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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.

five friends celebrating New Year's Eve

Ring in NYE without all the bells

Tired of being let down by the hype of New Year’s Eve? Us too! Here are some tips to help you ring in the New Year without breaking the bank.


New Year’s Eve is a day to look back on the past year, whether that be celebrating your successes or reflecting on some challenges you had experienced. It’s the day to start thinking of the year ahead and what goals you want to achieve.

However, for many, instead of reflecting and goal setting, we get caught up in the hype of the night’s activities. As soon as Christmas ends, we start worrying about what we’re going to do for New Year’s Eve and what we’re going to wear. We tend to forget what really matters, spending the time with the people who helped make the past year what it was. Yes, you may have a killer outfit on and the best party to attend but if the people that matter most aren’t with you, does it really matter?

No expectations approach

This New Year’s Eve eliminate all the stress of finding the perfect outfit or the best event to attend and plan a casual night to hang with family and friends instead.

For a more relaxed day and evening, consider doing one of these activities:

  • Go for an afternoon coffee with a friend you haven’t seen in a few months. Not only will you get to catch up, but the coffee may help you stay awake for when the clock strikes 12!
  • Have a pajama movie marathon – did someone say Harry Potter? Grab some popcorn and snacks and make a whole evening out of it.
  • Get outside and take part in some winter activities such as skating or a game of shinny, tobogganing or build a snowman. Too cold outside? Have a ‘snowball’ fight inside using rolled up socks… clean of course!

Don’t break your bank

Yes, it may be fun to treat yourself for the last night of the year, but we often overspend, waking up the next morning with the feeling of regret. You don’t need to fork out a bunch of money to have fun. Consider some of these fun activities that allow you to celebrate NYE without breaking your bank.

  • Start your day off with breakfast in bed – skip going out for brunch and make yourself eggs benny and pancakes at home. Even better, you can stay in your pajamas!
  • Make your own extravagant meal or have a potluck. Make it even more fun by having a theme. Who doesn’t love a good meal filled with great conversations with friends?
  • End the year with some competition by playing board games. Guaranteed for some laughs and hopefully not too many arguments. A few of our party favourites include Catch Phrase, charades and Pictionary.
  • Have a cocktail potluck. Have everyone bring a bottle of their favourite liquor and make your own fancy cocktails at home. Need some drink inspiration – check out some NYE cocktail recipes here.
  • A party isn’t a party without some music. Have each of your party guests send you their top five favourite songs from the past year and make a NYE playlist to dance the night away.
  • Make a time capsule for the last year. This allows you to celebrate the New Year and reflect on the previous year at the same time.  Have each guest think of a question (e.g., what was the best thing that happened to you last year or what was an obstacle you faced but overcame) and put into a box to look at later in the night and reflect with your friends or family.

This year don’t get caught in the hype of NYE.  Spend the time doing things with the ones you love and create more memories to reflect on in the years to come.

What are some ways you’ve rung in the New Year that didn’t break the bank? Share with us below.

List of payments

How much money should I spend on…

Where should you be spending your money? This blog shares the recommended percentages on where you should be spending your money on things such as housing, transportation and more.


 

A budget is a plan that can prioritize your money. It allows you to see how much money you’ll bring in each month (income) and where you plan on spending (expenses) your money. It also allows you to understand where you may be able to decrease budget within some categories such as living expenses or increase your budget in other categories such as savings. Most importantly, it helps to set a plan to not spend above your means.

A budget can also help you see what percentage of your income you’re spending within the different expense categories. Below we break down the different expense categories and the recommended percentage of income you should be spending within each.

Housing

We recommend keeping your housing expenses to 30-40% of your income. Housing expenses include your mortgage/rent, condo fees, property taxes, insurance, maintenance and utility payments.

One popular rule of thumb says that you should set aside 1% of your home’s value each year for ongoing maintenance (vent cleaning, paint refresh, etc.). For example, if your home is worth $250,000, you should budget $2,500 each year for maintenance. We recommend setting money aside each month into a savings account to cover these maintenance costs when they occur. Doing so, will help you be prepared for those larger expenses and not be ‘scrambling’ to find money within your budget to cover a large expense.

Though many of these expenses are fixed, meaning you can’t change the expense amount, there are a few ways you can reduce these expenses. Consider reducing the amount you use/spend on utilities. This can include installing a rain barrel to collect rainwater to water your yard or trying out one of these eight energy-saving tips.

Transportation

We recommend keeping your transportation expenses to 10-20% of your income. Expenses in this category include vehicle loans, gas, insurance and maintenance.

Some ways to reduce expenses in this category include using city transit, carpooling or saving on gas by using GasBuddy.com to tell you where the nearest and cheapest gas stations are.

Living expenses

For living expenses, we recommend keeping to 20-30% of your income. These expenses include childcare, groceries, eating out, entertainment, phone, personal care, clothing, gifts, donations, medical, etc. Though there are a lot of expenses in this category, many of these are variable expenses meaning they can be adjusted based on your financial situation.

You may not be able to change your childcare fees, but expenses related to groceries, eating out, entertainment, phones, etc. can be adjusted. Things such as cooking at home vs. going out to eat or picking a smaller cable package or cell phone package are all ways to help reduce these expenses.

Budgeting doesn’t mean you can’t have fun but instead helps you be aware of how you’re spending your money and to treat yourself in moderation and within your means. Here are a few creative alternatives to consider to help keep expenses down within these categories.

Debt repayment

If you have debt, such as a balance on a line of credit or credit card, we recommend keeping your debt repayments at 10-20% of your income.

It may be tempting to reduce expenses in this category before others when adjusting your budget, but we recommend trying to reduce elsewhere, like your living expenses before adjusting these expenses. Setting 10-20% of your income towards paying off your debt sets a plan in action for eliminating your debt and helps towards your financial freedom.

It’s important to always budget money to ensure your debt’s monthly minimum payment is covered and then apply extra money to your debt to reduce the amount owed even faster. For additional advice and tips on eliminating debt, we recommend checking out our Eliminating Debt blog.

Savings

For savings, we recommend putting 10% or more of your income into savings each month. This includes savings for your goals (short-term, intermediate and long-term), retirement, emergency savings, RESPs and more.

This category is truly about being sure to pay yourself first. Not sure what we’re talking about – discover more here.

To make budgeting easier for you, we recommend checking out our online Budget Calculator. All you have to do is insert your monthly income, expenses and savings and you’ll get a clear picture of where you are financially. You’ll also be able to see how your expenses fit within the recommended percentages we just discussed.

At the end of the day, setting a budget can help you stay focused on what’s important and give you guidelines on how you’ll spend your money. As for ensuring you stick to this budget though, that will be up to you.

Baby lying down with silly face

Surviving the first year of parenthood: advice from Moms

The first year of parenthood can be stressful – financially and mentally. We spoke to several Saskatchewan Moms to get their advice on the first year of parenthood and things to consider.


If you recall from our blog, Costs of Raising a Child, the average Canadian spends approx. $10,000 – $15,000 each year raising a child – diapers, clothing, activities and more, it all starts to add up. When starting a family, creating a financial plan is essential. This is especially important for the first year of parenthood when finances can be a bit tighter due to not working and being on a reduced income.

Earlier this year, we spoke to several Saskatchewan Moms to get their advice on the first year of parenthood when it comes to their financial and mental health and things to consider. Here’s what they had to say:

  • It’s never too early to start preparing. Your due date is just an estimated date and your baby can come at any time. Be prepared for an early arrival by having your bag packed, finishing the baby’s room and applying for employment insurance in advance of your due date.
  • Budget. Budget. Budget. Creating a budget is key for the first year of parenthood especially due to an increase in expenses and for most, a decrease in income.  Use an online budget template to help you understand your new financial situation and to create a plan for the year.
  • Know the benefits you may qualify for. Other than employment insurance, there are a few other benefits that parents may qualify for depending on their family income including the Child Tax Benefit and GST credit. These additional benefits can help supplement your income, especially while on parental leave, and be used to help cover the costs of baby essentials. To learn more, visit Canada.ca.
  • Stock up on household items. A few weeks before the baby’s arrival stock up on household items such as laundry detergent, toilet paper, etc. This will help you to do smaller shopping trips once the baby arrives and are working around feeding and sleeping times.
  • Use coupons and cash rebates. Diapers, wipes and more can be expensive and many companies offer coupons to parents to help reduce costs. Another way parents can save money is by using cash rebate sites such as Checkout 51, which frequently has cash-back offers on baby related item purchases such as diapers.
  • Treat yourself. Once the baby is born, it can be hard to take time for yourself, especially in the first few months. Prior to the baby being born go out for supper or to the movies to enjoy a little you time. Once your baby is born, continue to treat yourself every so often, even if it’s grabbing a quick latte here and there.
  • Host girls night: Invite your close friends over one last time before the baby comes. Supply some appies and beverages. To help when the baby arrives, have each friend bring a pre-made freezer meal that you can heat up quickly for supper when time may be limited.
  • Buy used clothing: Try not to buy everything brand new as babies outgrow things quickly. Use sites such as VarageSale or attend clothing sales to find barely, worn clothing for a fraction of the store price.
  • Save, Save, Save: It’s never too early to start saving for your future family. Create a savings account that can be used to purchase baby items, help supplement your reduced income for when on parental leave and to get you started on planning your child’s future (e.g., RESPs).

With all the Moms we spoke to, the advice that came up over and over again was knowing you’re not alone. Having a baby can cause many things to change including our hormones, sleeping patterns, etc. and at times you may feel stressed or exhausted. Whatever you’re experiencing or feeling another parent is most likely going through the same thing and it’s important to connect with other parents, such as joining a parent group, to relate and go through these new experiences with. This not only helps to get you out of the house a bit each week but also is a great way to share experiences and connect with other parents going through the same thing as you.

The first year of parenthood can sometimes be challenging but it’s also the most rewarding as you get to spend the time with your newest addition and watch them grow.

Other parents out there – what tips or advice do you have for the first year of parenthood? Tell us below.

computer by picture of stick figures with word finance

The power of financial literacy

Financial literacy is a critical life skill that helps you to make smart, responsible decisions about your money. Build your financial knowledge using these tips.


When it comes to your knowledge of finances, how confident are you? Would you be able to answer basic financial literacy questions, such as:

  • What’s the difference between a savings account and a chequing account?
  • What is compound interest?
  • What’s the difference between a variable rate and a fixed rate?
  • What is an emergency savings fund and how much should you save?

According to an Ipsos poll conducted in 2017 on behalf of LowestRates.ca, 78% of Canadians believe they’re financial literate. When it came to taking a basic financial literacy test though, almost 57% of Canadians failed.

Financial literacy is a critical life skill and just as important in life as any other basic life skill. Why? Because money is all around us and something we deal with every day. Being financially literate means you understand all things money – how it works, how it’s generated, how to manage it, how to invest it and more. It means having the knowledge and confidence to make smart, responsible decisions about your money.

Improving your financial knowledge

It’s never too early, or too late, to improve your financial knowledge. Here are a few ways you can expand your financial knowledge and confidence with money:

  1. Take the Fin-Lit Challenge: Testing your financial knowledge will you see how much, or how little, you may know. This will help you identify topics that you may want to focus on to expand your knowledge.
  2. Talk to a Financial Advisor: Your financial advisor is an excellent resource for advice and knowledge, ensuring you’re not alone when making financial decisions.  There is no such thing as a dumb question. Meet with your financial advisor often and ask questions to ensure you understand your money and financial decisions.
  3. Read a Conexus #MONEYTALK Blog: Each week, Conexus #MONEYTALK publishes a blog providing expert advice, solutions and guidance on financial topics important to you. Savings, budget, investment 101 – we cover it all. Commit to reading the blog each week to continually expand your financial knowledge.

What financial topics would you like to know more about? Share below and we’ll be sure to do an upcoming blog on them.

stack of pancakes with fruit and syrup

No-spend weekend challenge

Weekend spending can add up. Consider taking the weekend off from spending and see how much money you can save. You may be surprised by the results.


When it comes to the weekend, how much do you spend? Think about the last few weekends and all the things you did. Did you eat out at all? Go shopping? Had a coffee date with a friend? When you start to look back at your last few weekends you may be surprised by how many of your weekend activities had a cost to them.

Many of us tend to spend more on the weekend as we’re not working to make money, but instead, we’re out spending the money we worked hard to make. This is because instead of having work to occupy us, we’re looking for ways to keep us busy.

What if you could take an entire weekend off from spending? What could you do with that extra savings? Give it a try and take our No-Spend Weekend Challenge this weekend.

The challenge

What qualifies as a no-spend weekend? It’s taking two days in a row such as a Saturday and Sunday and making an effort to not spend money on non-essential things. No dinners out. No brunches. No weekend coffee. No shopping. It means getting creative with what’s in your fridge and weekend activities, and only spending money on necessities such as groceries if needed.

Game plan

Ready to take the challenge but unsure where to start? We’ve got you covered. To help you succeed, we’ve planned an entire no-spend weekend for you below. All you need to do is accept the challenge and enjoy the savings!

Saturday

Get your day started off with an activity like free yoga in the park, a bike ride or grab your tennis racket and hit the court. In the afternoon, set some time aside to finish that project around the house you keep putting off or doing some of that dreadful cleaning such as washing walls and baseboards. Finishing it will make you feel so good and accomplished without spending any extra money.

In the evening, pack a picnic and blanket and walk to your neighbourhood park for an early dinner in the park. Too cold? Why not have a picnic in the living room?

End the evening with a game or movie night, dusting off games or DVDs in your collection that haven’t been used in a while.

Sunday

Start your lazy Sunday off with coffee and breakfast in bed while watching your favourite TV show. Use items in your fridge to make the ultimate omelette or whip up a quick batch of pancakes using this simple recipe.

Then head outside with your camera or smartphone to take some family photos. Explore your neighbourhood to scout out cool back alley or coloured walls for your backdrop.

For supper, take the pantry challenge and make a Sunday family meal with only the ingredients that you have at home. Spend the rest of the evening doing a puzzle or reading a book, then head to bed early for a good night’s rest.

 

Not spending money doesn’t have to be boring. The key to success is planning ahead so you take out the obligation of spending. The above schedule can be used as just a guideline for your no-spend weekend and feel free to sub in other free activities that you and your family enjoy. Need some more ideas? Try some of these no-spend activities out!

Taking the no-spend weekend challenge may be easier than you think and something you want to incorporate into your life more often. Challenge yourself to a no-spend weekend once a month, or if you’re ambitious, consider having a no-spend day at least once a week. Whatever you decide, remember there are endless ideas out there that don’t have to cost a thing and will help you save dollars in the end!

Completed the challenge? How did it go – hard? Easy? What did you learn? Share your experience below.

table with several wrapped wedding gifts

Unique wedding gift ideas

Trying to find the best wedding gift can sometimes be stressful. It shouldn’t be about how much you spend but instead the thought you put into the gift. Here are a few unique wedding gift ideas, perfect for showing your love for the newlyweds, that won’t break the bank.


Wedding season is here! As the invites start coming in, we often start to see dollar signs rather than wedding bells. When we think of a wedding gift, our automatic go-to is cash but then start to question what is too much, or what is too little?

Instead of stressing out on how much cash to give, consider giving a wedding gift unique to the couple – one that truly shows how much you care about them and doesn’t break the bank! Below are a few unique wedding gift ideas to get you started.

Basket gift ideas

  • First wine basket – Wine lovers? Put a package together to help celebrate “A Year of Couple Firsts”. Include a bottle of wine or champagne for every occasion and create printable tags. Ideas for “firsts” can be: First Home, First Baby (non-alcoholic bubbly), First Fight, First Trip, First Christmas, First Anniversary, etc.
  • Dessert basket – Create the perfect ending to date night with a dessert basket, which also provides the new couple with some household staple items. Use a large mixing bowl as the basket and include items such as brownie mix, spatulas, measuring spoons and cups, his & her aprons and a cute pair of oven mitts. If your budget allows, consider adding a bottle of dessert wine or port
  • Romantic night basket – Give the gift of a ‘spa-day-in’ by creating a spa basket. Purchase two inexpensive robes and take to a local seamstress to get monogrammed with the bride and groom initials. Package together and include foaming bath soap, bath salts and a brush and some lotions and oils for a romantic tub night for the newlyweds.

On a budget

  • Group gift – Will a large group of friends be attending the wedding? Consider doing a group gift and all chip in for a bigger ticket item on the registry. A big gift will make a high impact and depending on the number of people you can rally together you might be able to bring the budget down.
  • Cleaning service – Alleviate some wedding stress by gifting a cleaning service for a practical gift that the new couple will love. Often you can find a deal on Groupon for maid services.
  • Tickets – Music or lovers of the arts? Or perhaps sports fans? Find some less expensive tickets on Stubhub and gift them the perfect date night!
  • Meal service – Take the stress out of having to cook during the week with a taste of meal delivery service. Hello Fresh offers gift cards for 3 meals for 2 people under $80! This provides a basic necessity while giving the couple something fun to do together.

Forever memories

  • Framed night sky – Capture the night sky of their wedding night in a framed picture frame. Take your own picture or use a site such as The Night Sky who will create a custom star map for you. All you need to then worry about is finding the perfect frame.
  • Capture the honeymoon – Is the couple going on a destination honeymoon? Help the couple capture their first few days on their honeymoon by giving a gift card for a vacation photographer, such as Flytographer.
  • Mini-getaway – Give a gift of adventure with a gift card to Airbnb. The couple can choose a destination and put the money towards a night stay in a destination of their choosing for a mini vacation after they’re married.

Remember, weddings are about celebrating the commitment of two people. You shouldn’t stress about gift giving. As the saying goes, it’s not the gift but the thought that counts. Giving a thoughtful gift that the couple will enjoy is sometimes better than spending a lot of money. Just like we invest our money we should also invest in relationships as that is what’s really important!

couple looking at tablet

Pay Yourself First

Paying yourself first means saving first and spending what’s left over. This blog teaches you all about the why, how and where.


You’ve heard the term ‘pay yourself first’ many times, but what does it actually mean? For us, ‘pay yourself first’ means saving first and spending what’s left over – to put money into your savings each payday, as soon as you get paid and before you’re tempted to go and spend on something else.

But why?

Paying yourself first not only helps you reach your short and long-term goals, but you may also be surprised with all the benefits you’ll begin to see, including:

  • Setting saving as a priority;
  • Creating positive financial habits;
  • Being in control of your finances and future; and
  • Improving your overall financial well-being.

By spending only what’s left over after you save, you’ll also begin to understand your needs vs. wants a bit more, and understand how your previous spending habits may have impacted your saving habits.

But how?

Determine your short and long-term goals and the amount you want to save. Prioritize these goals from most important to least important.

When starting the pay yourself first method, start small to become comfortable with saving first, and spending what’s left. As you become more comfortable with the method, increase your contribution amounts.

A great way to ensure you don’t break away from this habit is to set up automatic money transfers each payday to move money automatically over into your savings.

But where?

There are many different ways to save money and your short and long-term goals can help determine which type of account you may need.

For example, if you’re saving for retirement, you may consider putting your savings into a Registered Retirement Savings Plan or Tax-Free Savings Account. If you’re looking to build your wealth, you may consider putting into a term investment or Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC).

Talk to a financial advisor to help understand what savings tool may be best for you and to set up an account.

Being in control of your finances helps you be in control of your future. By paying yourself first, you’re taking a positive step in creating good financial habits and contributing to your overall financial well-being. Now it’s up to you – start paying yourself first… on your next payday!

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!