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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!

Travelling on a budget and getting more than I bargained for

Guest blog alert! This year’s Saskatchewander, Leah Mertz, has travelled all across the province during a challenging year and has picked up some travel tips along the way. From spending and budgeting tips to the best spots in Saskatchewan to check out, Leah has some great advice for what to check out in the province’s own backyard (when it is safe to do so) and how to save some coin while doing it. 

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Hi, I’m Leah!

For the past 10 years, the Government of Saskatchewan has selected a ‘Saskatchewanderer’ to explore the province—showcasing its hidden gems and best kept secrets. To my surprise and excitement, I became the 2020 Wanderer after applying last fall. But within weeks of being on the job, things quickly shifted as the pandemic took hold. However, my determination to see Saskatchewan remained. With Conexus as the program’s new title sponsor, I became more motivated than ever to find ways of keeping travel affordable during uncertain times.

Where it began…

Growing up on a farm, times were busy. My father was a poultry farmer, and as all keepers of livestock know, there’s usually very few days off in a year—if at all. That’s why every summer, I couldn’t wait for our annual road trip. Each year in August, he would leave the farm in good hands for 10 days, and my family would pile into our Ford Aerostar for our next adventure.

As a kid, vacations almost seemed like a fantasy. There’s very little concept of time as the days become full of swimming, ice cream, bike riding, games, and… more ice cream. You don’t have to worry about paying for accommodations or gas, preparing or finding meals, and driving long hours with impatient kids in the back seat. I look back on our annual family vacation and wonder how exactly my parents kept their sanity. It’s a lot to manage! My siblings and I would have the best time without a care in the world. As an adult, it’s sobering to realize how hard my parents worked to not only afford taking time away from the farm, but also keeping costs at a minimum while on vacation.

Fast forward to 2020

Since becoming the Wanderer, I’ve found myself in charge of planning and executing the largest road trip of my life. I’ll admit, it’s been very challenging and I’ve been reminded of my parents’ hard work every step of the way. However, seeing so many beautiful places (Cypress Hills, Greig Lake, Castle Butte, etc.) and meeting dozens of wonderful people has helped put me at ease.

In the past few months, I’ve learned some hard and fast lessons surrounding money. Here are a few things that have helped me cut excess costs, save in unexpected places, and keep morale high while traveling in high-stress times.

Reusable anything keeps money in your pocket

Two reusable items I’ll never leave home without are a water bottle and a microwavable container. I’ll always fill up my water bottle at a hotel and therefore eliminate the urge to buy one when I stop for gas. Since I’ve been eating out on the road a lot, more often than not a takeaway container isn’t microwavable. Nearly every accommodation will have a microwave and since I started bringing my own container, I’ve never let my leftovers go to waste. We all know how generous Saskatchewan restaurants can be with their portions so on many occasions I’ve happily turned one supper into two—the enormous Perogy Poutine from the Black Grasshopper in Estevan comes to mind!

Preparedness pays off

This may seem like a no-brainer, but unexpected expenses can add up when traveling. Make a packing list before your trip and include everything you could possibly need. Early in the year, I would forget something simple, end up buying it, and then immediately regret it when I returned home to find it sitting in my drawer. I’ve unnecessarily spent hundreds of dollars on duplicates like: sunscreen, bug spray, gloves, hair ties, tweezers, vitamins, and even flip flops for the hotel pool. Plus, if you have to pick something up at a gas station or a convenience store, products like Advil or chapstick have a higher markup compared to where you’d purchase them otherwise. Convenience can be costly.

Oh, and speaking of pools, the Residence Inn in Regina has one of the fastest waterslides I’ve ever been on. Seriously, I might have experienced some g-force on that thing.

Score with loyalty points

Many food chains, and even local establishments have their own loyalty programs that allow you to earn free food, discounted prices, and more. Thankfully our smartphones conveniently allow us to store our loyalty numbers or barcodes. I used to absolutely hate keeping track of loyalty cards, but now that I can have them in my phone or through an app, I’m all in. I won’t admit how many free coffees I’ve scored this year from a certain green mermaid, but I will tell you that she’s been very kind to me. Also, I’ve kept loyalty points with every hotel I stay at, and in a matter of months have earned my way to free nights, higher loyalty point accumulation, and guaranteed late checkouts. Doesn’t get any better!

Keep tabs on your data

On some of my early trips, I was on Google Maps non-stop and endlessly streaming music and podcasts while on the road. I quickly noticed my cell phone data was going over and incurring extra charges. Now, I’ve been diligent in trying to download music, podcasts, and even map directions to my phone while I have Wi-Fi. It took one egregious cell phone bill at the beginning of my Wanderer term for me to be more mindful of data usage while out and about.

Seeing the best of Saskatchewan

With those money saving tips in mind, here is my unofficial list of the best places I’ve been in 2020!

Best food: Just Chicken in Kindersley. Think chicken tenders but like schnitzel. They have some of the best side dishes I’ve ever had—candied bacon, homemade slaw, fry bread, and more.

Best accommodation: The Resort at Cypress Hills. When a fresh blanket of snow falls, it’s a magical winter wonderland with tons of things to do. You can go cross country skiing, snowshoeing, or cozy up by the fireplace in the lodge.

Best trail: Sunset Interpretive Trail in Douglas Provincial Park. This is a beginner level trail that all can enjoy. Halfway into the loop you’ll have one of the best views for a classic Saskatchewan sunset. It’s simply stunning looking out over Lake Diefenbaker as the waves crash against the shoreline below.

Best campground: Anderson Point in Great Blue Heron Provincial Park. With plenty of walking trails and a secluded beach, this area truly feels off the grid while still being close to the amenities of Christopher Lake. Many locals have expressed that this is their favourite place to spend winter too. I hope to return before the year is over!

Best coffee shop: Route 26 in St. Walburg. This place has probably one of the most immersive ambiences I’ve ever experienced. It’s in an old character house adorned with hundreds of nostalgic artifacts. Outside there are plenty of picturesque places to sit as you hear classic country tunes playing in the background.

Best sightseeing spot: Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park. The rolling hills of the southwest truly look incredible anytime of year. Once you drive down into the valley, you’ll have a 360-degree view of some of the finest natural wonders in Saskatchewan.

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What I Learned From My 90 Day Spending Freeze

We’ve all heard of “cleanses” or “detoxes”. Although traditionally meant for weight loss or breaks from social media, spending freezes are gaining popularity as a means to cut spending and flush out bad money habits. Here’s a personal story where one of our writers was forced to check herself before debting herself and what she learned from a 90-day spending freeze.


Setting the Scene

Earlier this year, before COVID-19 entered the Canadian news cycle and Taylor Swift released her Folklore album, I put myself on a 90-day spending freeze.

Let’s go back to December. I received an email from the corporate payroll team, “SUBJECT: Important – Response Required – Pension Enrollment Form.

I guess I forgot I would start contributing to the employee pension program after my first year of employment. I was already saving for retirement and contributing 5% of my net income to my RRSP every pay period.

Hot Tip: If you’re entering the job market or changing careers, consider if an employee pension program is offered in the compensation package. If you’re comfortable with accepting a compensation package that doesn’t include an employee pension program, you can create your own “DIY pension program”. Have a conversation with a financial advisor, or someone you trust, to choose a retirement savings plan that works for you and build scheduled contributions into your budget that come directly from your paycheck.

Time to Freeze

I’m a single income earner, so saving more for retirement through the employee pension program meant my household income would be shrinking.

I knew that I could adjust my budget in real time to manage my cost of living with a lower net income, but without knowing how to adjust my budget to spend less, I could easily fall into a cycle of spending more than I was earning. You can’t lie to yourself and have healthy money habits.  I chose to enter a 90-day spending freeze, starting on January 1.

“Like, you didn’t spend any money at all?”

I set very specific criteria for this spending freeze. It was an ambitious goal, like Taylor Swift’s cross-over from country music to pop music. It had to be calculated and fearless.

The purpose of the spending freeze wasn’t to deprive myself or to remove joy from my life but to understand how to protect two healthy money habits I practice: 1) not spending more than I was earning, and 2) contributing to emergency savings, long-term savings, and saving for retirement. My mission was to  reveal how I needed to adjust my budget to spend less, with a lower income.

The most common reasons people aren’t successful in budgeting is because they haven’t built a realistic budget or they aren’t committed long enough for it to become a money habit. I made a deal with myself that I was in this for the long haul and would track every receipt and be disciplined for the full 90 days. I was already a budgeter before I started the spending freeze, but if you’re not a budgeter, that’s an important foundation to start with. I track every receipt and enter it into my budget, and during the spending freeze it showed me how much money I wasn’t spending. You need to see how you’re spending your money to know how much you’re saving or not spending during a spending freeze.

I began by considering all the things that I valued most from my lifestyle that was discretionary spending and excluded those categories from my spending freeze. For instance, I didn’t even consider freezing my fitness membership. I like the accountability my barre studio puts on me to hold a plank for a minute longer and that doesn’t translate to home workouts for me.

I froze spending money on restaurants and food deliveries, unless it centered around an experience with friends. The relationships in my life are important to me, so I was intentional about which invitations to accept and which invitations to decline knowing that it’s hard to go out with someone and not spend money. For example, when my friend was going through a difficult time in her life, I arrived at her house with pizza and wine. But when I was starving on my way home from my barre class, I didn’t give into ordering food and would make something at home.

What I removed from my budget during my spending freeze:

  • Clothing (I’m a big shopper so this was an accomplishment for me!)
  • Housewares
  • Alcohol
  • Tickets to entertainment
  • Travel
  • Spa & Salon experiences
  • Personal care items that I didn’t already use.

What I kept in my budget during my spending freeze:

  • Fitness membership
  • Personal care items (ie: lipstick) but ONLY if I was replenishing a product I already use
  • Gifts for others
  • Streaming subscriptions (ie: Netflix, Amazon Prime)
  • Cable subscription
  • The routinely scheduled hair cut & color I get quarterly, but no other spa and salon experiences
  • Massages, supplemented by my benefits coverage

What I Learned…

I began the spending freeze on January 1 and retail stores and restaurants closed in mid March when the State of Emergency was declared in Saskatchewan so I made it 77 days on my own without stepping foot in HomeSense. Even without the option of entering a store, I wasn’t in the clear because the convenience of online shopping can still tempt you – especially when you are cooped up in your home with nothing else to do. There were some close calls but I made it the full 90 days without spending money outside of the criteria I listed above. Outside of cutting my spending by 10%, I was able to nail down realistic goals for my budget categories knowing what I could and could not live without. Thanks to this 90 day cleanse, I have eliminated any sort of excuses to pad my budgets for categories like eating out or shopping because I know I’ve done it before. It’s amazing how much money you can save with a little confidence in yourself and the discipline to make it happen.

If you need help starting your own budget or want to see for yourself how much cutting your spending will impact your income, check out Conexus’ budget calculator tool!

What else did I learn from a 90-day spending freeze?

  1. You do not need to deprive yourself to practice healthy money habits.
  2. Avoiding the stores where you commonly spend money is way easier than visiting those stores and trying to limit yourself to one purchase.
  3. Choosing not to browse online or in-store completely removed the temptation to spend money. A lot of the time you are shopping for a distraction so if you are watching a TV show and your mind gets antsy, pick up a book or grab a paper and pen to doodle to keep it occupied.
  4. Talk about money! I was open about challenging myself to a 90-day spending freeze and so many others responded by sharing their money goals. We celebrated, leaned on each other as accountability partners and learned from each other along the way.
  5. Spending less than I earn felt so much more satisfying than abandoning my budget to buy whatever Jillian Harris is promoting on Instagram.

What else do you want to know about my spending freeze that I didn’t answer in the blog? Ask your questions in the comment section below! Let’s break the myth that it’s impolite to talk about money! Let’s learn from each other and celebrate each other’s healthy money habits.

COVID-19 Blew Up My Budget & How I Pivoted

Adjusting a professional budget or a personal budget due to financial strain is never fun but can save you a lot of worry by putting a plan is in place. This #MONEYTALK blog highlights a personal story where COVID-19 impacted a family’s income and what was learned while she pivoted during a vulnerable time. 


Ouch.

When COVID-19 arrived, it happened fast. Our worlds were turned upside down as the world entered a sudden lockdown which resulted in canceled travel, activities, and events and forced many restaurants, schools and business to shut down.

For the lucky ones, there was an opportunity to work from home and for many others, there were layoffs, reduced hours, and reduced pay. Health concerns surrounding COVID-19 are already stressful enough but concerns about money during an uncertain time amplifies this stress and anxiety to an overwhelming state.

My family was a mix of the two categories. My income was not impacted and I was able to work from home, but with my husband working in the trades – things got a bit uncertain. We were used to his variable income, his hours fluctuating each week and his net pay always being different. Creating a monthly budget was often a bit of a strategy game as we tried to estimate what his monthly net pay would be. Sometimes we’d over budget over and many times we didn’t budget enough but typically it all seemed to work out.

COVID-19 changed a lot for my family. There was no more work travel, he experienced reduced work hours, and my husband saw his pay decrease. Comparing March, April, and June to the few months before, we calculated a 30% decrease in our family income. Though we were lucky to both still be working and were used to having a variable monthly income, a 30% dip was unexpected. In order to support our family that includes two teenage girls, some budget shifting was clearly needed.

Budgets do help, especially in times of uncertainty

We’ve been using a monthly family budget for the last three years that outlines all of the money we anticipate to bring in and how we plan on spending that money. This also includes how much we plan on taking from each paycheck and putting away into a savings account. Throughout the month, we track our spending and compare it to the budget to see where we sit and if we need to watch our spending in certain categories. Spoiler alert: we are almost always over our Restaurants & Take-Out category!

When COVID-19 happened, we went back to our budget and re-adjusted the number to our new reality – decreasing our anticipated income and relooking at our expenses to see where we could reduce. Though there was a bit of stress at the beginning due to the unexpected income decrease, this was quickly gone once I was able to plug in the numbers and see that with a few changes to our budget – it would be okay.

Advice: A lot of our worries around money surround the anxieties of not feeling in control. Creating a budget helps you feel at ease and allows you to buy-in to your gameplan. It may seem like work to track all of your purchases and hold yourself accountable to stay within these budget categories but the peace of mind it brings you is very worth it! If you need help getting started, try our free budget calculator.

Mini Eggs add to the budget and waistline

Did anyone else feel they were no longer doing three meals a day but instead ten? With school being closed and us working from home, the sound of the fridge or pantry opening became more and more frequent. Snacking increased and our meals seemed to be more extravagant for every day of the week. Although delicious, this caused grocery lists, bills, and waistlines to inflate. Food kept us company during quarantine and a family sized bag of mini eggs was a very popular roommate in our household.

After a few (larger than I’d like to admit) grocery bills that brought us close to our monthly budgeted amount, we realized our current amount was not going to work. We increased our budget a bit to accommodate for the increase in fridge and pantry visits and then created a plan. This plan included setting out the menu for the week and making a grocery list of the ingredients needed. We also made sure to look at what we had in our freezer and pantry to use items that we may have forgotten we had or preparing simpler meals like soup and sandwiches. These minor habit changes allowed us to focus our spending and stick within the budget we had set.

Advice: “Leftovers” feels like a derogatory word. But if you cook with extra portions in mind, your monthly budget flourishes. We’d schedule “leftover night” into our weekly menu in order to save some room in our budget while also not having to worry about time preparing the meal.

Do I need this?

With stores closing down, I was no longer able to shop just for the sake of shopping. No more “just because” Winners trips that resulted in a $200 receipt from purchases I didn’t need.

COVID-19 helped me realize the unnecessary shopping I was doing and that I was adding budget line items to accommodate for these impulsive purchases. When looking at how to readjust our budget due to decrease in income, I looked at each budget item and asked myself: is this a NEED or a WANT? This helped me understand some of my impulsive spending habits and decrease areas within my budget that weren’t absolutely necessary.

Advice: Quick purchases may seem small but they add up quick. I challenge you to resist the urge of small, minor purchases (ie: picking up a coffee on the way to work) for a month and keep track of what they would have cost you. The results are eye-opening!

No money required

Before the pandemic, our family was always on the go and if we didn’t have a sport happening, we kept ourselves busy by going shopping or  an activity of some sort that usually had a cost associated with it. With everything being canceled or closed, we had to find new ways to stay busy.

Endless browsing of stores turned into walks around the neighbourhood and all the projects we had pushed to the side started getting done.  COVID-19 taught our family that there are many activities you can do that don’t cost you money. This was another expense we were able to reduce within our budget. We quickly learned that we don’t need to spend money in order to enjoy each other’s company and even when things return to “normal”, I can see us being a lot more frugal with how much we spend on activities.

Advice: Pinterest is a great source of inspiration in order to find free or low-cost activities for your family. Did you know you can combine cornstarch, water and food colouring to make your own sidewalk chalk paint? This is an example of how you can utilize items you will likely have around the house for a fun activity with no extra spending needed.

Be prepared for the unexpected

In the past, our family has experienced layoffs, illnesses, and injuries that prevented us from working and receiving a paycheck. We were never prepared for these unexpected events, which led to a lot of financial stress in figuring out how to pay bills or put food on the table.

We started putting money from each paycheck away into an Emergency Savings Account to be prepared for these unexpected moments. When our income dropped by 30%, there was a sense of relief as we had these emergency savings to lean back on if needed. Even though the adjustments in our spending prevented us from needing to dip into the account, it was nice to know it was there if needed.

Advice: You never know when there may be a pandemic, job loss, injury, or even an event that you weren’t planning on such as your water heater stopping or a car accident. An emergency savings account helps you be prepared for these moments and reduces any stress you may have from trying to find money within your budget to cover these unexpected expenses. Check out the #MONEYTALK blog, The Importance of Having an Emergency Fund, to learn more.

While COVID-19 caused some inconveniences and made our family shift, it also allowed us to re-examine our spending habits. The lessons we learned and the changes we made are ones we will continue doing, even as things, hopefully soon, return to normal.

3 Key Money Tips for High Schoolers

No matter how old you are – you likely aren’t satisfied with the amount of money you have and you want more. When you are in high school, you want to be able to buy the things you want, go out with your friends, and maybe even save for your future education. So, if you are a high schooler – here are a few things you can do with your money to make it work best for you!


Use these tips to make that cash you earned in your summer job last a little longer:

1. Make sure you have BOTH a debit and savings account.

Even if you primarily get your money in cash right now, you should be putting it in an account so you can make more. The sooner you open a bank account, including a separate savings account, the better. This is to get used to dealing with your money when it only exists on plastic and in your banking app and so you have somewhere to stash your savings separate from your spending money. Also, it saves you from having to check the pockets in all of your jeans or the bottom of the washing machine to try and find that extra $20 bill you stashed away for safe keeping.

2. Talk about money.

A lot of people’s parents or guardians don’t talk about money. Sometimes it’s because they’re not good with money themselves and sometimes people are just weird with their financial information, even with their kids. If your parents shut down conversations about budgeting or how much their mortgage or car payments are, that’s where the first piece of advice comes in. If you are a member of a financial institution, you have access to financial experts who can help you out or direct you to reliable resources. If you’re wondering anything about money, chances are someone else has googled that same question! Don’t feel embarrassed if you need to google how to read your first paycheck or what compound interest is (trust me, you want to know what that one is)!

3. Get to saving!

Yeah, you probably don’t make very much right now, but the idea is that if you start making saving a habit now, it will feel natural when you’re making more money. If you save just 10% of every dollar you earn, you’re setting yourself up for success. Right now you have time on your side, which means that your money has the power to make more money by just sitting in an account with good interest, or through an investment.

Let’s say you open a savings account with a 3% interest rate and you contribute just $10 each month for 10 years. On top of the $1,200 you’ve invested, you will have made an additional $200 just by having the money sit there. That’s the power of time (and compound interest)! Don’t believe me? Check out our Savings Calculator to plug in different values to show how much you can grow your account through time and some simple savings behaviour. That’s way more than you’d make by just keeping the cash in a jar in your bedside nightstand. Plus, this way, it’s safe from your snoopy brothers and sisters!

That’s it! Three simple ways to start saving so you can start building that bank account nice and early.

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

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


Blue Monday got you down?

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

Reduce: Your Spending

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

 Modify: Your Behaviours

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

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

Add: Routine, Automation, & Income

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

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

Setting Resolutions for a Financially Healthy Year

Before the clock strikes midnight on New Years, we typically already have a list of resolutions that will help us in the upcoming year. Why not focus a few of these resolutions  on bettering your financial situation? Let’s get you thinking about some of these resolutions that could get 2020 started on a financially stable foot.


Every year you probably set yourself a resolution or two. “I’m going to read at least one book every month!”, “I’m going to eat healthier!” or “I’m going to get active!” That’s awesome, but have you ever considered what financial resolutions you could be setting?

If the goal is improvement (which it always is) why not set out to improve your finances, too? Doing so might even help you meet some of your other goals because those fresh veggies and gym memberships to fulfill your other resolutions don’t always come cheap.

We’re all at different stages in our lives and priorities are going to be different for everyone and will vary as your lifestyle change. Here are some examples of financial resolutions you may want to set for yourself this year. See what makes sense for where you’re at right now.

  • Pay down your debt – set a percentage or dollar figure goal if it’s too much to tackle in a single year
  • Save for a down payment on a house, condo, or cabin
  • Save for two month’s rent plus damage deposit and moving costs in order to rent an apartment
  • Become more financially literate – read books or articles, or speak to a financial expert
  • Save 10% of your income every single month
  • Teach your kids about money
  • Make a budget and stick to it
  • Improve or start working on your credit score
  • Earn more income
  • Save to buy that expensive thing you want upfront – like a big vacation, new car, or renovation
  • Donate a set monthly amount to a cause or charity that you love
  • Figure out how much you really need to retire, and work out how to get there
  • Start an emergency fund
  • Make your money work harder – if you’ve been crushing goals you might be in a place to start investing for bigger returns than your current savings account offers

All of these are really just some basic ideas to get you thinking about what financial resolutions you could set this year. Remember that your goals should always be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.

How Take-Out Almost Took Out My Budget

With so many options for ordering meals via delivery, it’s becoming increasingly hard to resist the convenience of take-out and maintaining the discipline to stick to your meal prepping schedule. Let’s look at a real-life example of how creating and sticking to a budget can save your bank account from landing in the trash with your leftover to-go containers. 


Step One is Admitting the Problem

Hello, my name is Mason and I’m a recovering take-out-aholic.

I used to eat out an embarrassing amount. If I were to get married tomorrow, my Uber Eats driver would be the best man at my wedding. Okay, maybe not – but for a couple of years, unless I had access to a free meal, I was likely getting food delivered to my home or picking it up at lunch time. It’s a dangerous habit that I would justify by saying “I’m saving so much time not having to worry about buying groceries, cooking and doing the dishes after”. The number one question I would get was “How do you even afford this?” Good question. Back then, I had a tenant that was basically paying for my mortgage payments and as a single guy who doesn’t really travel or shop a ton (exciting life hey?), this seemed manageable at the time.

One blessed day, my addiction hit rock bottom. Let’s just say that you’ve never really experienced shame until you’ve had the same Skip the Dishes driver twice in the same day. This was the epiphany I needed to take a hard look at how much I was spending per meal and think about all of the other places where that money could be allocated. The problem was that I didn’t even know how much money I was letting drain from my bank account. I was blindly swiping my card two-three times a day without any idea of the impact this would have on my monthly expenses. So where do you even begin to get things under control? It all starts with a budget.

Basic Budgeting Facts

We throw the term “budget” around quite loosely as a noun and a verb, but budgeting is simply taking the time to identify how much money your household can afford to save each month. In essence, it is the process of mapping out whether you have enough income to cover your monthly expenses and how you plan on allocating the remaining money left over. For you, it may mean making sure you have enough to pay for your kids’ piano lessons or education. For me, it means making sure I can afford to pay for a cable bill to support my fantasy football obsession. 

According to this study, just over 60% of Canadians use a budget, though, 32% of Canadians said their income does not always cover their living expenses and 13% said they’ve borrowed to make ends meet. I was one of the 40% who did not use a budget and was not tracking where my money was being spent without any guidelines around where my money should be going. I did a little bit of digging and this same study broke down recommended percentages of spending:

Recommended percentages of spending:

  • Housing – 30-40%
  • Transportation – 10-20% 
  • Living Expenses – 20-30% 
  • Debt Repayment – 10-20% 
  • Savings – 10%+ 

After tracking a month of my spending, I realized that my percentages were all out of whack. Outside of paying a small amount towards pension, the entire recommended 10% of Savings were inflating my Living Expenses and I was up to 60% thanks to my dependence on delivery. I knew something had to change and after a few months of being really intentional in my spending and eating habits, I shrunk my monthly spending on meals by over 40% and $600! Here’s some tips I learned along the way:

Weekly Meal Prepping Pays Off

Part of the reason I was eating out so much was to save myself from the time it takes to buy the groceries, prepare the meal and then do the dishes. It can also be expensive to cook for one person (check out our Cost of Being Single blog) because of grocery sizes and a lot of recipes are for more than one person. One of the best purchases I ever made was an Instant Pot that allows me to create easy recipes with large portions in a short amount of time. This allows me to do all of my meal prepping on Sunday and I don’t have to spend any time during the week preparing or cleaning up after meals. Think about it: if you are spending $20 on a portion where you can get 3-4 meals out of it instead of spending $20 on one take-out meal, you are saving up to $60! No wonder my living expenses were so high!

Ask For The Receipt

I get it. When the cashier asked “Do you need a receipt?” it’s so much easier to say “No thanks” and watch them crumple it up on your way out the door. I’ve learned that holding onto the receipt and making sure it’s added to your budget spreadsheet not only holds you accountable to your spending, but also saves you in the long run. Tracking your spending throughout the month and comparing it to your budget will help show you where you’re on track, may be under budget and where you may need to refrain from spending due to almost reaching your budget. When your mind tries to trick you into ordering out on a Sunday night, you’ll have the budget numbers to rationalize staying on budget.

If you have a significant other that you share expenses with, be sure to create your budget together. This ensures you’re on the same page when it comes to the money you’re generating and spending. It’s not a bad thing to have the other person holding you accountable either! 

Leave Room for Buffer, Not Guilt

If you are dramatically changing your habits, it’s not going to happen over night. Whether you have a busy week or a night where you need to recharge, you may have no choice but to order delivery. Leave a buffer in your budget for those unexpected expenses to make sure you have a realistic picture of how much you’ll spend in a month and so you aren’t feeling guilty that your saving progress has all been lost. 

You know what the say, “Old habits die hard” and it’s true. However, it’s hard not to be motivated when a budget shows you just how much money you are saving. Sometimes all it takes to make a major life change is to just start with a budget.


Do you have any tips to keep your budget numbers low?! Share them below!

The Key To Basic Savings

 Savings. We all know we should have them, but it’s hard. We’ve got bills to pay, lives to lead, and we’re bombarded every day with cool new stuff we could buy. So how exactly do you become one of those people with savings?


The “End of the Month” Trap

You’ve been there, right? “I’ll save whatever money is left over at the end of the month. Of course I will!” No. You won’t. Almost none of us can manage this strategy. You need to build your savings into your budget, and they need to come off your paycheque first, or after essential bills. Put that money somewhere that isn’t your chequing account. Most credit unions and financial institutions offer automatic savings programs you can set up so that you don’t even have to remember to save, it just happens. If you set it up so that the money comes out of your account the same day you get paid, it’s like it was never there at all.

How Much to Save

Where do you even start? A good amount to start with is 10% of your monthly earnings at least once every three months. So, if you make $2,000 per month after tax, you should be saving $200 every three months (about $67 each month or $17 each week). If you can save more, that’s great – but this is a great jumping off point that can help you get started with good savings behaviour.

Find Your Motivation

If you’ve struggled to save money, it can be helpful to have a goal in mind. An emergency fund is a good goal. What does that even mean? How much was your last big car repair or other unexpected expense? Start with a goal of saving that much. Another excellent goal is three months of living expenses. Imagine how comfortable you could be knowing that you can support yourself during a challenging time in your life such as job loss, injury or a family emergency. Every little bit matters, so don’t be afraid to start small.

Keep it Visible

Whether it’s a jar you stash your tips in, or a savings account, make sure you can see that money without difficulty. Watching that number rise or that jar fill up will help you stay motivated and see the progress you’re making, even if you feel like you’re only saving a tiny bit each month. To remove the temptation to spend, it is a good idea to regularly transfer your jar savings into a savings account.

Start Today

The best time to start saving was whenever you first got an allowance or income … the second-best time is today! Open a savings account or get a jar and put five bucks in there. Start with that and start today. Make saving a habit and you’ll be rewarded with lower stress and a comfortable future where you can handle a lot more with your financial safety net. Start with these easy tips and soon you’ll be one of those people with savings.


What savings strategy to you swear by? List it below!

What Does it Really Mean to Pay Yourself First?

If you’ve heard the phrase Pay Yourself First before and never really understood what that means, you’re in the right place. It’s one of the phrases that comes up a lot when talking about saving, investing, or even just budgeting. It’s a simple strategy, but one that needs a bit of explanation to make the most of it.


Pay Your Future Self

A good way to think about the Pay Yourself First strategy is to remember that you aren’t paying the you that wants a venti coconut milk chai latte (extra hot) right now, but the you a year or so down the road who needs money for an unexpected car repair, moving to a new apartment, buying a house, or retirement. You’re paying the future you.

These Payments Come First

So, if you’re paying your future self first, does that mean you ignore your bills and have zero fun ever? No. Putting priority on your future self just means that you adjust your budgets in a way that these savings or investments happen before anything else. Ideally, they come off your paycheque on payday. This could mean a bit less money right now but saving shouldn’t be painful or make you antisocial. It might just mean more potlucks and less dinners out.

Make Regular, Consistent Savings

Paying yourself first should be easy to manage, once you get it set up. Automatic contributions and savings programs are your best friend in this strategy. After you’ve figured out how much you can save from each paycheque, you won’t have to touch these numbers unless there is a change in your income or expenses. Need help figuring out how much you can save from each paycheque? Here’s your guide to creating a budget.

Self-starter? Set up your own savings schedule by opening a separate account, preferably one where you can earn high interest, that you only make deposits into. Make bi-weekly or monthly contributions and do not use this account for paying bills or spending money, this is strictly for the future you.

You Might Already Be Paying Yourself First

Some employers have group Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs), or other investment or savings opportunities that can come right off your paycheque before you even get it. If you’re participating in a plan like this, congrats! You’ve already started to pay yourself first.

The Payoff is Security

Paying yourself first can be a tough habit to get into because you don’t get to enjoy that money right now. There’s no immediate payoff (unless you’re really into watching a number on a screen get bigger every month). The payoff comes when you have an emergency you can handle without going into debt, or not needing a loan because you can pay for a newer car up front, or having an entire down payment for a house, or knowing you can live well in retirement. It’s security, and yes, money can buy that, so start paying yourself first.


Paying yourself first isn’t so bad. Any advice on how you fend off impulse buys and practice paying yourself first? Tell us how what you do to pay the future you!