and have a joint credit card. While joint accounts may not be for everyone, it was the best option for us and showed us how each of us was spending individually. This wasn’t something we hid from one another when we had individual accounts but it also wasn’t something we talked about. With time, we started to get a grasp on our spending habits and were able to hold each other more accountable.

Tip: The one downside with having a joint account is that each of you can see all the transactions in the account and it can ruin the surprise if you buy a gift for your loved one. We recommend using cash for any gifts in order to keep the element of surprise.

To see change, you must make change

We had gotten ourselves into debt before because of our spending habits and behaviours, and if we didn’t change, we’d most likely wind up in a similar situation. To see difference, we needed to change how we talked about money and how we spent money.

The first order of business was introducing the word “money” into our conversations. It was UNCOMFORTABLE, to say the least, and didn’t begin well. We started with financial goals and quickly realized we were on two separate pages: one of us wanted to save for trips and a new vehicle and the other wanted to think retirement. It was frustrating and we wanted to give up immediately.

Once we figured out our financial goals, we started to create a plan on how to change our spending habits. This included building a budget and actively tracking our transactions each month.

Creating the budget was the easy part. The challenging part was changing our behaviours and the first few months were tough. Over time it got easier and after making some significant changes in our spending behaviours, openly talking about our money, and ensuring each other knew where we were at in our budget, we started to see some positive changes. This included starting to actively put money into our savings and seeing it grow – something we hadn’t really done until this point.

Tip: Build your budget together and be realistic. The first few months will be tough, but if you do it together, you’re able to support one another and hold each other accountable where needed. This allows you to celebrate and succeed together.

How it’s going

It’s unbelievable how much of a positive impact a few simple conversations about money and behaviour changes have had on our household.

We continue to set a monthly budget and compare our spending to these amounts which keeps us on track to reach the goals we set. Though we still have our consolidated debt, in five years we have not gotten ourselves into any new debt and are even actively working to pay our mortgage and debt down faster!

What used to cause us stress and a lot of tension has turned into an ongoing positive conversation and even celebrations when we hit our goals. Where we were previously embarrassed to talk about our situation with friends and family, we now openly talk money and do so together (my husband’s even sitting beside me now and helping me write this blog as we speak). And the best part of all, our relationship has never been better.

Looking back, we wish we would have started the conversation a lot earlier. All we can do is share our story to help others learn from it. Money is something that needs to be talked about. No matter how uncomfortable or awkward it may be, it’s important to talk about your financial goals and spending habits– trust me, you’ll thank yourself and your relationship for it later.

Puppy Ownership: Financial Costs, Tips & Advice

A puppy or a Peleton Bike: two things that you saw a lot of people invest in during the pandemic. Many of us had savings or discretionary income that wasn’t being used due to travel being restricted. The result: the pandemic puppy. While the addition of an animal can provide companionship, it doesn’t come without costs. On average, owning a dog can cost up to $5,000 annually. This blog will highlight the obvious costs of getting a pet, help you expect the unexpected and provide tips to save.


Meet Nash!

Nash is my puppy and he’s a 10-month-old golden retriever. As you look through the budget below, keep in mind that these costs will vary. For example, Nash is a pure bred, so the initial investment was much higher compared to if we had got him from a rescue or humane society. As well, if you have a smaller dog, there are certain expenses that might not apply to you or will be much lower, such as food.

These are just a few of the costs I’ve experienced – but there are many other expenses that may come up depending on your pet and your lifestyle. For most of this past year many of us have been working from home. However, in a typical year this may not be the case at which point you might need to consider pet care, which can cost up to $400 per month.

Obvious and hidden costs of getting a pet

A recent article by the Leader Post stated, many animal shelters have seen spikes in the demand and interest in pet adoptions. Another CBC article notes, “more than one third of Canadian households now have a dog, and 40 percent now have a cat.” With travel restricted and a lot more time being spent at home, many people opted to use the savings or discretionary income that was being saved for trips and invest it in a dog. I was one of these people.

On April 27th, 2020, I hopped on the pandemic puppy train when my dog Nash came into this world. I knew there would be costs that would come with it but I also wasn’t expecting some of the hidden costs of dog ownership.

In 2019, seven Canadians broke down their monthly spending and found, on average, a dog can cost up to $5,000 annually. Ranging from $14,000 on the high-end to $1,600 on the low end, these costs can vary depending on the type, size, and health of your dog, and didn’t include the initial investment.

To help you break down the costs I created a quick budget of all the obvious costs I’ve experienced.

Expect the Unexpected

They say bringing a puppy home is like bringing home a baby – they eat, sleep, poop, cry a lot, and get into everything – these are the costs I didn’t expect!

This has meant ripped apart throw pillows (too many to count), chewed up bed sheets and duvet, shoes, hats, gloves, rugs, and so many toys. On top of the cost of replacing or repairing these items, this can also lead to surprise vet visits. On average, a routine visit can cost between $200 to $400 for dogs and $90 to $200 to cats. When you factor in accidents or injuries, these tend to cost a variable amount more.

We’ve been lucky that despite everything Nash has gotten into, we haven’t had to make any surprise visits to the vet *knocks on wood*, but if we had, these are not expenses we would have been prepared for. Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way on how to save:

Start saving early

Unless it’s a spur of the moment decision, you often have a few months to prepare before bringing home your new pet – especially if it is from a breeder. For me and my partner, what worked well was setting up a separate savings account. Each month we would each put away $200. We knew the initial investment of bringing Nash home would be a lot, so this made that cost much more manageable.

Keep saving

Once you’ve started a savings account, keep it going. This is a great way to accumulate funds for those emergency situations and utilize compound interest.

Space out your purchases

There is a lot of planning that goes into the days, weeks or months leading up to bringing home your new pet. You need to buy food, beds, leashes, toys, and much more. One thing that worked well for me was spacing out my purchases. Over the 2-3 months leading up to bringing Nash home I would slowly start buying what he would need. This also helps the day you bring him home to not be nearly as overwhelming because you already have everything you need and you aren’t making costly impulse purchases at your nearest pet store.

Cut costs where you can

You’ve just brought home the newest member of your family and you want nothing but the best for them, right? There are certain items you’re going to want to splurge on, including food, bones, and treats. These are what will help keep your pet strong and healthy. But when it comes to toys or bed, you don’t necessarily need to buy the $25 chew toy. This was my lesson learned. We splurged on expensive toys in the beginning and I quickly found out that Nash will rip or chew a toy to shreds within 15 minutes, regardless of the price tag. If you’re looking for cheaper items, Dollarama has a great pet section.

A pet can be a great addition to any household – especially this past year when many of us were feeling isolated, lonely, and craving companionship. But it’s important to understand the costs and what you can afford. While some costs like food, basic vet care, and toys are a must, there are always options to accommodate any budget. Good luck with your new fur baby!

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Should I Be Investing During a Pandemic?

One of the most popular questions we have been asked by our members during COVID-19 is “If I can, should I be investing during this pandemic?” This is a bit of a complicated question but we’re here to break down this intimidating conversation.

But if you want our short answer, the best time to start investing is between the hours of “right now” and “as soon as possible”.


The short answer is “Yes.”

If you’re saving money by making coffee at home instead of going to your favourite coffee shop then you should start investing. Are you working out at home and saving money on your $50 gym membership? Then you should start investing. If you have any extra money due to the pandemic and are comfortable that your income will remain sustainable then, you guessed it,  you should start investing. And here’s why…

Investing has more to do with how much time you have to invest, rather than the time at which you start investing.

Even though the pandemic has had an impact on the world economy and global markets, it does not mean that investing is a bad idea. Investing has been, and always will be, about focusing on an “average rate of return” versus a “fixed rate of return”. The markets may go down (for instance, due to a pandemic) but they may rise again afterward. It is the average between these years that measures the success of an investment, not the lows or highs by themselves. That is why,

The best time to invest is always going to be as soon as possible.

The sooner you invest the better. Whether it is a lump sum of $10,000 when you’re 25 years old or $25/month for 30 years. If you have money to invest, start today because it will be more than worth it and I’ll show you why:

Time is your friend

Time is the great equalizer.

To understand this in more detail, let’s have a look at the graph (2018.11.23) below from our good friends at Credential. From 1960 to 2015, we see the markets have had many ups and downs, but the average rate of return rises over time. They also point out that “markets continually bounce back from crisis.” Are we in a crisis with the pandemic? Yes. Is it likely the markets will bounce back?  Absolutely. So what can we learn from this?

  1. Long term investing produces the best average rate of return. Someone who started investing in 1990 will have gone through the same 2008 global recession as someone who invested in 2002. But as we can see, both people, if they remain invested, will still receive a profitable average rate of return by 2015.
  2. Starting to invest during a crisis often means the price of shares and stocks are low. This means you will be able to purchase more units for a lot cheaper than during times of economic growth and stability. If you’re already invested, the key is to not panic, remain focused on your long terms goals and remain invested. The worst thing you can do is pull out your investments before they have a chance to recover.

This image shows how the market quickly recovers and continues to grow after a crisis to help with investing.

*Image provided by Credential®. Issue Date: 2018.11.23

Rates of return: Average vs Fixed

You may be asking yourself: “What is so important about the average rate of return? Why not just place your money in a term deposit and guarantee a 1.5% return? Why not keep your money in a savings account?” For starters, the average rate of return for a mutual fund in Canada is between 6% – 7% on your original investment. This is dramatically better than that of a term deposit which is often much less than 2%. If you are planning to save for a long period of time then you will want to maximize your rate of return. One of the principle reasons for this is due to inflation. The average inflation rate in Canada is 2%. So if your retirement savings is making anything less than the rate of inflation (2%) you’re in trouble. If you find yourself in this category, we advise you to meet with a Financial Advisor as soon as possible.

That being said, term deposits and savings accounts have their place in a saving strategy. If you have some short term savings goals were you need access to your money within a few years then one of the these options may be the perfect fit. You will guarantee a return on your money in a couple years and you’ll shelter yourself from the ups and downs of the market; however you will not see nearly as high of a return on this investment. That is why these are great tools for short term saving goals (ie: saving for a trip, buying a new car). Either way, before you save, you should have a conversation with your advisor. If the primary goal of your savings is to have your money make money then a financial conversation needs to be one of the starting points for you.

Ready to invest, but don’t know where to begin?

When most people begin their journey with investments they often start with mutual funds. Mutual funds are often referred to as a “managed portfolio”. What this means is someone manages your portfolio of investments for you. While there are fees attached to mutual funds, there are many benefits. We’ve already discussed one benefit being the often higher rate of return. Other benefits include having a financial advisor to work with you and having multiple mutual funds to choose from to fit your savings goals and risk tolerance. Options include low risk mutual fund which give investors a more secure rate of return but there will be lower volatility in the investment. There are still ebbs and flows with the low risk fund, and your returns might not be as high, but they are often protected from market volatility due to the way the portfolio manager invests your money. If you have lots of time and don’t mind a higher level of risk, you can enter into a higher risk mutual fund. These have the opportunity to gain more return on your investment, however they are more prone to market volatility as the majority of your money will be invested in markets and securities versus things like government bonds. Again, the starting point will be to book an appointment to ask more about investing and mutual funds with a financial advisor and they’ll work with you to establish your risk tolerance before you leap.

What about Wealth Simple?

You may be reading this and asking yourself, “What about something like Wealth Simple? I see lots of commercials about them advertising low fees?” Essentially, Wealth Simple is a robo advisor company. This means it is a machine learning platform. There is no “portfolio manager” behind the scenes, but rather a robot. For those not looking for any advice or planning, this type of investment platform can be an option. Credit Unions have access to a similiar tool called VirtualWealth and can be found at www.virtualwealth.ca. I highly recommend speaking with a financial advisor before jumping into investments, especially high dollar ones. Using a solution like Wealth Simple is like buying/selling a house without a realtor. A financial advisor gives you the peace of mind that your big chunk of change is not going to be mismanaged and your bases are covered.

“I’ve always wanted to buy stocks in a specific company.”

For the bold and the brave, you may have a desire to buy stocks in a specific company, or you’ve seen the Questrade commercials and are curious what it is. Questrade is an online broker that allows you to register an account and buy and sell stocks directly. If you wanted to buy a single stock in Apple or Amazon, you could use an online broker platform. Credit unions have access to Qtrade Investor. Qtrade Investor has been the leading online broker in Canada for over 20 years! Visit www.qtrade.ca to learn more.

Similar to robo advice, there is no financial advisor or portfolio manager when purchasing stocks directly so that is why I say, “for the bold and the brave”. When it comes to buying stocks directly, you will want to have a good understanding of what you are doing, how the markets work, along with the tax implications and so forth. A financial advisor can help answer some of these  questions, but for the most part, you’ll be on your own. We advise most people who are interested in buying stocks directly to balance this with something more secure such as mutual funds. It’s never a good idea to put all of your eggs in one basket. If you drop your basket, your chances of breaking all of your eggs is much higher than having a couple of different holders.

In conclusion

We started with the question, “Should I invest during a pandemic?” I hope this blog has shown you that when it comes to investing you can never start too early.

The key is to start when you can, with as much as you can, as soon as you can.

Investing isn’t the goal, it’s the vehicle in which you reach your savings goals. If I haven’t said it enough, before investing, the best thing you can do is have a conversation with a financial advisor about your savings goals.

If you’d like to talk to someone about your savings goals give us a call at 1-800-667-7477 or, if you already have a trusted financial advisor, we encourage you to reach out to them directly and start the conversation.

I wish you all the best with your savings journey and if you are looking for some more relatable financial literacy tips, check out the rest of our blogs here.


Mutual funds are offered through Credential Asset Management Inc. Online brokerage services are offered through Qtrade Investor. Mutual funds and other securities are offered through Credential Securities. Qtrade Investor and Credential Securities are divisions of Credential Qtrade Securities Inc. Credential Securities and Qtrade are registered marks owned by Aviso Wealth Inc. VirtualWealth is a trade name of Credential Qtrade Securities Inc. The rate of return is used only to illustrate the effects of the compound growth rate and is not intended to reflect future values of the mutual fund or returns on investment in the mutual fund. The information contained in this report was obtained from sources believed to be reliable; however, we cannot guarantee that it is accurate or complete. This report is provided as a general source of information and should not be considered personal investment advice or a solicitation to buy or sell any mutual funds [and other securities]. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of Credential Asset Management Inc., Credential Securities or Qtrade Investor.

 

What 3 Saskatchewan Businesses Learned From Navigating COVID-19

To say that this past year has led to financial uncertainty for many businesses and individuals would be an immense understatement. We virtually sat down with three local Saskatchewan businesses (22Fresh, Zu and Stone’s Throw) to learn how they are navigating COVID-19 and what they’ve learned through it all. After all, understanding your finances is the first step to gaining financial confidence and taking back control. 


A lot of stigma exists around talking about finances, specifically financial struggle. In fact, in a recent study we conducted, 63% of Saskatchewanians (it’s a technical term) say they aren’t comfortable talking about money with friends, family or co-workers. This past year disrupted everything we thought we knew leading to financial uncertainty for many. During times of struggle is when we need to rely on the support of others most, but this often isn’t the case with financial struggleIn the same study, we found that 29% of individuals say they find it embarrassing to ask for help with their finances which further enables the stigma.  

Before we jump in, I first want to introduce you to these three amazing businesses and their leaders: 

  1. Kip Simon, President & CEO of 22Fresh, a branded clothing and apparel manufacturer based in Saskatchewan.
  2. Albert Jame, Strategy Director of Zu, a Saskatoon based digital consultancy company focused on tech innovation and digital solutions.
  3. Kim Zacaruk, Owner of Stone’s Throw Coffee Collective, a local Regina coffee shop and café (or how Kim put it: “WHAT we do is community, kindness and making people feel welcome and part of something; coffee and food is just HOW we do that.”) 

At first glance, you might think these businesses have nothing in common, but when I sat down to talk with each of them I found there were a lot of similarities. No, not in the products they sell or services they offer, but in their experiences, emotions and fears of navigating uncertainty and how they responded. We took what we heard from each of them – the challenges, stories of resilience, learnings and success, and summarized it into four things you should know during times of financial certainty. Let’s get into it! 

Keep track of your money

Budgeting is a great tool for keeping track of your money. It empowers you to be in control by guiding your spending so you can understand where your money is coming and going. In times of financial uncertainty, this is especially important because where your money was once coming and going from may not be true anymore.  

 This was the case for 22Fresh:   

 “Right off the bat we knew we were going to be losing a few streams of revenue, so it was a matter of how we are going to survive off just one stream,” said Kip. Much of their business relied on wholesaling products to local storesmany of which were now closing, and custom team apparel, which was also no longer happeningThis meant a lot of budgeting and going over different scenarios to understand what they might look like two or three months down the road 

Kip continues, “… we had to pay attention not on a month-to-month basis, but day-to-day in order to weather this storm. But, if there is a silver lining, it was forcing us to get out of cruise control and really start doing a deep dive into our expenses, cost of goods sold and what amount of revenue we can survive off of in our current landscape.”

Minimize your expenses as much as possible

This can be easier said than done and often means the “fun stuff” gets put aside. However, COVID-19 made some of the decisions easier on us. With social gatherings restrictedthis meant saved costs from no events or parties (especially the ones we didn’t even want to go to in the first place). With people working from home, some businesses were able to save on operational costs of office spaces and are now realizing maybe they don’t need office space at all anymore.  

When we think about how this translates into personal finances, the decisions become a little more difficult. Albert shared perspective that really hit home for me, which was that we all need to learn to “accept our finances and love the things we have.”  

COVID-19 forced us to slow down, which although difficult, had positive impacts. When we are moving at full speed all the time, we don’t necessarily take the time to stop and think. This leads to impulse shopping and over-consumption. I like buying clothes (okay, I LOVE buying clothes) but our new reality has helped me realize that I often buy things just to buy them and not because I need them.  

So, I want to challenge you to stop and think: “Where could I minimize my expenses?” Take five minutes (after reading this blog, of course) and jot down 3-5 things you currently spend money on that you could likely live without. I challenge you to go one month without buying these things and see if this was a need or a habitual want. You might be surprised with your results! 

Don’t forget to focus on your mental well-being

COVID-19 disrupted our lives in many ways, both personally and professionally. Kip mentioned “I never had to think so deeply about whether or not this was the end of our company” which was likely the case for many other businesses. On top of the stress of trying to keep your business afloat, many people were working from home while also trying to homeschool or care for kids and were feeling isolated and anxious about not connecting with people in the ways we were used to. Heavy stuff. 

Kim shared “Our 24-year-old daughter had just moved to New Zealand and couldn’t get home. My parents were in the United States and I felt (and still do) a huge responsibility to staff and public safety, both physically and mentally and I wanted to lead with kindness and empathy.”  

That is a lot for one person to carry alone. A common response I heard from all three businesses was the importance of leaning on others for support: “It’s impossible to be everything, and there is no shame in reaching out and asking for help.” said Kip. It’s important to recognize what your strengths are and when you need to rely on the strengths and experience of others 

Build good financial habits

 It’s never too early or too late to start. As humans we seek gratification, but when building new habits, we don’t get gratification right away.” said Albert. “It’s progress and progress often looks like a bunch of little failures overtime, until one day when we get it right. But what’s important is that you start.” Ain’t that the truth.  

But building good financial habits starts with understanding. “It really is amazing if you take the time to dig in to understand your finances.” said Kip. For Kim and her team at Stone’s Throw, they have also learned a lot from their internal introspection: “We now have a better idea of revenue levels, customer eating and drinking habits, traffic patterns, and where we can save time to focus on other things.”  

Being comfortable is a scary place to be. Understanding and staying on top of your finances is what can make all the difference during challenging time. “Keep it simple, educate yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask for help” says Albert.  

Let’s talk

Understanding your finances is so much more than just knowing your income and expenses. It’s messy. There are emotions intertwined with every decision because it impacts our relationships. Now throw in a pandemic and it just became a whole lot messier. If there is one message you take from reading this blog, let it be this – start talking. Kip, Kim and Albert all made mention about the positive impact that asking for help and talking about their financial stress had on them. We all have our differences but this past year has taught us that we’re stronger together and are united by this shared struggle of the pandemic. Share your experiences, talk about money with your kids, ask for help from your financial advisor and don’t be afraid to rely on the support of others When you do this, it opens the door to understanding and taking the first step to improving your financial well-being.  

Travelling on a budget and getting more than I bargained for

Guest blog alert! This year’s Saskatchewander, Leah Mertz, has travelled all across the province during a challenging year and has picked up some travel tips along the way. From spending and budgeting tips to the best spots in Saskatchewan to check out, Leah has some great advice for what to check out in the province’s own backyard (when it is safe to do so) and how to save some coin while doing it. 

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Hi, I’m Leah!

For the past 10 years, the Government of Saskatchewan has selected a ‘Saskatchewanderer’ to explore the province—showcasing its hidden gems and best kept secrets. To my surprise and excitement, I became the 2020 Wanderer after applying last fall. But within weeks of being on the job, things quickly shifted as the pandemic took hold. However, my determination to see Saskatchewan remained. With Conexus as the program’s new title sponsor, I became more motivated than ever to find ways of keeping travel affordable during uncertain times.

Where it began…

Growing up on a farm, times were busy. My father was a poultry farmer, and as all keepers of livestock know, there’s usually very few days off in a year—if at all. That’s why every summer, I couldn’t wait for our annual road trip. Each year in August, he would leave the farm in good hands for 10 days, and my family would pile into our Ford Aerostar for our next adventure.

As a kid, vacations almost seemed like a fantasy. There’s very little concept of time as the days become full of swimming, ice cream, bike riding, games, and… more ice cream. You don’t have to worry about paying for accommodations or gas, preparing or finding meals, and driving long hours with impatient kids in the back seat. I look back on our annual family vacation and wonder how exactly my parents kept their sanity. It’s a lot to manage! My siblings and I would have the best time without a care in the world. As an adult, it’s sobering to realize how hard my parents worked to not only afford taking time away from the farm, but also keeping costs at a minimum while on vacation.

Fast forward to 2020

Since becoming the Wanderer, I’ve found myself in charge of planning and executing the largest road trip of my life. I’ll admit, it’s been very challenging and I’ve been reminded of my parents’ hard work every step of the way. However, seeing so many beautiful places (Cypress Hills, Greig Lake, Castle Butte, etc.) and meeting dozens of wonderful people has helped put me at ease.

In the past few months, I’ve learned some hard and fast lessons surrounding money. Here are a few things that have helped me cut excess costs, save in unexpected places, and keep morale high while traveling in high-stress times.

Reusable anything keeps money in your pocket

Two reusable items I’ll never leave home without are a water bottle and a microwavable container. I’ll always fill up my water bottle at a hotel and therefore eliminate the urge to buy one when I stop for gas. Since I’ve been eating out on the road a lot, more often than not a takeaway container isn’t microwavable. Nearly every accommodation will have a microwave and since I started bringing my own container, I’ve never let my leftovers go to waste. We all know how generous Saskatchewan restaurants can be with their portions so on many occasions I’ve happily turned one supper into two—the enormous Perogy Poutine from the Black Grasshopper in Estevan comes to mind!

Preparedness pays off

This may seem like a no-brainer, but unexpected expenses can add up when traveling. Make a packing list before your trip and include everything you could possibly need. Early in the year, I would forget something simple, end up buying it, and then immediately regret it when I returned home to find it sitting in my drawer. I’ve unnecessarily spent hundreds of dollars on duplicates like: sunscreen, bug spray, gloves, hair ties, tweezers, vitamins, and even flip flops for the hotel pool. Plus, if you have to pick something up at a gas station or a convenience store, products like Advil or chapstick have a higher markup compared to where you’d purchase them otherwise. Convenience can be costly.

Oh, and speaking of pools, the Residence Inn in Regina has one of the fastest waterslides I’ve ever been on. Seriously, I might have experienced some g-force on that thing.

Score with loyalty points

Many food chains, and even local establishments have their own loyalty programs that allow you to earn free food, discounted prices, and more. Thankfully our smartphones conveniently allow us to store our loyalty numbers or barcodes. I used to absolutely hate keeping track of loyalty cards, but now that I can have them in my phone or through an app, I’m all in. I won’t admit how many free coffees I’ve scored this year from a certain green mermaid, but I will tell you that she’s been very kind to me. Also, I’ve kept loyalty points with every hotel I stay at, and in a matter of months have earned my way to free nights, higher loyalty point accumulation, and guaranteed late checkouts. Doesn’t get any better!

Keep tabs on your data

On some of my early trips, I was on Google Maps non-stop and endlessly streaming music and podcasts while on the road. I quickly noticed my cell phone data was going over and incurring extra charges. Now, I’ve been diligent in trying to download music, podcasts, and even map directions to my phone while I have Wi-Fi. It took one egregious cell phone bill at the beginning of my Wanderer term for me to be more mindful of data usage while out and about.

Seeing the best of Saskatchewan

With those money saving tips in mind, here is my unofficial list of the best places I’ve been in 2020!

Best food: Just Chicken in Kindersley. Think chicken tenders but like schnitzel. They have some of the best side dishes I’ve ever had—candied bacon, homemade slaw, fry bread, and more.

Best accommodation: The Resort at Cypress Hills. When a fresh blanket of snow falls, it’s a magical winter wonderland with tons of things to do. You can go cross country skiing, snowshoeing, or cozy up by the fireplace in the lodge.

Best trail: Sunset Interpretive Trail in Douglas Provincial Park. This is a beginner level trail that all can enjoy. Halfway into the loop you’ll have one of the best views for a classic Saskatchewan sunset. It’s simply stunning looking out over Lake Diefenbaker as the waves crash against the shoreline below.

Best campground: Anderson Point in Great Blue Heron Provincial Park. With plenty of walking trails and a secluded beach, this area truly feels off the grid while still being close to the amenities of Christopher Lake. Many locals have expressed that this is their favourite place to spend winter too. I hope to return before the year is over!

Best coffee shop: Route 26 in St. Walburg. This place has probably one of the most immersive ambiences I’ve ever experienced. It’s in an old character house adorned with hundreds of nostalgic artifacts. Outside there are plenty of picturesque places to sit as you hear classic country tunes playing in the background.

Best sightseeing spot: Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park. The rolling hills of the southwest truly look incredible anytime of year. Once you drive down into the valley, you’ll have a 360-degree view of some of the finest natural wonders in Saskatchewan.

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What I Learned From My 90 Day Spending Freeze

We’ve all heard of “cleanses” or “detoxes”. Although traditionally meant for weight loss or breaks from social media, spending freezes are gaining popularity as a means to cut spending and flush out bad money habits. Here’s a personal story where one of our writers was forced to check herself before debting herself and what she learned from a 90-day spending freeze.


Setting the Scene

Earlier this year, before COVID-19 entered the Canadian news cycle and Taylor Swift released her Folklore album, I put myself on a 90-day spending freeze.

Let’s go back to December. I received an email from the corporate payroll team, “SUBJECT: Important – Response Required – Pension Enrollment Form.

I guess I forgot I would start contributing to the employee pension program after my first year of employment. I was already saving for retirement and contributing 5% of my net income to my RRSP every pay period.

Hot Tip: If you’re entering the job market or changing careers, consider if an employee pension program is offered in the compensation package. If you’re comfortable with accepting a compensation package that doesn’t include an employee pension program, you can create your own “DIY pension program”. Have a conversation with a financial advisor, or someone you trust, to choose a retirement savings plan that works for you and build scheduled contributions into your budget that come directly from your paycheck.

Time to Freeze

I’m a single income earner, so saving more for retirement through the employee pension program meant my household income would be shrinking.

I knew that I could adjust my budget in real time to manage my cost of living with a lower net income, but without knowing how to adjust my budget to spend less, I could easily fall into a cycle of spending more than I was earning. You can’t lie to yourself and have healthy money habits.  I chose to enter a 90-day spending freeze, starting on January 1.

“Like, you didn’t spend any money at all?”

I set very specific criteria for this spending freeze. It was an ambitious goal, like Taylor Swift’s cross-over from country music to pop music. It had to be calculated and fearless.

The purpose of the spending freeze wasn’t to deprive myself or to remove joy from my life but to understand how to protect two healthy money habits I practice: 1) not spending more than I was earning, and 2) contributing to emergency savings, long-term savings, and saving for retirement. My mission was to  reveal how I needed to adjust my budget to spend less, with a lower income.

The most common reasons people aren’t successful in budgeting is because they haven’t built a realistic budget or they aren’t committed long enough for it to become a money habit. I made a deal with myself that I was in this for the long haul and would track every receipt and be disciplined for the full 90 days. I was already a budgeter before I started the spending freeze, but if you’re not a budgeter, that’s an important foundation to start with. I track every receipt and enter it into my budget, and during the spending freeze it showed me how much money I wasn’t spending. You need to see how you’re spending your money to know how much you’re saving or not spending during a spending freeze.

I began by considering all the things that I valued most from my lifestyle that was discretionary spending and excluded those categories from my spending freeze. For instance, I didn’t even consider freezing my fitness membership. I like the accountability my barre studio puts on me to hold a plank for a minute longer and that doesn’t translate to home workouts for me.

I froze spending money on restaurants and food deliveries, unless it centered around an experience with friends. The relationships in my life are important to me, so I was intentional about which invitations to accept and which invitations to decline knowing that it’s hard to go out with someone and not spend money. For example, when my friend was going through a difficult time in her life, I arrived at her house with pizza and wine. But when I was starving on my way home from my barre class, I didn’t give into ordering food and would make something at home.

What I removed from my budget during my spending freeze:

  • Clothing (I’m a big shopper so this was an accomplishment for me!)
  • Housewares
  • Alcohol
  • Tickets to entertainment
  • Travel
  • Spa & Salon experiences
  • Personal care items that I didn’t already use.

What I kept in my budget during my spending freeze:

  • Fitness membership
  • Personal care items (ie: lipstick) but ONLY if I was replenishing a product I already use
  • Gifts for others
  • Streaming subscriptions (ie: Netflix, Amazon Prime)
  • Cable subscription
  • The routinely scheduled hair cut & color I get quarterly, but no other spa and salon experiences
  • Massages, supplemented by my benefits coverage

What I Learned…

I began the spending freeze on January 1 and retail stores and restaurants closed in mid March when the State of Emergency was declared in Saskatchewan so I made it 77 days on my own without stepping foot in HomeSense. Even without the option of entering a store, I wasn’t in the clear because the convenience of online shopping can still tempt you – especially when you are cooped up in your home with nothing else to do. There were some close calls but I made it the full 90 days without spending money outside of the criteria I listed above. Outside of cutting my spending by 10%, I was able to nail down realistic goals for my budget categories knowing what I could and could not live without. Thanks to this 90 day cleanse, I have eliminated any sort of excuses to pad my budgets for categories like eating out or shopping because I know I’ve done it before. It’s amazing how much money you can save with a little confidence in yourself and the discipline to make it happen.

If you need help starting your own budget or want to see for yourself how much cutting your spending will impact your income, check out Conexus’ budget calculator tool!

What else did I learn from a 90-day spending freeze?

  1. You do not need to deprive yourself to practice healthy money habits.
  2. Avoiding the stores where you commonly spend money is way easier than visiting those stores and trying to limit yourself to one purchase.
  3. Choosing not to browse online or in-store completely removed the temptation to spend money. A lot of the time you are shopping for a distraction so if you are watching a TV show and your mind gets antsy, pick up a book or grab a paper and pen to doodle to keep it occupied.
  4. Talk about money! I was open about challenging myself to a 90-day spending freeze and so many others responded by sharing their money goals. We celebrated, leaned on each other as accountability partners and learned from each other along the way.
  5. Spending less than I earn felt so much more satisfying than abandoning my budget to buy whatever Jillian Harris is promoting on Instagram.

What else do you want to know about my spending freeze that I didn’t answer in the blog? Ask your questions in the comment section below! Let’s break the myth that it’s impolite to talk about money! Let’s learn from each other and celebrate each other’s healthy money habits.

How COVID-19 Affected My Wedding Day

Uncertainty, frustration, sadness – not the things I was expecting to feel in the months leading up to my wedding and not something that was stopping me from becoming Bridezilla. Unfortunately, COVID-19 took the decision out of my hands and I was forced to let go of the wedding vision I had dreamed of since I was a little girl. Read on to find out how I managed my stress levels, changed plans (sometimes on the fly), managed the fluctuating budget and ended up having an amazing wedding day during COVID-19. 


You know what they say about the best laid plans…

I got engaged at the end August 2019 and to say I was excited to plan the wedding is an understatement. Not only do I love to plan things, but like most women, I’d been thinking about my wedding day for years and had more than one Pinterest board all queued up and ready to go. My new fiancé asked me to marry him and then promptly left for three weeks to work up in northern Saskatchewan – great timing, I know. Fortunately, this gave me the perfect opportunity to plan the whole wedding. I created our wedding website, booked the majority of our vendors, chose a date (I did consult with him on this part), booked a venue, lined up my bridesmaids, started dress shopping and let the people know who were traveling when they needed to be here. We were going to be married in Regina at the Wascana Country Club on June 13, 2020. In the next few months, I ordered my dress, chose the bridesmaid dresses and got all of the invitations sent out. Things were cruising along really well. I was buying everything in advance so that we were ready and so we could sit back and not have much stress in the months leading up to our wedding day. Queue the global crisis…

Who needs pre-marital counseling when you have a pandemic

When we first heard about the coronavirus, I initially thought it wouldn’t affect us or our special day. Then the borders closed, the cases started to rise, and we were both home – 100% of the time. During those few months, we were able to work through and talk about a lot of things. To say the stress levels were high would be an understatement, but we really focused on making decisions together and keeping open lines of communication. Except for the part where I unanimously made the decision to push our wedding reception a year, including all of our vendors, and then told him after the fact.

“Sorry honey”.

Vendors, deposits and budgets, oh my!

I was very fortunate that we didn’t lose any money when we chose to change our wedding plans and we were able to simply shift everything by one year. This meant that all of that planning I had done wasn’t going to go to waste. I did hear about a lot of people that made the decision to cancel their wedding and lost money and I feel for them. It’s always a great idea to create a wedding budget and stick to it because weddings are expensive and it’s easy to go into serious debt in the planning and spending, especially when you go to wedding expos and see what others are doing. But one thing you can’t budget or plan for is when you end up losing your deposits and that can make a stressful time much worse. I’m not going to go into the debate of signed contracts, non-refundable deposits and whether or not a pandemic that is out of your control is grounds for a deposit return, however, I will say that every single one of my vendors was very easy to work with and they, and their businesses, were feeling the financial burdens and uncertainty we all were.

If you are currently in the position of deciding whether to postpone and are afraid to have the conversation with your vendors – I highly recommend just ripping off the band-aid. Although we are all feeling the financial burden of the global pandemic, these businesses survive on positive word-of-mouth and referrals and many will deliver on good customer service in order to win your endorsement. They will understand and the sooner you let them know – the more flexible they can be.

So what did we do?

Well, I am now a Mrs., and our wedding picture is at the top of this blog, so we did get married June 13. We chose to get married at my parents’ lake house with those of our bridal party that could attend and my parents’ best friends (limited numbers made it easy to cut down the guest list). The biggest thing we learned is that missing out on many of the material things did not make the day any less memorable or perfect. Although we had to shift our initial vision of what the day was going to look like. at the end of the day I was able to get married to a wonderful man surrounded by love and even those far away were able to be part of it via live steam – and that, I wouldn’t change for anything. We are going to have a reception next June (fingers crossed) and we will be able to celebrate with everyone at that time.

Tips for getting married during COVID-19 (or any pandemic)

  1. Breathe – you can do this. It may feel like it, but it’s not the end of the world (hopefully). Plans will change and you will have to be agile and flexible, but I believe in you.
  2. Lean on others – there are lots of others going through the same things and you can get lots of tips from them. Talk to your family and your future spouse, they want to be there for you and help you through this.
  3. Take time to pause and process what you’ve lost – at the end of the day, it’s sad when your sister and best friend literally cannot come to your wedding because it means traveling or your grandma can’t attend because it’s too dangerous. It’s important to take a minute to just say “this sucks”, maybe yell or throw things or go find a batting cage or hit some golf balls. Whatever it is, let yourself feel the loss.
  4. Don’t dwell on what can’t be – you will drive yourself crazy focusing on all the things you can’t have and your wedding will be overshadowed by sadness rather than being a celebration of love and happiness.
  5. Decide what you need and what you can do without – whether you are going ahead with a paired down version of your wedding or moving it to next year, decide what things you can’t do without and what you can. The same goes for guests.
  6. Look for ways to include those who can’t be there – for us, it was live streaming the wedding, calling people after the ceremony and FaceTiming my sister from Australia for the entire dinner and speeches. Best part, all of that was free.
  7. Stick to your budget – there is a good chance you may lose some deposits if you decide not to postpone or reschedule and that will have a huge impact on your budget. If you decide, like us, to have a wedding now and a reception in the future, you need to decide if your wedding budget will remain the same or if you are going to create a different one for each event and that may mean more money is going to be spent. Either way, make your budget and stick to it.
  8. Talk to your vendors – regardless if you are postponing or going ahead, keep in contact with your vendors. They are probably wondering, just like you, what’s going on. Be patient with them as well – they didn’t plan for COVID-19 either and are going to be a lot more willing to work with you to find a solution if you don’t go bridezilla on them.
  9. Make it a memorable day – no matter what, it’s still your wedding day and you need to make it about you and your future spouse. Find ways to keep the day about you and not the pandemic and what you’ve lost.
  10. Don’t let people call you a COVID bride – COVID-19 may have forced you to change your plans, but it’s not what should define your wedding. Unless that is your theme, then you do you.