Breaking Down the Emergency Support for COVID-19: Non-Profits & Charities

Managing a non-profit or charitable organization is very overwhelming right now. These services are needed more than ever but fundraising is difficult to access with physical distancing and the economic downturn.  Let’s break down the different federal and provincial emergency supports available to help you navigate these unsettling times. 


Non-profit and charity organizations are among those who have been most severely affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Necessary physical and social distancing measures to contain the infection and protect communities has created significant job loss for Canadians. This means these organizations are depended on more than ever to deliver basic human needs to vulnerable populations who depend on them, especially in a public health crisis and economic downturn. Non-profit and charitable organizations have lost major event fundraising streams, putting a strain on budget while the need for their support continues to rise. 

We’ve done our best to compile and simplify the financial support and professional resources for non-profit and charitable organizations. We’ve also included resources for professional fundraisers to help ease their financial burdens and continue helping our vulnerable neighbors and communities. 

Relief for Non-Profit and Charity Organizations 

Temporary Wage Subsidy for Not-for-Profit Organizations, Charities, and Small Businesses

Government of Canada
The federal government’s temporary wage subsidy is providing not-for-profit organizations and charities a 75% wage subsidy for up to 90 days if their revenues are down by at least 30% from COVID-19. This subsidy will be on the first $58,700 earned, meaning up a maximum of $847 per employee per week, retroactive to March 15, 2020. Employers benefiting from this measure would include corporations eligible for the small business deduction, not-for-profit organizations and charities. This replaces the 10% wage subsidy that was announced early in the COVID-19 Economic Response Plan. 

More Time to Pay Income Taxes

Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has extended the income tax filing and payments for charities to December 31, 2020, for all charities with a Form T3010, Registered Charity Information Return due between March 18, 2020 and December 31, 2020. This relief applies to tax balances due, as well as installments, under Part I of the Income Tax Act. No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts during this period. 

Bill-Deferral Program on Provincial Utilities

Saskatchewan Crown Corporations that operate utilities in the province will offer a zero-interest deferral on all utility payments for a period of 6 months. 

SaskTel – waiving data overage charges, offering news and family channels for free 

SaskPower – stopped active collections and won’t be limiting power supply to customers 

SaskEnergy – deferring payments and not limiting natural gas supply 

ISC Suspension Order for Strike Off Provisions

The Information Services Corporation (ISC) has suspended the strike off provisions for non-profit corporations, co-operatives, and new generation co-operative entities. The suspension is meant to assist organizations that are not in a position to file annual returns and financial statements at the Corporate Registry due to delays in annual meetings caused by the restrictions and recommendations on public gatherings. To further lessen the impact of being unable to file in a timely manner, annual return late filing fees for not-for-profit corporations and co-operatives will be suspended. 

Relief for Human Services  

Emergency Shelters

Government of Canada
The Reaching Home program will provide $157.5 million to continue supporting those who are homeless. The funds can be used for needs such as purchasing beds and physical barriers to improve social distancing in shelters. It’s also available to secure accommodations during the outbreak to reduce overcrowding in shelters.  

Government of Saskatchewan
The Government of Saskatchewan is providing one-time additional funding of $171,000 targeted to meet the extra cost pressure emergency shelters are experiencing as they continue to serve those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.  These organizations currently provide more than 300 beds for individuals who need emergency shelter and supports. Organizations receiving the increase are: Lloydminster Men’s Shelter; YWCA Regina – My Aunt’s Place; YWCA Prince Albert; YWCA Saskatoon; Lighthouse Saskatoon; Lighthouse North Battleford; Salvation Army Saskatoon; Salvation Army Regina; Soul’s Harbour Regina and Soul’s Harbour Moose Jaw.   

Modified Emergency Shelter Response

Government of Saskatchewan
When emergency shelters are unable to meet the needs of an individual or family because of capacity pressures, Social Services will support those in need with funds for emergency hotel stays and will work to transition clients to permanent housing. 

If an individual is required by Public Health to self-isolate due to COVID-19 symptoms or exposure, that person will be transitioned to a safe accommodation such as a hotel or an individual housing unit. 

There are approximately 1,700 vacant Saskatchewan Housing Corporation units located in 29 larger communities that will be leveraged to ensure those impacted by COVID-19 are able to access housing or an individualized space to self isolate.  An additional 1,200 units are available in smaller communities across Saskatchewan. 

Support for Children, Youth & Families

Government of Saskatchewan
Transitions to independence for young people will be delayed, so that any youth that “ages out of care” during the COVID-19 pandemic will not be transitioned out of their current housing.   

Child Care Subsidy

Government of Saskatchewan
To help families receiving the Child Care Subsidy (CCS), any families who were receiving part-time benefits because their children were attending school will receive full-time benefits, retroactive to March 1, 2020.  The CCS helps parents with low to moderate incomes with the costs of licensed child care. 

Income Assistance (IA)

Government of Saskatchewan
All Income Assistance clients will continue to receive their benefits even if a client is late reporting, effective March 19, 2020.

Social Services Physical Distancing and Eased Reporting Measures

Government of Saskatchewan
Social Services offices remain open with the first hour of the day reserved for more vulnerable individuals, including those with a disability or health issues such as a compromised immune system. Clients are asked not to visit the offices unless it’s an emergency and they’re unable to call their social worker or they are asked to visit an office. 

Saskatchewan residents who may need income support can apply here or call the Client Service Centre at 1-866-221-5200.  More staff have been shifted to the Call Centre to help serve those in need.

Domestic & Family Violence

Government of Canada
$50 million will be given to women’s shelters and sexual assault centers to help ease capacity and prevent outbreaks among women and children fleeing interpersonal and domestic violence. This funding will also support facilities in Indigenous communities.  

Youth Mental Health Care

Government of Canada
Kids Help Phone is experiencing increased demand for its 24/7 confidential online, telephone, and text counselling services across Canadaas a result of school closures and reduced access to community resources. The Government of Canada is giving $7.5 million in funding to Kids Help Phone to provide young people with the mental health confidential support. 

Caring for Vulnerable Seniors

Government of Canada
Canadian seniors are among the most impacted by COVID-19, and often rely on caregiving support from people who live outside of their homes. The Government of Canada will contribute $9 million through United Way Canada for local organizations to support practical services to Canadian seniors. These services could include the delivery of groceries, medications, or other needed items, or personal outreach to assess individuals’ needs and connect them to community supports. If you are planning to donate to these charities, be careful as there are a lot of scams pretending to be these reputable organizations. Visit this MONEYTALK blog that goes through these COVID-19 scams and how to ensure you are contributing to a valid organization.

Resources for Fundraising Professionals 

LINK: COVID-19 resource guide for fundraising professionals

The Association of Fundraising Professionals has gathered educations and resources to help non-profit and charitable organizations navigate fundraising, donor communicationsand what it means to engage with donors during a time in which social distancing and staying home is more important than ever. 

Conexus Member Support for Non-Profit Organizations and Charities

Conexus can help assess your situation and determine the best options to provide some relief including working with you to activate a skip-payment plan, to defer monthly payments, or to create an interest only payment plan to help your business navigate the economic downturn. 

 This relief is available to members, non-profit and charity organizations, small business members, commercial members, and agricultural members in good standing who are feeling a financial impact and are looking for a temporary relief from mortgage, line of credit and loan payments.  Please avoid coming into a branch and call your financial advisor or our Member Contact Centre at 1-800-667-7477.  

Conexus Business Accelerator

In partnership with Meyers Norris Penny, Conexus Credit Union offers free business webinar courses for non-profit and charitable organizations and business owners in Saskatchewan. Protecting Your Business and Employees, Managing Cash Flow and Stress Management are just a few of the courses that are relevant to this time. 

 Do you work or volunteer in the non-profit and charity sector and are looking to view the complete action plans from both governments? Visit the following:

FEDERAL   |   PROVINCIAL

UPDATED: What Emergency Funding is Available for Businesses & Ag Producers

The COVID-19 pandemic is making a significant impact on the Canadian economy, especially with small and medium sized businesses. The federal and provincial governments have announced different support efforts to relieve businesses and agricultural producers during these anxious times. Let’s help you break down these different measures so that you can brave this storm and best protect your business’ financial well-being.

UPDATED: March 30, 2020


Due to the nature of COVID-19, how it spreads, and how self isolation is the best way to fight against it, businesses across Canada are facing difficult decisions. Over the last week, many provinces and municipalities have announced measures to stop the spread of the virus that resulted in business closures and massive layoffs. The Government of Canada has also announced multiple initiatives to support businesses to provide economic stability during this time. Agricultural producers are also feeling the weight of the pandemic as they approach the beginning of spring seeding and how to get their goods from a difficult 2019 growing year to market. Most of the information below and how to apply for benefits from the Government of Canada can be found here.

Supports for Businesses

Temporary Wage Subsidy

Canadian businesses, including non-profit organizations and charities, whose revenue has decreased by at least 30% due to COVID-19 and facing employee layoffs can access a temporary wage subsidy for 3 months. Business owners can receive 75% of wages per employee to a maximum of $58,700 during the 3-month period, to a maximum of $847/week per employee. These payments will be back dated to March 15, 2020. Businesses can begin accessing this support by reducing your remittances of income tax that they withhold on employee pay.

To create some balance between employers and employees, the Government of Saskatchewan will allow businesses to not have to provide notice or pay in lieu in the event of a public emergency when the layoff is 12 weeks or less during a 16-week period. Additionally, if an employee is laid off for more than 12 weeks in a 16-week period, they will be considered terminated and entitled to access federal employment insurance programs.

Businesses also qualify for payment deferrals on loans, skip-a-payment, and interest only payment plans. You are encouraged to reach out to your financial institution to determine what supports are available to you and what makes the most sense with your financial situation.

Business Tax Filing

Like the measures taken for filing personal income taxes, businesses will be able to defer the payment of income tax until September 1, 2020. No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts owing. The Canada Revenue Agency will also pause most of its audit interactions for businesses for the next 4 weeks. For businesses requiring assistance understanding your tax obligations, help will be administered over the phone or through webinar.

Businesses and self-employed individuals can defer payments of the Goods and Services (GST)/ Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) until June 30, 2020. Businesses will also be able to defer customs duties owing on imports until June 30, 2020. Details about remittance schedules and how they qualify can be found here.

The Saskatchewan Government is also providing relief for you if you own a business and are unable to submit your Provincial Sales Tax (PST) remittance over the next three-months. You can submit a request for relief from penalty and interest charges here. Like the federal government, they are also pausing audit and compliance programs for businesses.

Credit Services

Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA)

On March 27, the federal government announced the Canada Emergency Business Account. This emergency loan program will allow businesses to access interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to cover operating costs while revenue is down due to COVID-19. If the loan is paid in full by December 2022, 25% of the loan will be forgiven, to a maximum of $10,000. Contact your business advisor or financial institution to learn more about the CEBA and what it means for your business. Please keep in mind that your financial institution will have received this news at the same time it was announced and it will likely take a few weeks for them to put their measures in place to support you.

To ensure Canada’s businesses have access to credit services during this time, the Government of Canada is relaxing its parameters for certain funding:

  • The Canada Account ensures Canadian Exporters have access to loans, guarantees, and insurance policies during this time.
  • The Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) is allowing the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and Export Development Canada to support small and medium businesses with an additional $10 billion. In addition, BCAP and BDC will work with private sector lenders to ensure credit solutions are offered for individual businesses, specifically businesses that operate in the oil and gas, air transportation, and tourism sectors.
  • Canada’s individual banks will be able to access $300 billion for the economy by lowering the Domestic Stability Buffer of risk-weighted assets by 1.25%. This is in addition to the Bank of Canada reducing its interest rate to 0.75% to support the economy. Further reductions to the interest rate are expected, but not known at this time.

More details on market support measures taken by the Government of Canada can be found here.

Supports for Agricultural Producers

Farmers and the agri-food sector will be supported by Farm Credit Canada and an additional $5 billion dollars provided by the Government of Canada. You are encouraged to contact Farm Credit Canada to discuss the supports available to you.

Eligible farmers who have an outstanding Advanced Payments Program (APP) loan that comes due on or before April 30 will receive an automatic stay of default, giving farmers an additional 6 months to repay the loan. Those farmers with outstanding interest free loans, under the $1 million cap, can also apply for an additional $100,000 interest free portion for the 2020-21 year.

Producers may also qualify for payment deferrals on loans, skip-a-payment, and interest only payment plans. You are encouraged to reach out to your financial institution to determine what supports are available to you and what makes the most sense with your financial situation.

Breaking Down the Emergency Funds for COVID-19: Individuals & Families

The COVID-19 crisis has produced a lot of federal and provincial government action in order to support Canadians through these unsettling times. However, unless you are already familiar with these supports, a lot of the terms and relief options can sound intimidating and may go unused if you do not understand them. Let’s break down the different emergency fund options for individuals and families, the qualifications for each and how you can utilize them to protect your financial well-being.


Over the last week, there have been countless announcements about financial support for both families and businesses across Canada. The increase in information can be a lot to take in when you are worrying about your job, family, and finances. Most of the information below and how to apply for benefits from the Government of Canada can be found here. I’ve done my best to compile and simplify the essential information so you can understand how local governments in our province and the provincial and federal governments are stepping up to help Canadians.

GST Credit

If you are a low-income single adult or family, you will receive a special top-up payment under the Goods and Services Tax (GST). This will double the maximum annual GST credit you will receive for the 2019-2020 benefit year. Payments will increase by almost $400 for single low-income adults, and almost $600 for couples. The one-time payment will arrive in early May 2020.

Canada Child Benefit

If you are entitled to the Canada Child Benefit, you will see payments increase for the 2019-20 year by $300 per child. On average, this will mean an additional $550 increase for families. This will be issued on the May 20, 2020 CCB payment.

Student Loans

Canada Student Loans payments will be deferred for a period of 6 months. Payments will be paused, and no interest will accrue on the amount owing. If you also have student loans with the Government of Saskatchewan, a 6-month loan payment deferral has also been implemented, mirroring the federal relief. Student loans from your financial institution may also qualify for a skip-a-payment plan, but you should contact your financial institution to find out the options available to you and what makes the most sense with your financial situation.

RRIF and RPP Withdrawals

Withdrawals from Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) are being reduced by 25% for the 2020 year. This also applies if you are receiving benefit payments from a defined Registered Pension Plan (RPP). You can view the minimum withdrawal percentage as of 2018 here.

Mortgages

The Canadian Government is providing $50 billion for the Ensured Mortgage Protection Program to support Canadians who are affected by COVID-19. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and other mortgage insurers are offering payment deferrals and special payment arrangements effective immediately on all CMHC insured mortgages.

In addition, many financial institutions in Canada are committed to working with customers to provide flexible solutions to your financial needs. This includes payment deferral on mortgages, auto loans, and personal loans for up to 6 months. You are encouraged to contact your financial institution to better understand your options during this time and what makes the most sense with your financial situation.

Utility Deferrals

Saskatchewan Crown Corporations that operate utilities in the province will offer a zero-interest deferral on all utility payments for a period of 6 months.

SaskTel – waiving data overage charges, offering news and family channels for free

SaskPower – stopped active collections and won’t be limiting power supply to customers

SaskEnergy – deferring payments and not limiting natural gas supply

City Supports

Specific measures for major municipalities in Saskatchewan can be found here:

Saskatoon     |     Regina      |      Prince Albert      |     Moose Jaw      |     Humboldt

Groceries

If you’ve visited a grocery store in the last two weeks, you’ll know that essentials like toilet paper, bleach, and disinfecting wipes are scarce. The major grocery stores in Canada have assured the public that the supply chain to keep stores stocked is strong. This has also been supported by the United States and Canadian governments’ commitment to keep the borders open to commercial traffic to ensure the flow of these goods.

In addition, major grocers have also committed to maintaining the price of goods instead of increasing prices as we usually see with an increase in demand. The President and CEO of Loblaws released this statement.

Childcare

The Government of Saskatchewan has announced that childcare facilities that are located within Saskatchewan’s schools will be re-purposed to assist with the childcare demands of health-care workers and essential services workers. This includes those employed in healthcare, child services, and emergency services. Read more here.

Personal Income Tax Filing

The date for filing personal income taxes for the 2019-20 year has been extended to June 1, 2020. However, to receive the new Canada Child Benefit payment and the GST one-time payment, you are encouraged to file your personal income taxes as soon as possible to ensure the amounts you will receive for the 2020-2021 year are correct. The Canada Child Benefit and GST payments are based off your 2019 taxes, and the amounts take effect in July 2020.

If you file your 2019 personal income tax, and owe money, you have until September 1, 2020 to make a payment on the taxes you owe. No interest will be accrued on any balances owing.

Where it applies, electronic signatures will be recognized instead of in-person signatures, to encourage social distancing. Measures will also be taken to encourage the public to file your income tax electronically and they have provided help with understanding your personal income tax over phone and webinar.

Trusts that operate on a December 31, 2019 taxation year, such as family trusts, have until May 30, 2020 to submit your 2019 trust income tax returns. This is extended from the March 30, 2020 deadline.

Employment Insurance

If you qualify for Employment Insurance (EI) Sick Leave Benefits, the requirements for EI are as follows:

Unemployed due to work closure?

REQUIREMENT TO QUALIFY: 700 hours worked in the last 52 weeks

  • Your employer will need to submit a Record of Employment to the Government of Canada.
  • The one week waiting period remains in effect.
Unemployed due to self-quarantine?

REQUIREMENT TO QUALIFY: 600 hours worked in the last 52 weeks

  • You do not need to provide a Record of Employment or doctor’s note.
  • The one week waiting period is waived

If you qualify for either of these situations, you can apply here. You can also call to apply, but wait times will be much higher than normal.

Canada Emergency Response Benefit

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit will provide up to $2,000 a month for the next four months if you don’t qualify for Employment Insurance. Administered through the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA), you may qualify if you are one of the following:

  • self-employed, quarantined, or sick with COVID-19
  • self-employed and caring for a family member who is sick with COVID-19
  • a parent of children and cannot work due to school or daycare closures, whether you qualify for Employment Insurance or not
If you are facing unemployment and don’t qualify for EI:

You will not need to provide a doctor’s note to access these benefits and are encouraged to sign up to receive the benefit through direct deposit. The application will be available in early April, and applicants will need to confirm they meet the requirements when they apply. You will also need to reconfirm your eligibility every two weeks. You can apply in one of 3 ways:

  • Applying through your My CRA account
  • Applying through your My Service Canada Account
  • Calling toll-free at 1-833-381-2725

When applying through My CRA or My Service Canada, you will need a secure PIN code. If you feel you qualify for this benefit and do not have access to either of these accounts, you can request your PIN here. It can take up to 10 business days before you receive it in the mail, so requesting it now ensures you’re ready to apply when the application opens.

EI Work Sharing Program

If you’ve agreed to reduce your normal working hours because of your employer’s efforts to curb the impact of COVID-19, you can also take advantage of the EI Work Sharing program. This provides Employment Insurance benefits to you if you’re still employed but working less than you normally would. In order to qualify for these benefits, you will have needed to work 76 weeks (an increase in the standard 52 weeks).

The Government of Saskatchewan also passed legislation ensuring that if you need time off work because you are sick with COVID-19 or are required to care for a family member who is sick, you will not experience job loss. Even if you have been working with your employer for less than 13 weeks, you qualify for job protection under this legislation.

Self-Isolation Support Program

If you have contracted COVID-19, have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, or recently returned from international travel, you are required by law to self-isolate for 14 days. In this instance, the Government of Saskatchewan has announced the Self-Isolation Support Program that provides you with $450 a week, for a maximum of two weeks as income support. To qualify, you must also meet the following criteria:

  • you are ineligible for compensation from your employer through sick or vacation leave
  • you do not have access to private insurance to cover labour disruptions
  • you are not covered by the other federal income support programs that have been announced

“Ouch, My Budget!” – Tips for Getting Your Finances Back on Track

When the joy and excess of the holiday season fades, you might be left with a seriously depleted bank account or a bulging credit card statement. When the bills are piled as high as the presents were under the tree – what do you do?


Blue Monday got you down?

Whether it’s after an expensive holiday season, unexpected expense, or from simply getting a bit too lax about your money, here are some main strategies to get you back on track.

Reduce: Your Spending

This is probably the most important tip. Reducing the amount of money going out will help you cover your debt, get back to saving, or whatever your goal is. I find it helpful to list out the expenses in your life that you would classify as needs (housing, groceries, bill payments, transportation, etc.), and those that are wants (eight different streaming services, eating out every night, new clothes, etc.). Then, you can see what can be reduced. Maybe you only really use one streaming service regularly, or only during new seasons of your favourite show. It seems small but these monthly fees add up fast and furious.

 Modify: Your Behaviours

Do you find yourself automatically heading for the drive-through or coffee shop every morning out of habit? It’s time to modify your behaviour to push yourself toward saving rather than spending. Start adding bagels to your grocery list and pop one in the toaster before you head to work or take a different route that avoids your favourite stops. You can also incentivize yourself toward better financial habits. For example, you could charge yourself a fee (that goes into your savings) every time you make an unnecessary purchase or reward yourself for meeting savings goals.

My personal favorite that holds me accountable is to keep a running list on my phone of any purchases that I would have made if I wasn’t making an active attempt to save. For instance, if I typically would grab a morning coffee on my way into work and I successfully avoid the temptation, I will add $3.00 to my running total. It can scale all the way up to larger purchases as well. You know when you are trying on some clothes and you know that you don’t really need the item but would have likely bought it anyway? If you can push past the urge to whip out the credit card, you can add this to your running tally and before you know it – you’ll have a nice chunk of change saved and a note on your phone that applauds your impulse control and saving behaviour.

Add: Routine, Automation, & Income

Saving doesn’t always mean denying yourself of your favorite things! Both routine and automation are your best savings friends. Routine can be things like meal-prepping or taking your cash tips to the bank every week. Automation can be automatic bill payments or savings contributions that you don’t even need to think about. Just make sure before you automate, that your budget consistently allows for that money to come right out of your account. The final thing that you can add is income. See if there’s a way for you to use your skills, talents, or time to make a bit more money to pay down that debt or add to your savings. For me, it’s running a mini Varage Sale empire that allows me to create closet space while making some spare cash on the side.

All of these tips are meant to help you minimize stress and get back to a more comfortable financial place. Hopefully you see one or two that you know are do-able for you.

Stop Robbing Peter To Pay Paul

Many of us have been there – we really want something, but don’t have the cash to pay for it. So what’s the harm in putting it on our credit card? And maybe at the end of the month we may not have enough money to pay it off, but you tell yourself “that’s a future you problem”. Fast forward to the end of the month and it turns out you were right, you don’t have enough money in your account to pay your credit card bill. What do you do now? There are many different options that can make sure you can pay for it and you are avoiding the cycle of borrowing from one place to pay for another debt. 


Beware of Shark Infested Water

You’ve seen them popping up everywhere – on the corner, on your TV and in your mailbox: Payday Loan Companies are always there ready to “help” you out with that short term loan, but how much is that “helpful” loan costing you in the end? The answer is… a lot! The annual interest rate on a $300 14-day payday loan from Money Mart in SK is 443.21% at a rate of $17 per $100 borrowed. So that means that your $300 loan will actually cost you $51 and the total amount owed will be $351. For 7% of Canadians, this is an avenue they have gone down and it can be very difficult to get out of the cycle. The best advice? Avoid payday loans entirely.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

A revolving line of credit, when used properly, can provide peace of mind as you are aware that you will have access to funds if you need them. They can definitely be beneficial, but the goal should not be to be use it every month and should never be included as available money in your budget. It should be used as a safety net and something you access as a last resort because you do pay interest on the amount that you use.

Have you ever been stuck in a revolving door?

Would you borrow from your grandma to pay your friend back? Then borrow from another friend to pay your grandma back… and then borrow from… I think you see where I’m going with this.

You’re literally borrowing from one person to pay the other and it has the potential to be a never-ending cycle. The same is true when you take a cash advance from your credit card to pay for something. You are being charged interest as soon as you borrow the money and are left trying to figure out how to pay it back when you didn’t have the money in the first place to buy what you wanted. You can check out Francis’ blog to learn more about Cash Advances.

I could have cruised to Australia for that amount.

If you can’t pay off your credit card every month, you should at least be making the minimum payment. That’s probably good enough, right? The credit card company must be trying to help you if they put a minimum payment on there, right? No, they’re not. While paying the minimum is important, it is the bare minimum you should be doing and doing that will not get you that far ahead.

Here’s an example to show why this is true:

You decide to go on a $2,500 vacation, but you’re going to put it on your credit card and pay the minimum balance. It shouldn’t take that long to pay it off and it won’t cost too much, right? Not quite. It will actually take 334 months to pay it off and the total cost of the trip will be $8,400! WHAT?! Yup, of the $50 minimum payment, only $12 goes to principle.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never taken a vacation that was worth triple for what I paid for it.

Using credit cards is very common for Canadians, with 92% saying they use their card every month, so it’s important to know as much as possible about them. Here are some stats about credit cards you may not be aware of:

  • One in seven Canadians use credit to buy daily essentials such as groceries because they are short on cash.
    • Nearly one in ten admit to being impulsive shoppers, which leads to buying things they cannot afford.
  • More than two in three Canadians don’t know that credit card interest is calculated daily on the balance and one in three Canadians admit they were somewhat unlikely or unlikely to make the minimum credit card payment
  • Transunion identifies the average credit card balance as $4,265 in Canada.

At the end of the day, or month, you want to make sure that you are borrowing wisely and making the best decision for you and your financial well-being. The best choice is always to have the cash to pay for something. There are benefits to using credit cards such as building your credit score and some cards have great perks. However, if you aren’t able to pay off your card in full each month, it negates the benefits you will have gained.

Some tips to break the borrowing cycle:

  • Shop around and understand the terms and conditions before you sign the loan contract. Specifically, look for interest rates and the repercussions of missing a payment.
  • Don’t use your credit card to spend more money than you have. It should be used as a tool to help you make purchases that are within your budget.
  • Save up for bigger purchases rather than purchasing on your credit card. Once you have enough cash, purchase it on your credit card to take advantage of points perks but make sure to pay that off immediately.
  • Pay your credit card balance every month in full. If this isn’t possible, shrink the amount of times you pull out your credit card and increase the amount you use your debit card.
  • Don’t use your credit card to take out cash. This is known as a cash advance and works differently than a purchase made on your credit card. The biggest difference is that interest is calculated the moment the money comes out of ATM until it’s paid back.
  • DO NOT use payday loans. Ever.

With the Holiday season coming, it’s really important to make sure you’re borrowing wisely, but also that you’re spending wisely too. Checking out Courtney’s blog about Christmas Budgeting will give you some great tips on how to stay within what you can afford this Christmas. And don’t forget that Giving the Gift of Time and DIY Gifts are two great options too! Have any advice of your own? List it below!

Top 5 Strategies to Pay Off Your Debt

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


1. Pay off your most expensive debt first

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

2. Pay off your smallest debt first

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

3. The cash diet

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

4. Use a tool to track your spending

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

5. Ask for help

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

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

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

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

The Real Cost of Carrying a Balance on a Credit Card

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


Balance is a good thing… right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interest grows your debt

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

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

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

A credit card can be good

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

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

Some good tips on using credit with care are:

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

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

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

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

Couple reviewing how debt stacks up against other Canadians

How Does Your Debt Stack Up?

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


Debt

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

What Canadians owe

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

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

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

Canadians have a lot of debt.

Gen X are the most in debt

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

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

D*bt happens

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

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

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

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!
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.