Puppy Ownership: Financial Costs, Tips & Advice

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


Meet Nash!

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

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

Obvious and hidden costs of getting a pet

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

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

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

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

Expect the Unexpected

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

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

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

Start saving early

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

Keep saving

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

Space out your purchases

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

Cut costs where you can

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

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

An image showing growing investments

Should I Be Investing During a Pandemic?

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

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


The short answer is “Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

Time is your friend

Time is the great equalizer.

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

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

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

*Image provided by Credential®. Issue Date: 2018.11.23

Rates of return: Average vs Fixed

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

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

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

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

What about Wealth Simple?

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

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

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

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

In conclusion

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

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

Man and woman sitting on couch talking about finances

Honey, can we talk finances?

Does just the topic of finances with your significant other cause great stress in your lives?  In this blog, we will identify possible causes and how to turn “Honey, can we talk finances” from a negative to a positive.


What discussion topics are avoided in your household – politics, sex, in-laws… money??   I hear ya.  Do your money talks turn into the “Blame Game” or worse yet, don’t happen at all? Why is one of the most important things that impact our entire lives constantly being avoided?

We hear how money has been the leading cause of divorce/breakups for years but we still don’t talk about our finances as often as we should.  My co-workers laughed when I told them I wanted to name my blog “Just shut up and do it yourself” but sometimes that is exactly how we feel.   Am I right?

What’s the underlying issue?

  • Communication – Can you have an honest discussion about your financial situation without shaming, blaming or walking away? Struggling to manage one’s finances is common — but talking honestly and openly about it is not.  Do you only talk about finances when a disaster strikes?
  • Fear – Are you financial literacy savvy? What is your level of understanding? Nobody wants to look stupid or admit they don’t know.  Let’s face it, if your parents didn’t teach you and you didn’t learn it in school, how can you be expected to make informed decisions.
  • Upbringing – My parents never talked in front of us kids or taught us about finances. We had food, clothing, a roof over our heads – we never questioned how it got there. It just magically appeared. No worries. Depending on how the subject was approached or avoided in your household may impact your spending and saving habits.
  • Financial habits – Are you and your significant other financially compatible? Are you savers, spenders, or a combination? Two spenders without a plan – a harmonious relationship tend not to be had – unless you are a multi-millionaire at birth.  On the other hand, two savers might miss out on experiencing life.
  • Goals – Are you in it together? Do you have the same goals – homeowner, kids, early retirement? Do you share all the responsibilities and decisions or do you divide and conquer?

How can we fix this? 

  1. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate!
  • Commit to a time with no interruptions to discuss life goals – short and long term. What do you truly want out of life?  What is your current situation?  What is in the past is in the past; deal with the here and now.   Keep calm at all costs.  Experts suggest you do so on your 3rd date as this conversation is just as important as the marriage and children talk.
  1. Plan. Plan. Plan!
  • Schedule a monthly review of your short term finances:
    • Are all the bills paid and needs met – food, shelter, clothing?
    • Do you have any upcoming expenses – car repairs, insurance, taxes, dentist, renos?
    • Make a budget: don’t make it too restricted or you won’t stick to it. Factor in some fun and “nice to have’s” and an emergency fund for life’s uh oh’s.
  • Schedule a yearly review to look at the bigger picture, long term goals – buying a house, having kids/having more kids, investments, retirement. Definitely review sooner if you experience a life-changing situation.
  • Schedule a financial health checkup with a professional financial advisor at your financial institution. They will be able to ensure you are on track to meeting your goals and can also be useful mediators if need be.
  1. Educate. Educate. Educate!
  • Knowledge is money. We don’t deal with things when we don’t know anything about them or we make bad decisions. Pick a financial product and research it, attend workshops, watch YouTube, read more of our blogs or visit our website.  There is lots of great info and tools at your fingertips.
  1. Teach. Teach. Teach!
  • Talk to your children about finances, don’t exclude them.  You don’t have to divulge everything but your decisions do impact them. Teach them the basics and help arm the next generation with the tools they need to be financially successful.  Who knows you might be in their care in the future.  Make sure it is a nice place.

At the end of the day, talking to your spouse or significant other about your finances is important early on and continually throughout your relationship.  Don’t forget!!

Haven’t had a #moneytalk in a while!  What are you waiting for?  Schedule your talk now!!

What advice do you have to make the #moneytalk easier?  Share with us by commenting below.  We would love to hear them.

race track with lanes three and four

7 simple ways to improve your finances

Improving your financial situation won’t happen overnight and requires behavioural changes, patience and time. Here are seven ways you can improve your finances.


How can I improve my finances? A question many of us often ask ourselves. The answer? This lies somewhere between our intentions and the actions, we take. We’re all guilty of it – saying this is going to be the day, the month, the year where we spend less and save more. But the truth is, we often don’t live up to that. Why? It’s simple, our intentions don’t match our actions – we don’t actually take the steps (actions) to make the change and continue to tell ourselves tomorrow will be a new day.

Often the reasons for not taking action is because we don’t have the resources, knowledge or mindset to make the change. Here are 7 simple tips to help you bridge that gap:

1. Stop making excuses

Often, we use excuses as a crutch to get out of doing something – especially when we’re running late or don’t want to go to the gym! This is often also the case when it comes to being in control of our finances. Saying things such as, “banking is too confusing” or “I don’t know where to start.”

The first step to improving your finances is to stop making excuses. If you’re unsure where to start or think it’s too confusing, reach out to your Financial Advisor to start the conversation and set goals. Further your knowledge by challenging yourself weekly to learn about a new financial topic – you can find many resources at your local library, online and don’t forget about our #MONEYTALK blog!

2. Set limits on your purchases

Purchases have become very thoughtless in today’s world – it’s as simple as a quick tap of your card. Although this has many advantages, it also makes it very easy to lose track of how much you are spending.

By creating a budget and setting spending limits, you can stay in control of your spending. For example, if you eat out often, set a goal to only eat out twice this month. By doing this, it becomes something you can keep yourself accountable to – tip: tell a friend or take on this challenge with someone else, this way you can support each other and help each other be accountable.

3. Set savings goals

Setting saving goals is soooo important! If you don’t know what or why you are saving it can become very easy to give in to temptations and spend money. By having a goal in mind, you feel as though you are working towards something and gives you that sense of accomplishment once you achieve it.

Here are some simple goals to help you get started: saving for a planned vacation, having enough money to cover 3 months expenses, and saving 10% a month at least once a quarter. A good tip to help you follow through – automate your savings.

4. Pay off debt

Debt happens, and almost everyone carries some level of debt – but learning to manage it is important. Only take on debt that you can manage, and set expectations on how you’ll build debt payments into your budget.

Remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Here is a great read on success habits for paying off debt.

5. Think long-term

Don’t let your short-term thinking, undermine your long-term success.

Short-term goals are great. They are often what help kick start you into improving your financial situation because you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, if you only make short-term decisions, you might be hurting your long-term success.

Create long-term goals for your future such as saving for retirement, and then set short-term goals (milestones) to help you reach these long-term goals – for example, placing $50/month into your child’s RESP and $50/month into an RRSP. Doing so, helps you to stay motivated as you’ll be continually working at and achieving your smaller goals, all while working towards your long-term goals.

6. Be realistic

Improving your financial situation isn’t going to happen overnight, similar to how it’s unlikely to lose 10 pounds overnight (unless you have a really nasty flu, which is a whole other conversation). Having this type of mindset is only going to set you up for failure. Creating habits and working at it over time is what will set you up for success.

Part of being realistic is giving yourself allowances. Improving your financial situation doesn’t mean your life is over. You can still spend money on a night out with friends or go to the movies – the difference is how you plan for it such as building it into your budget. Setting aside “fun money” can be a great tactic for allowing yourself to still have fun, while sticking to your budget.

7. Experiment

There’s no-one-size-fits all solution when it comes to your money. Everyone’s situation is different and what works for one person may not work for another. Finding what works best for you is going to ensure you are successful.

What does that mean? Try different savings tactics such as automatic savings or spending challenges. A couple of tactics that work well for me is having “no spend months” and setting short term goals that will help me reach my long-term goals.

 

We all have the power to improve our financial well-being, the question is, are we going to act on it? This Tedx Talk on 3 psychological tricks to help you save money, highlights that what we all really might need is just a change in perspective.

What are some ways you’ve been able to improve your finances? I am always up for trying new tricks – share with me by commenting below!

Person putting credit card into ATM

Cash advances | What to know and advice

Here are some things to know about a cash advance and tips before you withdraw.


It’s the first Monday of the month…payday isn’t until Friday…you’re already into your overdraft, and…your three kids forgot to tell you that school pictures are on Wednesday which they need $20 each in cash. Cash that you don’t have – what do you do? You start to weigh the options:

  1. Call the grandparents and ask for picture day money.
  2. Stop at a local Cash Store or Moneymart (but you already know the fees are outrageous and don’t want to get caught in the vicious cycle of payday loans).
  3. Borrow money from another parent at the school.
  4. Swing by the ATM and get a cash advance from your credit card.

Option #4 is your decision, and it’s what we’re here to talk about – The Cash Advance!

So what’s the big deal? You’ll be able to pay off the cash advance at the end of the month when you pay your credit card bill. True, but what will you be paying?

A cash advance works a little different than just paying with your credit card. The biggest difference being that interest is calculated the moment the money comes out of ATM until it’s paid back. You pay a fee to get the money and continue to pay interest until the money is returned. So, by the end of the month your $60.00 may end up costing closer to $70.00 when you pay it back!

CashAdvance_Shock_CreditCard_Interest_Monkeys

Yep, that’s how I felt, when I learned about cash advance interest.

In contrast…when you tap (or swipe) your card to make a purchase, and pay it back “in-full” by the end of the month, you only pay the amount you spent (no interest is charged) – we call that a grace period. A grace period is the period of time the credit card company gives you to pay your new charges without charging interest on the balance. This period typically runs from the end of a billing cycle to the next payment due date – for most credit cards it’s about 21 days. For cash advances though, there is no grace period.

So that is that short and sweet about cash advances, but not the end of our blog. Let’s take this one step further and give you some practical advice on how to avoid needing a cash advance.

Practical advice #1 – Create a budget

The best thing to do is to create a budget. The purpose of a budget is to help us manage the money we make, the money we spend, and the money we save. My budget includes things like rent, gas, groceries, entertainment, music gear and my tall, 1/2 sweet, non-fat, extra espresso shot, vanilla latte from Starbucks. Because let’s be honest with each other, there should always be a budget line for Starbucks coffee – maybe not all the time, but every so often to treat ourselves for a job well done.

Practical advice #2 – Add cash to the budget

Once you have your budget all figured out, think about adding cash or a misc. expense line into your budget. I run on a bi-weekly budget because I get paid bi-weekly and part of my budget is adding $40.00 – $60.00 of cash into my wallet. The cash isn’t there for a specific purpose, but for moments that I need cash – those miscellaneous expenses I didn’t plan for, such as picture day fees. If I still have the cash in my wallet the next time I get paid, I celebrate because I’m now saving money that I would have normally taken out as cash, which leads me to my final piece of advice…

Practical advice #3 – Save when you’ve over budgeted

What do I mean by that? Sometimes we set out a budget and at the end of the month, we didn’t spend all the money we budgeted and have money left over. I don’t know about you, but my first reaction is usually…

Though I’m tempted to spend it, what I’ve learned to do instead is put that money into my savings account, TFSA, or talk with my financial advisor to get advice on what I could do; especially if it happens often.

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of cash advances, along with tips to help you prepare for those unexpected expenses. If you have any questions about a cash advance or budgeting, please ask in the comments section below. We’d be happy to chat with you!

Finally – here are a few additional action items that can help you improve your overall financial well-being:

  1. If you’ve never created a budget I would recommend you take 10 minutes and try our newly updated BUDGET CALCULATOR! It’s free to use!
  2. If you want some free financial advice fill out the form on the bottom of our site!
  3. Leave a comment and ask more questions! Conexus #MONEYTALK blog is meant to be a 2-way-conversation!
  4. Read Laura’s amazing blog on “10 Ways to Control Your Finances” 
  5. If you really want to take your financial journey to the next level why not Become A Member of Conexus, where your financial well-being drives everything we do!
filing system for income taxes

Why you should file an income tax return

Filing a tax return is important, even if you had no income for the year, as you may be eligible for credits that could result in a refund. Here are several reasons why you should file a tax return. 


It’s that time of year again – tax season. Whether you have income or not, there are many reasons why you should file an income tax return each year.

You owe tax or will receive a refund.

When you file your taxes, there are two outcomes – either you’ll owe tax or you’ll get a refund.

Of Canadians who have filed their 2018 income taxes, approximately 71% have received a refund, with the average refund being just over $1,600.

Owing tax is not as fun as receiving a refund, but it’s important to file a return and pay these taxes by the deadline to ensure you’re not charged interest which will increase what you owe.

Take advantage of non-refundable and refundable tax credits

You may be eligible to receive certain credits from the government but must file an income tax return in order to determine eligibility and your benefit amount.

Non-refundable tax credits:

Non-refundable credits lower your tax payable. They are named “non-refundable” as these credits cannot, by themselves, get you a refund. A few examples include:

  • Tuition
  • Charitable donations
  • First-time homebuyers amount
Refundable tax credits

Refundable tax credits are a specific amount of money deducted from the amount of tax you owe and is the same amount whether you owe $100 or $1000. For refundable tax credits, the government will pay you the refundable tax credit you qualify for whether you owe tax or not, meaning if you had no tax payable, theses refundable amounts would result in a refund on their own. Examples include:

  • Working income tax benefit
  • GST/HST credit

Recuperate any tax you overpaid from your pay cheque

If you’ve switched jobs part way through the year or worked multiple jobs last year, you may have overpaid taxes on your paycheque(s). When you file an income tax return, it allows you to recover any taxes you may have overpaid.

Carry forward or transfer any unused tuition, education or textbook amounts

If you attended a post-secondary level course, you may be able to claim the tuition credit. This credit is non-refundable, meaning if the tuition is greater than the tax you owe, the tax credit can only be used to reduce or eliminate what you owe. Any unused amounts can be carried forward to a future tax year, or you can also transfer to a spouse/common-law partner or parent/grandparent.

Even if you have no tax to pay, it’s important to file an income tax return to claim your tuition, education and textbook amounts so that you can update any unused amounts, and carry them forward to future years.

 

When it comes to doing your income tax return, there are many tools and resources to assist you including information on the Government of Canada’s website.  As well, often organizations within different communities offer free income tax preparation services which you can usually find through a quick Google search. Are there any free income tax preparation services available within your community? Share with us below by telling us which community and who offers the services.

Pile of sticky notes with New Year resolutions written on them

Adjusting your New Year’s resolutions

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


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

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

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

Here are a few tips to keeping your resolutions.

Have an action plan

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

Don’t bite off more than you can chew

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

Celebrate the small wins

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

Ask for support

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

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

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

couple sitting on couch, looking at a computer

10 ways to take control of your finances

A New Year means resolutions and often times have a financial component to them. Here are 10 ways you can take control of your finances this coming year.


New Year. New financial you.

It’s hard to believe the New Year has already begun. With a New Year often comes resolutions – creating a plan for the future using lessons from the past – and many times have a financial component to them.

Here are 10 ways you can take control of your finances this coming year.

1. Set goals

We all have dreams of what we want to do and what we want to achieve. Make these dreams a reality by setting goals to achieve them. Organize your goals by priority and be sure they’re realistic and achievable. Tip: Start small. Small goals are easier to reach and help train your brain into believing you can achieve it, increasing your chance for success of future goals. Get started by checking out our Goal Setting Blog.

2. Take action

It’s one thing to say you’re going to do something and actually doing it. Put action to your words by creating an action plan setting dates you want to achieve parts/milestones of your goal by. Hold yourself accountable and reward yourself when achieving each milestone helping you to keep motivated.

3. Create a budget

A budget helps you manage your money, showing you how much you’re bringing in each month and where you plan on spending your money. It can help you not spend above your means and focus on what’s important to you. To make budgeting easier for you, we recommend using our online Budget Calculator.

4. Track your spending

By tracking every nickel you spend, you’re able to get an accurate picture of your spending habits – sometimes it can be very shocking how quickly or how much your purchases add up. Tracking your spending will also help you create a more precise budget based on your spending habits and allow you to identify areas where you may need to change your spending behaviours.

5. No-spend challenges

Each month challenge yourself to a spending freeze for a day, weekend or even the full month for all non-essential items. Or pick a different non-essential category to not spend on such as ‘No Eating Out March’.

We recommend challenging yourself for a day or weekend if doing for the first time. Check out our No-Spend Weekend Challenge Blog helping you succeed in taking an entire weekend off from spending.

6. Save for an emergency

Life can sometimes throw us a curveball, threatening our financial well-being and causing us stress. Set money aside each month into an emergency savings fund for those unexpected life events. Having a fund ensures if your car breaks down or your furnace goes in the middle of winter that you’re prepared and gives you peace-of-mind knowing you won’t need to stress trying to find money to cover these unexpected expenses.

7. Prepare for retirement

We all dream of the day we’ll retire – no more alarm clock, being able to take a nap whenever we’d like and playing that golf game on a Wednesday afternoon. Being able to retire the way we want though requires some planning in advance. Start preparing now by checking out our blog, Retirement: will you have enough?

8. Save your extra money

Throughout the year we come across extra money such as an income tax return or a cheque from our Grandma for our birthday. Though we may be tempted to treat ourselves, consider putting any extra, unexpected money you come across into savings – you’ll thank yourself at the end of the year when you have extra savings in the bank!

9. Invest in a TFSA

A tax-free savings account (TFSA) is a great way to save for just about anything, whether it be a short-term or long-term goal. What you save is not tax deductible nor are you taxed when you withdraw your earnings. As well, in 2019 contribution maximums have increased to $6,000. Learn more here.

10. Plan/review your estate

We often think that planning our estates is something we do when we’re older but in fact, everyone young or old should have an estate plan in place in case something unexpected were to happen to us. Having an estate plan helps our loved ones understand our wishes and how to carry them out if we were to pass. This can include naming guardians for children, instructions for your burial/cremation and how you’d like your property divided up and should be updated at each life event such as marriage, children, divorce, retirement, etc. Start your plan by speaking with a local estate planner or lawyer today.

A New Year symbolizes a fresh start and new beginnings. Hopefully, these quick tips help you feel more prepared to take on the new year and take control of your finances. For more financial advice, we encourage you to check out some of our other blogs or contact us today to set up an appointment with a financial advisor.

Hand scrolling through social media on a tablet

The financial pressures of social media

Social media has transformed the way we see things and how we share things. It’s important to understand our true identity vs. digital identity and how social media impacts us in order to keep balance in the digital world.


Have you ever scrolled through your social feeds and saw something that you wanted? Or saw photos of what your friends were doing such as a recent vacation or night out and started comparing your life to theirs. For many, the answer is yes.

Social media has transformed the way we see things as well as how we share things. The digital world allows us to capture every moment on camera and social media has caused us to feel the need to share all of these experiences. How much of what we share though paints the full picture of our true selves?

In reality, what we share on social media is what we want others to see – the food we’re eating, the vacations we’re taking and all the family and friend experiences we’re having. We create a digital identity that often differs from our true identity.

What’s not being shared is those not-so-good things, our behind the scenes – the food mishaps that caused for that pizza to be ordered, the credit card debt we have from going on that vacation or the meltdown we had trying to get our child out the door to their activity on time and realizing team fees were also due that day. We create a false sense of reality and the picture we’ve shared is only giving part of the story to those seeing it.

Outside viewing in

From the outside, when seeing these photos we tend to forget that there’s more to the image than what we’re seeing. Most often, we forget to look at the fuller picture and make ourselves believe what we see is a reality. We don’t think about all the unknown behind the scene details. We start to compare our own lifestyles and experiences to those of others and at times, start doing things outside of our comfort zone to keep up with those around us. We then share these experiences on social to show that we are doing fun, exciting things as well, creating our own digital identity.

It becomes a domino effect. Just like you’re feeling the pressure to keep up and share all the ‘fun’ experiences, others – including those you’re trying to keep up with – are watching your feeds and feeling the same pressures to keep up with you.  The cycle is never-ending as everyone continually tries to keep up with others and at the same time, fails to provide some of the truths of the behind-the-scenes.

Staying balanced

This never-ending cycle can impact us mentally, emotionally and financially. It’s important to stay focused and live the way that works for you, not the way others make you feel you need to live or how you feel you need to share with others. Here are a few tips to staying balanced in today’s digital world.

  • Know the difference between a want and a need. Do you really ‘need’ that pair of shoes you saw on Instagram? Before making a purchase on something you saw, ask yourself if it’s a want or a need? How will it make you feel and will this feeling last or be short-lived? Asking these questions help you be mindful when shopping and could prevent you from making a purchase spontaneously that you later regret.
  • Don’t just do it to check off the box. We grow up thinking we need to check the box based on where we ‘should be in life’. We find ourselves trapped by the mindset that we should have the house, the car, the family, etc. by a certain age, especially if we’re seeing our friends doing it on social media and it can normalize the movement of over-spending. Reality is we’re all at different life stages and all have different goals and priorities. Just because someone else is checking that box doesn’t mean you have to do so as well. Remind yourself of this and do things on your terms – when you’re ready and feel it’s the right thing for you mentally and financially.
  • Quit comparing yourself to others, especially financially! Do you actually know how much each one of your friends makes? Most likely not, yet we make assumptions and then compare ourselves to them. We think ‘well I make about the same as so-and-so, so I too should be able to take a hot vacation each year’. This creates an unhealthy relationship of what reality is, as we don’t really often know the behind-the-scene details. Instead of comparing yourself and keeping up to what others are doing, understand your well-being and set goals for you. Taking a hot vacation may be possible every year but do it on your terms and ensure you create a financial action plan to help you achieve this goal.
  • Be present and make personal connections. Our digital identity is just one piece of the story. By being present and interacting with friends outside of the digital world, you’re able to connect with their true identity. Often times, you’ll start to see the fuller picture of those posts – the behind the scenes – and get a better sense of the true reality of what’s being shown.

Social media impacts everyone’s mental, emotional and financial well-being differently. Understand how it affects you personally and be conscious of this next time you’re scrolling through your social media feeds. Remember that what you’re seeing is just what others want you to see and there’s usually a lot more to the story.

Like what you read and what to hear more? Check out our recent The FOMO Effect – A Panel Discussion, where we spoke with four, amazing local Saskatchewanians to hear their views on the pressures of social media and the impact it can have on our financial well-being.

We want to know – has social media had an impact on you financially? Share your experiences and your tips & advice on staying balanced in a digital world below.