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#FinLit: understanding common financial terms

Being financially literate means you understand all things money. Here are a few #FinLit terms to get you started feeling confident about your money.


Financial literacy is a critical life skill and is just as important in life as any other basic life skill. Being financially literate means, you understand all things money – how it works, how it’s generated, how to manage it and how to invest it. It also means having the knowledge and confidence that allows you to make smart, responsible decisions about your money.

A poll by Angus Reid Institute shows that Canadians are lacking this confidence when it comes to understanding common financial terms. RRSP vs TSFA. Simple interest vs compound interest. Do you know what these terms mean?

It’s time to get confident about your money and we’re here to help. Below are a few terms to get you started. Understanding these terms will not only increase your financial knowledge but will also help you start feeling confident about your money and the decisions you make.

Savings account vs. chequing account

Savings accounts are a place where your money is meant to grow and shouldn’t be used for everyday spending. Many savings accounts earn interest, helping your money grow faster and making them a great tool to use for your saving goals.

Chequing accounts are a place to deposit your money, such as your pay cheque, and use for your everyday spending. The money you want to save should be moved from this account into another account, such as your savings account, to take away the temptation of spending elsewhere.

Simple interest vs. compound interest

Simple interest is calculated on the original amount, or what we like to call the principal. For example, if you were to deposit $1,000 into an account with an annual interest return rate of 3%, you’d receive $30 in interest each year. After 10 years, you’ll have earned $300 in interest and have a total of $1300.

Compound interest is calculated on the principal amount AND on the accumulated interest of previous years. For example, if we used the same example as above, after the first year you’d receive $30 interest. In year two, the interest would be calculated on the principal amount and on the interest you previous incurred. ($1030 x 3% = $1060.90). After ten years, you’ll have earned $343.92 in interest and have a total of $1,343.92.

Note: Compound interest is the type of interest applied most often when it comes to accounts, investments, loans, credit cards, etc.

RRSP vs. TFSA

RRSPs (Registered Retirement Savings Plans) allows you to contribute money into an investment that you can use as a tax deductible. This money will be taxed when you withdraw it. RRSPs can be invested in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc. and typically are locked in for a period amount of time.

RRSPs should be left until retirement, if not you can be charged a penalty. There are a few ways you can borrow money from your RRSP such as buying your first home, but you will have to pay back this amount by a certain time to not be penalized. More information can be found here.

TFSAs (tax-free savings accounts) allow you to contribute money to an investment but is not tax deductible. The positive with this type of account is that you aren’t taxed when you withdraw the amount or on the earnings. Each year there is a maximum amount you can contribute to a TFSA – find the yearly contribution limits here.

There is a bit more flexibility when it comes to TFSAs as you can take the money out whenever you’d like. This flexibility though can be a negative though as it can cause the temptation to spend vs. using as a long-term saving tool.

Variable vs. fixed

A variable rate means your interest rate changes as interest rates change and can go up or down. If you have a variable rate on a loan, your payments will be the same but the amount you pay towards your principal may vary. In other words, if the variable rate decreases, you’ll put more money directly towards your principal. If the variable rate increases, less money will go towards your principal and more will be applied to the interest.

Fixed rates stay the same and won’t change even if the other interest rates change. A fixed rate will stay the same for the length of time you have set.  The benefit of a fixed interest rate is that it protects you against any increases in interest rates.

Having knowledge of these eight common financial terms can have a huge impact on your financial well-being and allow you to make informed decisions when it comes to your money.

Are there other financial terms you wish you knew more about? Tell us in the comments below and we’ll do a blog about it!

couple standing in middle of road with heart balloons

Cheap date night alternatives: Winter

Looking for a few date night ideas that won’t break the bank? This blog has you covered with several cheap date night alternatives and even a few double date bonus ideas!


Date night can get expensive especially if going out for dinner and to a movie.  If you’re strapped for cash but still want to impress, here are a few date night alternatives for some of our favourite date night activities.

Instead of going out to eat…

  • Make a meal together. Take a look in your fridge and pantry, pick a recipe, then head to the grocery store to pick up any remaining ingredients you’ll need.  Not only will you get quality time together in the kitchen, but also something yummy to enjoy!
  • Double Date Bonus: Invite another couple over and have a cooking competition. Pick a recipe and set a time limit to complete. Your friends can be the judge.

Instead of going to the movies…

  • Have a movie night in. Pick a movie from your collection, Netflix or borrow one from your local library. Get cozy on the couch or build a fort (because who doesn’t love a fort) to enjoy the movie from. Don’t forget your favourite snack!
  • Double Date Bonus: Invite another couple over for a double feature. Pick a movie and tell them to bring their favourite as well. You may have to do rock-paper-scissors to see which movie you’ll watch first.

Instead of going for drinks…

  • Consider visiting a local coffee shop or make coffee at home. Not a big coffee drinker, what about some hot chocolate? Add some fun by playing a couple of games such as Go Fish or Connect Four.
  • Double Date Bonus: Board game night can be a lot of fun, especially with another couple. Ask your guests to bring their favourite board game and put a pot of coffee on! Create memories and laughter especially with games such as Pictionary or Speak Out.

Instead of going skiing or snowboarding…

  • Head to your local hill and do some old-fashioned tobogganing. Don’t have a toboggan? Get creative and make your own using things such as cardboard, cookie sheets, tarps, garbage bags, etc.
  • Double Date Bonus: Have a few couples meet you at the hill and have a competition. Create your own Olympics – who can make it down the hill and back up the fastest? Best trick move? Don’t forget to pack a thermos of hot chocolate to stay warm.

Instead of winter walks…

  • Strap on a pair of skates and go skating at your local rink. Some cities even offer free skate rentals.
  • Double Date Bonus: Invite a few couples to join you and start up a fun hockey game. Be sure to bring a few sticks and a puck to get the game started.

Date night doesn’t need to be expensive. Sometimes it’s as easy as bringing the activity home and putting your personal spin on it. What other date night alternative ideas do you have that can help you save money? Share with us by commenting below.

weights at a gym

Choosing a gym membership right for you

Finding the right gym or fitness program can be difficult. Here are a few tips and tricks to find a place that fits you and your budget.


As February continues, your New Year’s resolution motivation of going to the gym more often may be starting to wear off so finding a gym or workout routine that works for you and that you enjoy will help keep that motivation to continue going.  Here are some tips and tricks that can help you find a gym or fitness program for you and your budget.

Be sure to:

Do your research – With many different gym or fitness program options, doing your research and looking at reviews is so important! Narrow your search by making a list of must-haves and nice-to-haves to see what’s important to you. Use existing members or friends as a resource and ask them what they like and dislike about it.

Try before you buy – Almost all gyms and fitness studios offer trial periods allowing you time to assess the machines, amenities, cleanliness, etc. Fitness studios such a spin, yoga, or barre usually offer a discount or free pass to test out their different classes. Take advantage of these trial periods to find the gym or fitness studio perfect for you.

Be aware of contracts & fees – Be aware of extra fees and contract details before signing up. Can you pay monthly or do you need to commit to a year as a member? Are there any penalties to break your contract? Any hidden annual maintenance fees? Getting all the information up front will help you choose a gym that fits your lifestyle and your budget.

Assess:

Value vs. quantity – Track how often you’re going to the gym or fitness studio to determine if a punch pass or monthly pass is best for you. Punch passes are great if you’re not going often, but if you’re going frequently ensure you’re not paying more for punch passes than if you were to buy an unlimited monthly pass. Also, as a bonus, an unlimited pass may come with perks such as discounts on fees and merchandise, specialized classes, waiver of late cancel fees, extra perks such as towel or refreshment services and more! Find out what you get for each level of membership, so you can decide what’s a must have or nice to have.

Location – It’s no secret that the more convenient something is the more likely you will be inclined to attend. When picking a gym, it’s best to consider location convenient of when you’re most likely to work out. If you plan on working out over your lunch break at work or school, select a gym that’s close to there. If evenings and weekends are your preference, you should select a gym that’s close to home. On days when you’re crunched for time, having a gym close by will make things easier on your schedule.

One size doesn’t fit all – Just because your friends enjoy a particular workout, doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll love it. You need to find the right workout for you, so you can enjoy being there and see the value in spending the money on your fitness.

Detail orientated – When you walk into a potential gym, pay attention to all the details. Is the lighting too bright? Too dim? Is the music too loud? Are classes too crowded? Overall cleanliness? Are machines broken down? Things that may not seem important during your initial tour can become major annoyances in the future.

In the end, the most important thing to consider is if you’re at a place you enjoy going to and one that fits your budget. Fitness shouldn’t cause extra stress, instead, it should help relieve stress so taking your budget and lifestyle into consideration is key to finding the right place for you.

Do you have any tips on selecting the right workout routine? Share them with us!

receipt on top of a variety of items purchased

Kick-start your finances: where does my money go?

Not sure where all your money is going? This blog helps you dig deep into your spending habits and understand where your money is going each month.


When you think about your finances, do you immediately feel overwhelmed and stressed? Do you ever wonder where all of your money is going? Do you keep saying you’re going to get on track with your finances tomorrow, but tomorrow never happens?

In order to do so, you first need to understand how you spend your money. We’re here to help. In this blog, we’ll look at your spending habits and at the end, you should have a better understanding of exactly where your money is going. Before starting though, be sure to check out and complete Kick-start your finances: goal setting.

To complete the steps in this blog, you can do online using a personal financial management tool or manually. Regardless of the method you choose, you will need to gather the following information prior to starting:

  • Any financial statements from the last year including bank accounts, mortgages, investments, lines of credits, credit cards, etc.
  • Pay stubs showing the income you made in the last year.
  • Any other documents that show income or expenses incurred last year that may not show on the documents listed above (i.e., receipts for cash purchases, etc.).

Step 1: What is your monthly income?

This means all the money that you make – any source of income including your pay cheque, support payments, property income, etc. Look back at the last 12 months and write down all sources of income you made each month. Note the take-home amount (after deductions) as this represents the money you have available to spend.

If you received any non-guaranteed income, such as tips or money as gifts, note in a sub-category called ‘Extra Income’. Separating this amount is especially important when determining your monthly income for budget purposes. As this amount is not guaranteed and unknown, it shouldn’t be included as income when setting a budget; instead, any extra money received should be noted as ‘Extra’ and go towards helping you reach your goals.

Knowing the money you bring in helps give you an understanding of what money you have to manage. Later on in this blog, you’ll also use this amount to see if there were any months you spent over what you actually brought in.

Step 2: Where does my money go?

When we see how much money we bring in, sometimes we are shocked and wonder where it goes – especially if we aren’t consistently budgeting and tracking our money. To understand where your money goes, categorize each month’s spending transactions for over the last year. Categories should be specific and could include:

  • Mortgage
  • Utilities (separate per utility to provide a further breakdown of each cost)
  • Groceries
  • Entertainment
  • Restaurants/Eating Out
  • Insurance
  • Gas
  • Investments
  • Savings

If you took out cash and are unsure of what purchases you made with it, place into a category called unknown.

Being as detailed as possible is important to really help you understand your spending habits. In order to compare your spending to your monthly income, categorize each month’s spending individually. To see a yearly total, simply add the category’s total for each month.

Once all transactions are categorized, you’ll be able to see what you spent per category. Take these amounts and compare to the recommended spending guidelines below:

  • 25-40% on housing;
  • 10-20% on transportation;
  • 40-50% on living expenses such as groceries, etc.; and
  • 10-20% on savings.

How do you compare to the recommendations? Were there any categories you didn’t realize you were spending that much on?

When you look at spending as a whole vs. individual transactions, the results can be shocking. Typically, when we make smaller purchases, we don’t tend to think of them as making a difference; grouping similar purchases together though, give us the big picture and some of the small things can actually be bigger than what we thought.

Step 3: Am I spending above my income?

To understand how your spending compares to the money you’re bringing in, take your monthly income and minus the total expenses you had that month. Were there any months you overspent? What products, such as credit cards, etc., did you use to compensate? If you found any months that you overspent, take a look back at the different categories and transactions – was there anything you could have done differently?

An additional bonus for Conexus members:

As a Conexus member, you have access to our Personal Financial Management tool which will make this challenge a bit easier to complete. Through the tool, you not only can see all of your Conexus accounts but you can also connect and see any accounts you may have at another financial institution. The tool does its best to categorize your transactions automatically, but you may need to change the category on some transactions from time to time.

Another benefit of using this tool is that you can set up budgets later on. You can find more information, including tutorials and “how to’s” here. And hey, if you’re not a Conexus member but really want to use this tool, consider becoming a member today!

Now, it’s your turn

Having an understanding of the money you bring in and how you spend it is a big task alone. It can also be a bit stressful and overwhelming when you start to see the big picture of your spending habits. This could be your opportunity to kick that feeling and to help you reduce this stress.

Take the challenge today. Look back at your income and spending over the last year. Is there anything that stuck out? Are there any themes such as one-time yearly expenses that you weren’t prepared for, etc.? Be sure to note any themes or areas you want to improve as next week, we’ll be taking this information a step further and focusing on how to create a budget that works for you. We’ll also show you how to prepare for those one-time yearly expenses and eliminate some of the unnecessary spending you didn’t realize you were doing until today.

We want to hear from you. What is your biggest take away from this blog? Were you surprised by any of your spending habits? For us… let’s just say we didn’t realize how fast those daily coffee purchases were adding up! Join the conversation – share your experiences below.

Credit unions vs banks: What’s the difference?

When it comes to managing your finances and choosing where to bank, there are many things to consider including whether you should choose a credit union or a bank. 


Credit unions and banks are pretty similar in the types of products and services they offer. However, there are many differences in how they operate. Whether you are looking for a new financial institution or just starting out, here are a few of the differences to help you determine which is a perfect fit for you.

Credit unions are part of the local community. They not only live, work and play within the communities they serve, but also give back to their local communities to help improve the financial well-being of their members. When it comes to managing your finances, you want to ensure the financial institution you choose has your, and your communities, best interest at heart,

At the end of the day, your financial institution should have you as their number one priority. Would you have it any other way?

hands with money

Kids & Money: Have the #MONEYTALK today

It’s important to have the #MONEYTALK with your kids. We talked with Jacques D. to learn how he talks to his kids about money and the tools he uses.


Teaching your kids about money when they’re young can help set them up for success in the future. Not only will they have an increased knowledge and understanding of managing money when they become adults, it can also positively influence their behaviours when it comes to managing their money.

The biggest questions parents ask are how early should I start talking to my kids and what things should I teach them? We sat down with Jacques DeCorby, Conexus’ Vice President of Retail Banking, and Dad of three, to learn more about how he has the #MONEYTALK with his kids and the tools he uses.

When did you first start teaching your kids about money and what are some of the things you are teaching them?

We started talking to our kids early teaching them about the value of money and the power of savings and giving behaviours. We also talk a lot about a need vs. a want and have discussions on how money makes them feel, whether they’re saving it or spending it.

Do you give your kids an allowance? If so, when did you start and how did you determine an amount to give?

We started giving our children an allowance all around the same time, with the oldest being about ten and our youngest being five. I don’t recall how we settled on an amount to give them, but it was an amount that we could fit into our budget as well as help our kids see the value of money. We haven’t adjusted this amount, but it does make sense to periodically review the amount as it could illustrate the influence of inflation.

When teaching your kids about managing money, are there any tools you use?

We use the save-give-spend tool – pay yourself first with savings; give back and support your community; and, the remainder can be used for discretionary spending. In our household, we agreed on the split of 40-10-50 but another common split is 20-10-70.

We use this tool when splitting any money they receive including their allowance and money as gifts. With my oldest starting a part-time job, we also use this tool to help him manage his pay cheque. Though we have set these split percentages, they do have the option to put more into their savings if they chose. With three boys, it is interesting to see their different personalities – our oldest can’t spend it fast enough while our younger two are more focused on saving.

Another tool that we have introduced is the Conexus Credit Union app. At a certain age, our kids started getting their own electronic devices and phones and we made sure they added the app to their device to show them how to use it. It’s always fun to watch their reactions as they see their savings grow.

What advice do you have for parents wanting to teach their kids about money?

Save. Save. Save. Plan. Plan. Plan. Budget. Budget. Budget.

When talking to your kids about managing money, identify savings and set targets and milestones. Expose them early to different short- and long-term savings vehicles. Most importantly, let them make some spending decisions on their own after you’ve had the discussion on needs vs. wants. For example, if they really want that pack of gum at the store, have them purchase it using their own money. Be sure to follow up from time-to-time to talk about their spending decisions and ask them how it made them feel and if they’d do anything differently.

Also, as your kids become older (teens), I recommend parents start introducing the concept of credit ratings and the importance of building and maintaining a strong one.

By teaching your kids about money, what impacts can this have for them later in life?

By teaching your kids about money they’ll have an increased knowledge and understanding of managing money as they get older. More importantly, they will build positive behaviours and money management skills that will help minimize stress later in life that tends to affect so many other aspects of our overall health and well-being – physical, mental, social/family, occupational to name a few.

Any other advice you’d like to add?

It’s important that young people also start to build a strong network of trusted advisors around them including financial advisors. Talking about money can be hard, and introducing them early to money allows them to gain confidence and not be scared to ask questions when it comes to money.

Thanks Jacques! These are all great tips and advice. Financial literacy is important for all ages. We can’t wait to start having the #MONEYTALK with our kids and using some of the tools you shared with us today!

Do you talk to your kids about money? Share with us in the comments below including what age you started talking to them about money, tools you’ve used, other advice you have and more.

It CAN Happen to You: Protecting Yourself From Fraud

Protect yourself from fraud using these tips on detecting scams and keeping your information secure. 


Dora the Explorer was a show that played over and over in our home. Though many of our kids are now older, we still know all of the lyrics to “The Map Song” and who can forget Dora fending off Swiper every episode by saying “Swiper No Swiping” three times. If only it was that easy in real-life when protecting ourselves, and our information, from scammers.

With the ever-growing digital technologies, we’re also seeing an increase in the number of scams out there. Malware, Trojans, phishing attacks and more – it seems to be each new day is another new scam. But how do we keep up with all that’s going on around us? How can we tell what’s a scam and what’s not?

Below are a few tips on how you can keep yourself and your personal information safe. Check them out below.

Look for spelling and grammar mistakes.

Most scam emails contain spelling mistakes, bad grammar or altered logos. A phishing email may look real at a quick glance, but there’s usually something wrong.

Hover over the sender’s email or links to URLs to see if legit.

If you hold your cursor over the sender’s email or a URL that is the email, it should display the full email address or URL. If the email address or link address looks weird, don’t click on it. If you’re unsure about a website, instead, go directly to the company’s website and log in. If there’s something that needs to be taken care of, you’ll usually have a notification within your account.

Don’t give up personal information.

The majority of companies will never ask you for personal information by email or phone. Fraudsters will many times use scare tactics to make you panic and give up the information. Don’t give in.

When it comes to your banking, set up online banking security alerts.

You can set up online banking security alerts so that you can receive a text or email when there is suspicious activity on your account.

Never disclose your PIN or password to anyone.

This information should be kept private. Create strong passwords using a combination of letter, numbers and symbols. Never tell anyone your passwords and when using your pin, prevent others from seeing it by shielding with your hand.

 

Most importantly, if it feels wrong, it most likely is wrong. If you are ever unsure, contact the company directly.

For more tips on protecting yourself including tips for computers, smartphones, wi-fi and more, visit Protect Yourself.