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.

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. 

Updated: April 30, 2020


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 twelve weeks, retroactive from March 15, 2020 – June 6, 2020 if their March revenues are down by at least 15% compared to January and February, from COVID-19. For the months of April and May, businesses will need to demonstrate a 30% loss. Employers will also be allowed to measure their revenues either based on as they are earned or as they are received. Charities are being granted the ability to choose whether or not to include government revenues in their calculations of lost revenue when applying. Applicants can use this wage calculator to understand the amount you would be able to claim under the temporary wage subsidy program.

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.

Applications for the temporary wage subsidy are now open.

Canada Summer Jobs Program

Government of Canada

Temporary changes to the Canada Summer Jobs Program will see an increase to the wage subsidy, so that private and public sector employers can also receive up to 100 per cent of the provincial or territorial minimum hourly wage for each employee. This will continue to allow students to find meaningful employment during the summer and develop critical skills to transition into the labour market.

Additional ways the 2020 program has been adjusted to allow flexibility to both applicants and employers include:

  • end date for employment is now February 28, 2021;
  • employers can adapt their projects and job activities to support essential services; and
  • hiring can now include part-time positions.

Youth will be able to search for jobs available in their communities through the Job Bank website and app.

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 federal government is directing $350 million to charity and non-profit organizations who deliver basic human needs, through the Emergency Community Support Fund. The fund will flow through national organizations that have the ability to distribute funds quickly to local organizations that serve vulnerable populations. Some of the services the Fund will support include:

  • increasing volunteer-based home deliveries of groceries and medications;
  • transportation services, like accompanying or driving seniors or persons with disabilities to appointments;
  • expanding capacity for help-lines to manage call volumes and wait times for information and support;
  • training, supplies, and other required supports to volunteers; and
  • replacing in-person, one-on-one contact and social gatherings with virtual contact through phone calls, texts, teleconferences, and the Internet.

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 you’re unable to call your social worker or you 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 on COVID-19 scams to monitor 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

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: May 21, 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

Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS)

Canadian businesses, including non-profit organizations and charities, whose March revenue has decreased by at least 15% due to COVID-19 and facing employee layoffs can access a temporary wage subsidy. 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 will have to apply for the program through the My Business Account portal on the Canada Revenue Agency’s website. They will also need to apply each month. To qualify, they will need to prove that their revenues have fallen at least 15% in March, as compared to January and February’s revenues.For non-profits or charities where revenue verification will be more difficult, may be able to access the subsidy by proving donations have reduced. However, the specific details for these organizations is still being worked out.

The 10% wage subsidy that the government announced earlier this month is still in effect. Small businesses can continue to claim the 10% wage subsidy, to a maximum of $25,000 or $1,375/employee. Businesses do not need to have experienced a decrease in revenue for this and can access this support immediately by adjusting the remittances of income tax that they withhold from employee pay. If a business is already receiving the 10% wage subsidy, they can also receive the CEWS, however the amount they receive will  be adjusted down accordingly so that they receive a maximum of 75% subsidy between both programs.

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.

Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance

The Government of Canada has announced the Canadian Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program, in co-operation with Canada’s Provinces to provide much needed commercial rent relief to small businesses during this unprecedented time. This program will lower rent by 75% for small businesses that have been affected by COVID-19, in co-operation with the property owner. The program provides commercial property owners access to forgivable loans if they cover 50% of the rent payments for eligible small business tenants.

The commercial property owner must agree to reduce the tenants rent by 75% for the months of April, May and June under a Rent Forgiveness Agreement. The property owner would not be able to evict the tenant under the agreement, and the tenant would cover the remaining 25% of rent owed. Tenants must be paying less than $50,000 a month in rent, have ceased operations or experienced a 70% decline in revenues due to COVID-19. Non-profit and charitable organizations also qualify for the program.

To apply and find more information, visit the CMHC website.

Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency Payment

The Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency Payment program provides much needed financial assistance to Saskatchewan’s small businesses that had to close or reduce operations due to the public health order during COVID-19.

The payment can be used for any purpose, including covering fixed costs or the costs associating with re-opening after the public health order has lifted restrictions. Payments are based of 15% of the businesses’ monthly revenue in April 2019 or February 2020 to a maximum of $5,000. Seasonal businesses 15% payments are based off the average monthly sales revenue for their 2019 operational months.

To be eligible, a Saskatchewan business or not-for-profit must:

  • Have been carrying on business in Saskatchewan on February 29, 2020;
  • Have been ordered to temporarily close or curtail operations through a COVID-19 public health order;
  • Have less than 500 employees:
    • Seasonal businesses:
      • In the year before the COVID-19 public health order; or
      • When averaged for the 3 years before the year in which the COVID-19 public health order;
    • Attest that they:
      • have experienced a loss in sales revenue from business activities due to a COVID-19 public health order;
      • plan to reopen operations following the cancellation of the COVID-19 public health order; and
      • have not received any payments or amounts from any other sources, including insurance, to replace or compensate for the loss of sales revenue other than amounts from other government assistance programs; and
    • Apply on or before July 31, 2020.

Applications can be completed on the Government of Saskatchewan website.

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)

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. Contact your business advisor or financial institution to learn more about the CEBA and what it means for your business.

What is the CEBA loan?

  • $40,000 interest-free loan to help you cover operating costs you were not able to defer because of COVID-19
  • $10,000 (25%) of the $40,000 loan is eligible for complete forgiveness if $30,000 is repaid on or before December 31, 2022
  • If the loan cannot be repaid by December 31, 2022 it can be converted into a 3-year loan with an interest rate of 5%
  • Once your loan application has been reviewed and submitted the process for funding will take up to 7 days from completion.

How does the CEBA loan work?

  • The loan will be funded as a $40,000 term loan, 0% interest and no payments until December 31,2022
  • No interest will apply until January 1, 2023
  • Beginning January 1, 2023, interest accrues on the balance of the term loan at the rate of 5% per annum, payable monthly on the last day of the month
  • If you pay 75% of the balance of the term loan on or before December 31, 2022, the remaining balance of your term loan will be forgiven. For example, if your balance is $40,000 on January 1, 2021 and you repay $30,000 on or before December 31, 2022, the remaining $10,000 will be forgiven
  • If you do not repay the 75% of the balance of the term loan on or before December 31, 2022, the full loan balance and all accrued and unpaid interest will be due and payable on December 31, 2025.

What’s the eligibility criteria?

The eligibility criteria are as follows, per the Government of Canada’s requirements:

  • You are a Canadian operating company (ie. not a holding company) registered and in operation on or before March 1, 2020
  • Your Annual payroll expense is between $20,000 and $1.5 million, as evidenced on your 2019 T4 Summary of Renumeration Paid (T4SUM). If you cannot locate your T4SUM contact Revenue Canada for reissue
  • A 15-digit Canada Revenue Agency Number also shown on your T4SUM
  • Conexus is your primary financial institution – meaning your everyday business banking account and cash management activities are held with Conexus, and opened on or before March 1, 2020
    • If your everyday business banking account is held elsewhere, please apply for funding through the Financial Institution that holds your primary Business Operating Account
  • Your account must be in Good Standing as an existing member

Expanded eligibility as of May 19, 2020

The criteria for access to the CEBA Loan Program has been expanded to include businesses with sole proprietors, those that rely on contractors or family owned businesses that pay employees through dividends. To be eligible, applicants with payroll less than $20,000 must meet the following criteria:

  • Have a business operating account at a participating financial institution
  • Have a Canada Revenue Agency business number
  • Filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return
  • Have eligible non-deferrable expenses such as rent, property taxes, utilities and insurance that equal between $40,000 and $1.5 million

Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) Co-Loan

On March 27th, the Federal Government announced the BDC Co-Lending Program to support Canadian businesses of all sizes that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19.  Eligible applicants can access up to $6.25 million CAD (max loans amount dependent on business size) in loans to cover operating expenses such as rent and payroll and working capital needs such as inventory.  The loan will be jointly funded by BDC and your financial institution.

 

Business with less than $1 Million in Annual Revenue

Businesses with $1-50 Million in Annual Revenue

Businesses with over $50 Million in Annual Revenue

Up to $312,500 Up to $3.125 million

Up to $6.25 million

How does the BDC Co-Lending Program work?

  • Eligible business members can apply for financing to support their operational and liquidity needs
  • Term Loan
  • First 12 months to be interest only

What’s the eligibility criteria?

  • Been a member with your financial institution as of March 1, 2020
  • Been a viable business as of March 1, 2020 prior to COVID-19 impact
  • Meet the necessary requirements that will form part of the application process

More information can be found on the BDC website here.

To further 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.

Export Development Canada Business Credit Availability Program Guarantee

As part of the federal government’s new $65 billion Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP), Conexus Credit Union and Export Development Canada (EDC) are partnering to provide small-and medium-sized Canadian businesses with financing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Access the credit you need to cover payroll and other operating costs during this global health crisis. The EDC BCAP Guarantee provides businesses with up to $6.25 million in credit to cover operational costs like payroll and rent. Proceeds from the BCAP-supported loan cannot be used to repay or refinance existing debt (further restrictions apply to other non-operational costs). Export sales are not required to qualify for the program.

EDC fees related to this guarantee will be deferred for the first six months, giving some short-term relief to your business. EDC will provide a guarantee to Conexus Credit Union on 80% of the value of your loan. By sharing risk with EDC, we can help your company access the financing it needs. Note that the guarantee is to our institution, not your business, so you remain responsible for the full value of the loan.

For more information on the loan and the eligibility criteria, contact your business advisor.

Information can also be found on the EDC website.

Regional Relief and Recovery Fund

The Government of Canada has announced additional funding for small and medium businesses who need additional relief due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF) provides $962 million in relief funding delivered through regional development agencies. Specifically, $304 million is allocated to Western Economic Diversification Canada to assist Western Canadian businesses specifically in the tourism sector.

The objective of the RRRF is to assist Western Canadian businesses that do not qualify for other programs such as the Canadian Emergency Business Account (CEBA) or the Community Futures Emergency Loan Program. The RRRF will support businesses in two ways:

  • Provides up to $40,000 in repayable contributions to businesses that are not eligible to access other federal support programs. Businesses that receive funds from the RRRF and repay 75% of the contribution (up to $30,000) on or before December 31, 2022 will result in forgiveness of 25% of the contribution (up to $10,000).
  • Provide up to $1,000,000 in repayable contributions to businesses that can demonstrate a meaningful contribution to the Western Canadian economy and are experiencing liquidity issues. These companies may not have accessed other Government of Canada relief programs, or may have accessed them, but require additional funding to mitigate cash flow pressures. This contribution is fully repayable.

Further details, including eligibility criteria for each stream, and how to apply, can be found here.

Examples of business that are eligible to apply to the RRRF:

  • Pre-revenue firms (e.g. a company that has not had any sales to date)
  • Businesses that do not have salaried employees (e.g. a company with a workforce of contract employees)
  • Businesses with no payroll that do pay their owners a salary (e.g. a company that pays its owners through dividends)

Examples of businesses that are not eligible to apply to the RRRF:

Applications are being accepted through Western Economic Development Canada and can be found here.

Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility

The Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF) is a program to support large employers through COVID-19. The program provides short-term liquidity assistance in the form of interest-bearing term loans through the Canada Enterprise Emergency Funding Corporation, a subsidiary of the Canada Development Investment Corporation. The assistance is available to large Canadian employers who meet the following criteria:

  • Make a significant impact on Canada’s economy by:
    • Having significant operations in Canada
    • Supporting a significant workforce in Canada
  • Have annual revenues of $300 million or more
  • Require a minimum loan of $60 million
  • Have never been found guilty of tax evasion

Assistance is available to large for-profit enterprises in all industries, except those who operate in the financial sector, as well as certain not-for-profit businesses. They must commit to minimizing loss of employment by sustaining their business operations through COVID-19 and provide an overall plan to return to financial stability.

For full information on LEEFF, visit the Canada Development Investment Corporation fact sheet here.

Canada Summer Jobs Program

On April 8th, the federal government announced changes to the Canada Summer Jobs Program to do more for students and small businesses that rely on the program to deliver essential services. The program creates almost 70,000 jobs for Canadians aged 15 to 30. Temporary changes to the program for this year include:

  • Increase to the wage subsidy so that employees can receive up to 100% of the minimum hourly wage for each employee
  • End date for employment is now February 28, 2021
  • Employers can adapt their activities to support essential services
  • Hiring staff on a part-time basis

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.

Agriculture and Food Business Solutions Fund

Farm Credit Canada will be running the Agriculture and Food Business Solutions Fund, providing agribusinesses and producers much needed relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. $100 million dollars will be available in the form of convertible debt investments and other flexible financing options. Companies that have experienced business disruption can apply for up to $10 million.

Fish Harvesters Benefit

Fish harvesters facing a 25% drop in income due to COVID-19, will have access to $470 million in relief from the Federal Government. The Fish Harvesters Benefit covers up to 75% of losses to a maximum of $10,000. Additional relief in the form of non-repayable grants will be available and the rules for Employment Insurance claims in 2021 will be changed to reflect previous years income.

AgriRecovery Set-Aside Program

The Saskatchewan Government announced an additional $5 million dollars for participation in the AgriRecovery Set-Aside Program, supporting producers in the livestock industry that need to hold their livestock back from markets. Saskatchewan Livestock producers will be able to access a total of $12.5 million under the program. 40% of the program is funded by the Saskatchewan Government, with the remaining 60% funded by the Federal Government. The program will be delivered to Saskatchewan producers through Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation.

Western Livestock Price Insurance Program

The Western Livestock Price Insurance Program (WLPIP) supports livestock producers by reducing the price of livestock insurance purchased through WLPIP. $5 million is being provided by the Saskatchewan Government to offset the premiums producers are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 40% of the increased premium costs, back to February 25, 2020 will be covered by the government. Additionally, the deadline for obtaining calf price insurance through WLPIP is being extended to June 18, from May 28, 2020. Premium adjustments will be in place until September 1, 2020, and reviewed at that time.

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.

UPDATED: May 21, 2020


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.

Students

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.

Canada Summer Jobs Program

Students across Canada rely on the Canada Summer Jobs Program to find meaningful employment during the summer and develop critical skills to transition into the labour market. The 2020 program has been adjusted to allow flexibility to both applicants and employers in the following ways:

  • End date for employment is now February 28, 2021
  • Employers can adapt their activities to support essential services
  • Hiring can now include part-time positions
Canadian Emergency Student Benefit

On April 22, the Federal Government announced the Canadian Emergency Student Benefit which provides funding for Canadian students who do not qualify for the CERB benefit. This provides $1,250/month to students through the months of May to August. The amount increases to $2,000/month if you have a disability, have dependents or provide care for others. Students who are working and make less than $1,000/month also qualify for the benefit.

Eligibility criteria is as follows:

  • You have not received the CERB or Employment Insurance benefits
  • You are a Canadian citizen, registered Indian, permanent resident or protected person
  • You are studying in Canada or abroad
  • You are enrolled in a post-secondary educational program or completed your post-secondary program December 2019 or later, or completed or expect to complete high school in 2020 and have applied for a post-secondary program that starts before February 1, 2021
  • You are unable to work due to COVID-19 or your income is less than $1,000/month due to the pandemic

Applications can be submitted here and need to be submitted every four weeks. You can receive your money faster by signing up for direct deposit through your My CRA Account.

Canada Student Service Grant

The Federal Government also announced funding of up to $5,000 for students who choose to volunteer instead of work during this time. The grant depends on the amount of volunteer hours but can provide between $1,000 -$5,000 towards tuition for the 20-21 year.

Other Supports

Students will also see their Canada Student Grants double for all eligible full-time students to up to $6,000 and up to $3,600 for part-time students in 2020-21 school year. The Canada Student Grants for Students with Permanent Disabilities and Students with Dependents are also being doubled.

Funding will be increased by $75.2 million to support First Nations, Inuit and Metis Nation students, although there is no information about how that assistance will be handed out.

Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement Payment

Seniors who receive Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) payments from the Federal Government will receive up to $500 in a one-time payment to offset increased costs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Seniors will see an additional $300 for OAS and $200 for GIS automatically applied on the next payment they receive.

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
  • have not received any income in the last 14 days including provincial or federal benefits
  • have not quit your job voluntarily
  • have earned $5,000 in income in the last 12 months or 2019, including benefit payments from Maternity or Parental leaves
  • facing reduced income due to the pandemic, working less than 10 hours a week
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 four weeks. You can apply in one of two ways:

  • Applying online
  • Calling toll-free at 1-833-381-2725

You can speed up your application by signing up for direct deposit through the Canada Revenue Agency and online banking. More information on how to sign up through Conexus online banking can be found here. 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.

It is important to note, that if you receive the CERB benefit, you have to re-apply every four weeks to continue to receive the benefit if you need it. The CERB program provides relief until October 2, 2020. If you are still facing unemployment after that, you can apply for Employment Insurance.

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

Saskatchewan Temporary Wage Subsidy

The Government of Saskatchewan announced a $56 million program to provide a temporary wage subsidy to those who are currently working with vulnerable citizens. Those workers who are earning less than $2,500/month can access an additional $400/month for up to 16 weeks. The 16-week period is retroactive to March 15 and runs until July 4.

Workers who are considered essential workers, working as caregivers, cooks and cleaners in senior-care facilities, including private care homes and home care are eligible for the subsidy. Those who work in the same positions, caregivers, cooks and cleaners in licensed childcare facilities, group homes and emergency shelters are also included.

Applications will be accepted online, and more information can be found on the government website here.

“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!