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The importance of having an emergency fund

Life happens and sometimes an unexpected curveball is thrown our way, threatening our financial well-being and causing stress. Having an emergency savings fund helps us be prepared for these unexpected life events.


If your furnace broke down tomorrow, do you have the money to fix it? What about if you were laid off from work, do you have money set aside to cover daily expenses until you got back up on your feet? Or what If you got hurt while playing a sport causing you to be off work for six weeks, would you be able to cover your mortgage payments, bills, groceries, etc.?

Life sometimes throws us a curveball, threatening our financial well-being and causing us stress. An emergency savings fund helps us be prepared for those unexpected life events.

What is an emergency savings fund?

An emergency savings fund is money you’ve set aside for life’s unexpected events such as the loss of a job, a debilitating illness or injury, or a major repair to your home. It provides you with a financial safety net and gives you comfort knowing that you can tackle any of life’s unexpected events without adding money worries to your list.

What if I don’t have an emergency savings fund?

Without an emergency savings fund, you’re living on the ‘financial’ edge, hoping to get by without running into a crisis. If an emergency does happen, it can cause a little problem to turn into a big, expensive financial situation. It can also cause a lot of additional stress.

As well, without an emergency savings fund, many people turn to debt instruments such as credit cards and lines of credits, to help cover costs. Depending on your financial situation, this could cause even more money worries as it’s only a short-term solution.

How much money should I save for an emergency?

When looking at the amount you need to save for an emergency, a good rule of thumb is three to six months’ worth of expenses. Calculate this amount using a budgeting tool. Over a few months, track the amount you’ve spent on your needs including housing, utilities, food, insurance, transportation, debt and personal expenses. Once you’ve completed this, you should have a good idea of the amount you should set aside for emergency purposes.

How can I save for an emergency?

Making regular payments into a savings account each payday is the simplest and most effective way to save money. It may not seem like a lot to begin with, but don’t let that discourage you. Over time, if managed properly, the fund will grow to the required amount.

When should I use my emergency savings?

When determining whether to use your emergency fund, ask yourself the following three questions:

1. Is it unexpected?

An unexpected emergency is one that you didn’t anticipate occurring, such as:

  • Loss of a job;
  • A debilitating illness or injury; or
  • Major repair to your home or vehicle caused by circumstances out of your control.

Annual reoccurring expenses, such as property taxes, would not qualify as an unexpected emergency.

2. Is it necessary?

Needs are often confused with wants and you’ll need to determine if the unexpected emergency is a want or a need. For example, if you have a water leak in your kitchen and you have to put in new flooring, this could be considered a need or an emergency. On the other hand, if your flooring is old, and you want an updated look, this would be considered a want and you’re emergency savings should not be used.

New items are great; however, your emergency funds should not be used for them.

3. Is it urgent?

When an immediate need arises, the last thing you want to worry about is how you’re going to pay for it. When making a decision on whether the expense is an urgent need, determine if it will affect your ability to provide the basics for you and your family.

Remember, the money you have set aside should only be used if you have an unexpected, immediate expense. If you do use money from your emergency savings, be sure to replenish the money as soon as you get back on your feet by making regular payments.

Life may throw you curveballs, but being prepared will give you peace-of-mind knowing you have money set aside for those unexpected events. It will also help your overall financial well-being and reduce stress.

Are you prepared for an emergency? We’d love to help you get started – contact us today!

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Tips for first-time homebuyers

Purchasing your first home is a big life decision. Our Mobile Mortgage Specialists share advice for first-time homebuyers on what to know and consider when purchasing your first home.


Buying your first home is a huge life event and can sometimes cause a bit of stress. Figuring out where to start can also become a bit overwhelming. All the questions you begin to ask yourself – how much can I afford? Who should I talk to? How much money do I need to put down? To help get you started, and reduce some of that unnecessary stress, we sat down with our Mobile Mortgage Specialist Team to give us their advice on what to know and consider when purchasing your first home.

Planning

As it’s one of the biggest decisions of your life, planning is essential to ensure you don’t get in over your head. Planning early is key and includes asking yourself some important questions including:

  • What type of home do you want to buy? A condo, residential home or perhaps one that has a legal suite in the basement allowing for potential income – or what some like to call a mortgage helper?
  • How long do you plan to live in this home? Is it your starter home? Forever home? What does your life look like in the next 5-10 years? Family, pets, etc. – will this home need to be able to grow with you?
  • What can you afford? What payment would you be comfortable paying that allows you to still live comfortably? Does this amount include all home-associated costs such as utilities, maintenance, etc.? What other expenses impact your affordability such as debt repayment, etc.?
  • How much money do you have saved for a down payment and what will you need?

When starting to think about purchasing a home, these are just a few of the questions you need to be asking. We recommend speaking with an expert, such as a Mobile Mortgage Specialist, to walk you through these questions and to help you come up with a plan. Doing so will allow you to become focused and help you understand exactly what you need to do to get you where you want to be.

Pre-approvals & affordability

Once you have an understanding of what you’re looking for, it’s important to determine how much money you can borrow. Getting pre-approved sets parameters for the amount of loan you’d be approved for and helps ensure you’re not looking at homes outside of your price range.

When getting approved for a mortgage a number of factors are considered including your income, length of employment, credit history, monthly obligations, assets, liabilities, etc. Debt is also a big factor when it comes to being approved. Credit cards, lines of credit, and loans can have a huge impact on how much you’re approved for.

Also, it’s important to understand how your pre-approved amount equates to your payment cycle. Is this amount something you can afford each month, bi-weekly or weekly? And how long do you want to be paying this mortgage off? Twenty years? Twenty-Five? A longer length of time may make your payments lower but can cost you more interest in the long run.

Remember, whatever you are pre-approved for doesn’t mean you need to spend the full amount on a home. Purchasing a lower-priced home means you’ll need to borrow less money, potentially smaller payments, and the ability, if it works within your budget, to potentially pay off your home more quickly.

Down payments

First-time homebuyers are required to put down a minimum of 5% of the purchase price – for example, if you’re looking to purchase a $300,000 home, you’ll need to put down $15,000. Seems like a lot, right? And another reason why planning is essential.

Start saving for a down payment as early as you can. Consider putting into a savings account, Tax-Free Savings Account or RRSP. Take the ‘pay yourself first’ approach and put a certain amount of money into a separate account each payday. Label the account something that means something to you such as ‘down payment’ or ‘house account’ as you’ll have a better chance leaving the money alone. Also consider putting any extra money you receive such as a work bonus, gift money, money you make selling some of your own personal items, income tax refunds, etc. into this account to help grow your savings faster.

Programs and incentives for first-time homebuyers

There are several programs and incentives for first-time homebuyers that you should be aware of.

  • The Home Buyers’ Plan allows first-time homebuyers to withdraw money from your RRSP to buy or build a qualifying home. You will need to repay these funds back into your RRSP within 15 years.
  • Saskatchewan’s first-time home buyer’s tax credit provides first time homebuyers with a provincial non-refundable income tax credit of up to $1,075 to eligible taxpayers on qualified homes.
  • The Head Start Equity Builder Program allows first-time homebuyers to take a personal loan as a down payment to purchase a new home constructed by the HeadStart on a Home Program.

Also, consider looking at what local builders have to offer homebuyers. During certain times of the year, or in certain community developments, builders offer incentives such as no down payments or down payment grants to encourage homebuyers to purchase through them.

Other considerations/things to know

There is a lot to know when it comes to purchasing and owning a home, and it can be hard to think of it all by yourself. Along with the advice above, here are a few additional things to know and consider.

  • Lean on your experts. Don’t try to do this alone and work with people who are experienced and have your best interests in mind. Your realtor and mortgage specialist are there to offer you a wealth of information to help guide you step by step and ensure as little stress as possible during this exciting time.
  • Set money aside for all the additional fees associated with purchasing a home such moving expenses, inspection fees, home and life insurance, utility hookups, taxes, lawyer’s fees, etc. We recommend setting aside 1.5-2% of the purchase price to help cover these different costs.
  • Filling your new space can come with a cost. The great part about planning in advance means you can also start setting money aside for furniture, household items and your first grocery trip to fill your cupboards with all of the staple items. Another great tip is to create a list of items you’ll need, watch for sales and purchase throughout your planning timelines, putting anything into storage until you move. Be sure to share this list with family and friends for ideas on what to get you for birthdays and Christmases.
  • Use www.expressaddress.com to have your mail forwarded to your new address, update your address within existing companies and even set up your utilities for your new home. It’s free and will help you save time.
  • Budget. Budget. Budget. With new home ownership comes new expenses, and it’s important to have an understanding of your money and budgeting for your newest life chapter. When setting a budget, be sure to put money aside for some of those unexpected expenses such as maintenance or breakdowns. Check out our Setting a Budget blog to get you started.

Buying a home for the first time can be stressful but with a bit of planning, and working with a team of experts, your transition into home ownership can run smoothly. Remember, you’re not in it alone. We’re here to help.

Ready to start your first-home plan today or have additional questions? We’d love to talk to you – contact one of our mortgage specialists today and let’s start planning your future today!

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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!

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Kick-start your finances: automatic savings

You can’t spend what you can’t see, right? Set up automatic money transfers from your chequing account to your savings account to reduce the temptation of spending somewhere else and keep you on track to reaching your financial goals.


You may have heard the term ‘pay yourself first’ but what does that actually mean? For us, it means setting goals, creating a budget and putting money aside regularly to achieve those goals. An effortless way to do this is by setting up automatic saving transfers.

Through automatic saving transfers, it’s easier than ever to save money. Through the tool, you’re able to schedule reoccurring money transfers between your accounts. Because it’s done automatically, it doesn’t let you think twice about moving the money into your savings and reduces the temptation to spend it on something else. You can’t spend what you don’t see, right?

Once you have your short and long-term goals identified, we recommend opening up different accounts for those that require savings. Talk to a financial advisor to determine what type of account is best for you (e.g., TFSA, RRSP, savings account, etc.). From your budget, determine how much money to transfer into each account and how frequently you’d like to contribute. Then, using online or mobile banking, set up a reoccurring transfer each month.

If you’re paid bi-weekly or twice monthly, we recommend setting up your automatics transfers for each payday. This way, you can have smaller, more frequent transfers that add up to the same monthly amount, but don’t seem to be as large of an impact all at once.

Automatic payments take away excuses and procrastination. There’s no more saying you’ll do it tomorrow as it’s automatically done – making tomorrow, today. By taking directly out of your account, you’ll forget it’s there and won’t be tempted to spend it elsewhere. You’ll also be on track to reaching the goals you set and could be surprised at how quickly it adds up!

Paying yourself first means investing in yourself. It is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your financial well-being. Now it’s your turn – take the challenge and be one step closer to taking control of your finances today.

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Kick-start your finances: creating a budget

Create a budget that works for you using the information and templates in this blog.


Let’s create a budget. A budget is a tool that helps you manage your money. It shows you your full financial picture – the money you bring in each month and where you plan to spend it. It helps you determine what a want vs. a need is and shows you where you can cut expenses to ensure you only spend what you have. It also allows you to see where there may be any extra money that you can put towards reaching your overall goals quicker.

This blog focuses on creating an annual budget that works for you. You can complete this challenge manually on a piece of paper or online. If doing online, here are several great budget templates that can assist you:

Whatever method you choose, the process will be very similar.

Determining your monthly income

The first step of a budget is figuring out how much money you’ll have each month (see Kick-start your finances: where’s my money going). Under the income section of your budget, list all sources of money (pay, support, grants, etc.) you’ll receive in the coming months. Remember, this is the take-home amount as it’s the money you actually have available to spend.

For those with a regular pay cheque – one that is the same each time – your income should be around the same amount each month. Note: If you’re paid bi-weekly, there are two months each year that you’ll receive three pay cheques.

For those that have irregular or seasonal income, it can be a bit more difficult and there are two ways you can determine a monthly income amount for your budget:

  1. Use your average monthly income. You can find this by taking your last six months’ total income and dividing by six.
  2. Use your lowest amount of monthly income that you received in the last six months. For example, if you’re monthly income over the last six months ranged between $1,900 and $2,200, use the $1,900 amount in your budget.

Whether you have a regular or irregular monthly income, it’s important to not over-estimate this amount when creating a budget. A budget provides you guidance on how you will spend this money and over-estimating will cause you to budget money you don’t have. If you end up receiving more money in a month than what you budgeted, use this extra money and put towards reaching your saving goals faster.

Remember, you shouldn’t include any non-guaranteed income such as tips and money received as gifts into your anticipated monthly income budget. Non-guaranteed money is exactly that – not guaranteed and unknown – and should be treated as extra money for your goals.

Creating a budget based on what you have

Now that you have noted your income for each month, it’s time to create a plan to spend this money. First, create a list of all your expense categories. The spending analysis you completed in the Kick-start your finances: where’s my money blog can assist you in creating categories specific to your spending habits. Be sure to include categories for your saving goals and any debt payment expenses, such as credit cards, you may also need to budget for each month. Once you have these categories, take it one step further and create sub-categories for each expense. This helps provide a detailed understanding of each category and identifies fixed expenses (ones you can’t change) and variable expenses (those you have control over and can change).

Example:

Next, you’ll need to allocate money to each expense. It may be easiest to start with expenses that are fixed such as mortgage/rent, utilities, etc. and then move into the variable expenses such as groceries, entertainment, etc.  Don’t forget to include expenses that aren’t monthly such as sporting fees, gift purchases, etc. – for these expenses, place the budgeted amount under the month they’ll occur. It’s also okay to leave a category at $0 if you don’t plan on spending anything in that category within a given month.

Once you have your amounts allocated, look to see how it measures against your monthly income. If you’re under-budget, woohoo! With this extra money, look at adding more to your saving goal categories to help you reach your goals faster.

Example:

If you’re over-budget, some adjustments will need to be made. First, look at your variable expenses – are there any places you can reduce your budget such as groceries, entertainment, etc.? Adjust as needed until you become balanced, or even better yet, under-budget.

If money is really tight in one particular month, consider not budgeting money for one of your saving goals. Use this as a last resort though and ensure it doesn’t become a consistent thing. If you’re noticing a trend in not having enough money to cover your expenses month after month, consider bringing in extra income or making some changes in your day-to-day life. For example, pick up a part-time job to bring in more income or start using public transit to help reduce costs related to your vehicle.

One-time, occasional expenses

Expenses that only occur once or twice throughout the year can have a big impact on our monthly budget. For these expenses you can do two things:

  1. Budget the full amount in the month the expense occurs; or
  2. Budget smaller amounts each month leading up to the expense.

The second option helps reduce the pressure of finding these one-time costs within your budget all at once and is especially helpful if you have several large, one-time expenses that all occur within the same timeframe.

For example, your child plays soccer and club fees of $400 are due every September. Consider putting smaller amounts into your budget each month that can be used to pay for the expense when it comes due. If you were to start in February, by putting $30 away each month, you’ll have $210 by September which would only leave you with $190 extra to budget in September to help cover this expense.

Example:

Create separate savings accounts for your goals

When saving for your goals, place this money in a separate account for each goal. Set limits on accessibility (i.e., must go to a branch to access the money) to reduce the spending temptation. By placing in a savings or investment account, you’ll also gain interest and see the money grow faster.

If you put these all together, you have your annual budget – your full financial picture.

Setting a budget helps you focus on what’s important and gives you guidelines on how you’ll spend your money. It’ll be up to you though to ensure it actually happens the way you say it will. You can do this by keeping track of your spending – see Kick-start your finances: track your spending for more information.

Have any questions? Ask below in the comments!

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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.

van with luggage tied to top, driving on a beach

Planning a vacation? Consider this to save & be prepared

Planning a vacation somewhere hot? Or maybe to the mountains to hit up the slopes? Whatever your travel plans may be, here are a few tips to help you save and be prepared for your next vacation.


A recent Ipsos poll showed that 59% of Canadians said they aren’t confident they’ll take a vacation this winter. Given the deep freeze we’ve been experiencing here in Saskatchewan recently, some may be reconsidering. If you’re planning a trip this year, or in the future, here are a few things to consider to save you money as well as be prepared for your travels.

Do your research

You wouldn’t buy a car without doing your research, would you? The same rules should apply when planning a vacation. Go online or talk to a travel agent to determine the best options for you. You don’t need to plan every detail down to the minute, but knowing when you want to travel, where you want to go and how you want to get there will help you start gathering information on what best meets your needs and your wallet.

Avoid travelling during the peak season times

We know this isn’t always possible, especially if wanting to travel when your kids are out of school, but travelling during the off-season could mean lower prices. Christmas break and family week break tend to be busier and more expensive. Being flexible on your travel dates, sometimes by just a day or two, can help you not only save money but also avoid the crowds.

Look for seat sales

Many airlines offer seat sales throughout the year, especially to celebrate holidays and events such as Canada Day or Cyber Monday. Watch for these sales and compare airline prices to find your best price. A great app to use is Hopper – not only does it compare prices for you, it also send you a notification the instant a price drops. Don’t rush into booking your tickets. Allow yourself some time to watch ticket prices over a longer period of time. The extra time spent could keep a few extra dollars in your pocket.

Unfortunately, we know all too well the feeling of booking a flight and then seeing it go on sale a few days later. If this happens, be aware of any price guaranteed rules your airline may have. Some airlines will honour the new price within a certain time period from booking.

Utilize family discounts

If travelling with kids, look for family-friendly retailers that offer family discounts. There are many hotels and vacation packages that offer discounts such as kids stay and eat free. There may be a few restrictions, but it’s worth the money you could save in the end.

Get travel insurance

It’s always important to be prepared for the unexpected. Before travelling, know what type of travel insurance you have and purchase any additional insurance if necessary. When looking to see what coverage you have, be sure to check out any insurance your employer or financial institution may offer. Many credit cards also provide insurance if the card is used for booking/purchasing. If you’re unsure what insurance your financial institution offers, contact them directly to find out.

Protect your finances

Like at home, you should also protect yourself and your information when travelling. Only take cash, debit and credit cards that you’ll be using on the trip and leave the rest at home. Use your hotel room’s safe to store your items when you’re not using them such as extra cash, credit cards and valuable items (e.g., laptop, camera, phone, etc.). In the unfortunate event that you lose or have your card stolen, contact your financial institution immediately.

Whether travelling to a hot destination or just to the next province over, there are many ways you could save money. With all of the excitement of a trip, it is also important that you prepare yourself for the unexpected and keep yourself protected.

Are you planning a vacation this year? What other tips do you have that help you save money? We’d love to hear them – join the conversation by commenting below. Safe travels.

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Kick-start your finances: goal setting

Setting financial goals helps you to figure out what’s important, focus on priorities and analyze your wants vs. your needs. 


We all dream about what we want to do and what we want to achieve. From going on a vacation, paying off debt, putting money away for our child’s education or having enough money set aside for retirement; these dreams become our goals and like most things, have a financial component to them.

Unsure of where to start? Taking the time to set goals will provide you with an understanding of your big picture. It allows you to figure out what’s important to you, focus on priorities and analyze your needs vs. your wants. Below you will find some advice on creating realistic and achievable financial goals, helping you make tomorrow, today.

Creating goals

There are three types of goals:

  1. Short-term Goals: These are goals that you can achieve in a short amount of time – less than one year – and can include things such as a minor home renovation, paying off a credit card or starting an emergency fund. These goals can also be shorter goals that contribute to a larger, long-term goal such as starting to put a small amount of money away for retirement.
  2. Intermediate Goals: These goals take a bit longer to achieve – between one to five years. Saving money for a down-payment on a home or saving for a family vacation are great examples that may fit into this category.
  3. Long-term Goals: These goals tend to be longer – 10+ years. These goals are often re-assessed throughout the course of their timeframes to ensure you’re on track and often are adjusted due to changing situations/environments. Some examples of long-term goals may include saving for your child’s education, paying off a student loan or saving enough money to retire.

Now that you know the different types of goals, write down your short-term, intermediate, and long-term goals for 2018. When making a list think about things such as:

  • What makes you happy? (e.g., family, vacation)
  • What makes you stressed? (e.g., credit card debt)
  • What do you wish you had? (e.g., new furniture)
  • What things do you like doing? (e.g., traveling, spending time with friends)
  • Where do you see yourself in one year? (e.g., taking a hot vacation) Five years? (e.g., having a down payment for a home) Ten years? (e.g., having my student loans paid off)
  • What does having overall financial well-being mean to you? (e.g., understanding my money and not having to worry if I’ll have enough when I retire.)

When setting your goals include specifics, such as costs and timelines. Also look to see if your goals are realistic and achievable. Small goals are easier to reach and help train your brain into believing you can achieve it. This can also increase your chance of success in future goals. Below is an example of how you can take the things important to you and group into short-term, intermediate and long-term goals.

Prioritize. Prioritize. Prioritize.

Once you have your goals written and organized, it’s time to prioritize. This will help you understand what’s most important and where you should focus your time, money and energy.

Though it is great to have lots of goals, actually achieving them all may be difficult. You must take a look at your goals and ensure they’re also realistic and achievable when you look at them all together. It’s important to set yourself up for success and work within your means.

Prioritizing will also allow you to make any adjustments needed to make these goals achievable. When prioritizing ask yourself:

  • If you could only achieve one of these items, which one would it be?
  • Are there any goals on my list that are needs vs. wants?
  • How long do I have to achieve this goal – is that a must or can it be adjusted?
  • Can I break any of my larger goals into smaller goals?
  • Can I put a hold on any of these goals and begin working on only once I have completed another goal?

When prioritizing and making adjustments, be aware of how achieving these goals will impact your finances now. Online calculators can help you understand exactly what you need to do now to achieve your goal within your timeline. Depending on your current financial situation and the impact your goal will have (e.g., monthly contributions), you may need to re-adjust or plan your goals differently.

Team effort

If you are married or have a significant other in which you share financial responsibilities with, it’s essential you work together when creating your financial goals. Work together to develop a list of goals and discuss what’s a priority and what’s not. Together, determine what is achievable and ensure you’re on the same page – if not, you could be setting yourself up for failure. Once set, be each other’s motivation and hold each other accountable to help ensure success.

Talk to your financial advisor

The most important thing you can do once you’ve created and prioritized your list of goals is to talk with your financial advisor. They will be able to provide you with advice on your goals and help you look at the big picture. They may also identify any obstacles that impact you reaching these goals and provide guidance on what types of adjustments can be made. Your financial advisor will also be able to tell you which products, such as RRSPs, Tax-Free Savings Accounts, mutual funds, etc., you should consider helping contribute towards your success.

When it comes to kick-starting your finances, start off by understanding what’s important to you and what you want to achieve with your finances.  Create short-term, intermediate, and long-term goals and prioritize accordingly. Once you’re done, make an appointment with your financial advisor to discuss and determine what tools and resources are available to help you succeed. Don’t have a financial advisor, no worries – you can request financial advice here.

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Being real with your New Year’s resolutions

Only about 8% of people actually achieve their New Year’s resolutions. Here we explain why and help you to set resolutions that are achievable.


Have you ever said to yourself that you will start doing something tomorrow, yet tomorrow never comes? Or had a bunch of New Year’s resolutions that you quickly gave up on and added back to your list the next year?

You’re not alone. When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, approx. 8% of people actually achieve them. But why is that? The answer… you.

When it comes to setting New Year’s resolutions we tend to set the expectations way too high, setting ourselves up for failure right from the start. And if the resolution is achievable, many times we don’t make the effort or change our behaviours that would allow us to succeed.

We need to stop setting ourselves up for failure and really focus on making tomorrow, today. Whether you want to improve your personal fitness and nutrition, focus on your finances or quit bad habits, you need to ensure your goals are attainable and provide a realistic expectation, a target date and an action plan on how you will achieve your goal.

Example 1: attainable goals

For example, in 2018 you want to increase the number of days you go to the gym from once a week to four times a week. Instead of jumping in feet first, set a target date and slowly incorporate a new gym day into your weekly routine until you are up to four gym days a week. Create an action plan on when you will go to the gym by booking time in your calendar in advance. By writing it down, you’ll be more motivated to do it and won’t be tempted to book yourself for something else.

Success will also require you to make changes to your lifestyle and behaviours. New Year’s resolutions won’t happen on their own and you must take action or make changes to see results.

Example 2: changing behaviours

Your 2018 resolution is to save money by cutting out your morning coffee purchase. In order to do this though, you must change your behaviour in stopping each morning. You may also need to create a new habit of making a coffee at home each morning to eliminate the temptation of stopping, which in the end will help you succeed.

Changing behaviours can be hard and you must be consistent in order for them to become a part of your everyday norm. According to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes a minimum of 21 days to form or change a habit. That doesn’t seem too long when you read it but can feel like forever when trying to do it. Don’t panic though – stay consistent and hold yourself accountable – within time, you won’t even remember what the old norm was.

The key to achieving your New Year’s resolution is ensuring it’s attainable and having an action plan that helps you succeed. When it comes to your financial planning resolutions, we’re here to help.

Starting Jan. 1, we’re challenging you to Kick-Start Your Finances by taking our 6-week challenge. Each week, we’ll be tackling a new topic related to you and your money and we encourage you to join us along the way. Together, we can build an action plan and help you take control of your finances in 2018. Join us next week to learn more and take the challenge!

Happy New Year!

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?