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Celebrating 100 MONEYTALK Blogs: Top 10 Blogs

Can you believe it!? We’ve made it to MONEYTALK Blog #100! For our 100th blog, we are going to look back at ten of our most viewed and relevant blogs that provides relatable financial literacy advice for a variety of different topics, events and life stages. 


Money is stressful and everyone is experiencing their own unique life stages and financial situations. There is no one-size-fits-all model when it comes to providing financial advice.

In November 2017, we launched the Conexus #MONEYTALK Blog with a purpose to share expert advice, practical help and real-life experiences for relatable topics and life stages. Time flies when you are exploring financial literacy from a different lens because it’s hard to believe that three and a half years later – we are celebrating our 100th Blog! From blogs on money saving hacks at Rider games to renewing your mortgage during a global pandemic, our authors have explored topical and relevant events and have provided advice to ensure you are best equipped to navigate your financial well-being through whatever life throws at you.

To celebrate this milestone, blog #100 is looking back at ten of our most popular and still relevant blogs that have been published over the past three and a half years. These ten blogs approach financial literacy from a number of different perspectives so it is no surprise that eight of our authors are featured in this list. Enjoy our walk down memory lane and here’s to the next 100 blogs!

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. (Author: Melissa Fiacco, November 2020)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

More COVID-19 Scams to Monitor

During this pandemic, it’s not just your physical health at risk, your financial health may be as well. Throughout times of uncertainty we are seeing fraudsters launch sophisticated scams, exploiting public fears for targeted attacks – and we’re definitely in uncertain times.  In addition to the scams we went over earlier, here are five more of the most prevalent COVID-19 scams we’re seeing used to attack people’s financial health and how you can protect yourself from being a victim. (Author: Rachel Langen, April 2020)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

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!  (Author: Kailyn Carter, January 2020) 

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

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. (Author: Mason Gardiner, November 2019)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

The Cost of Being Single

Single and ready to mingle? Well, if you didn’t need another reason to despise Valentine’s Day,  I’m about to give you one more – independence is expensive. Whether you are choosing to live the single life or you just haven’t met the right catch yet, you’ve probably experienced some of the nuisances that come with taking on the world on your own. (Author: Mason Gardiner, June 2019)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

The Real Cost of Carrying a Balance on a Credit Card

Do you know what it actually costs when you carry a balance on your credit card? We’ve broken it down and even have a tool to figure out how long it might take you to pay off your balance. (Author: Kailyn Carter, May 2019)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

5 Activities for Young Kids: Introduction to Money

Introducing your kids to money early on can create a foundation for financial knowledge and positively impact how they manage money later. (Author: Laura McKnight; June 2018)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

Tips for First-Time Home Buyers

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. (Author: Nicole Haynes-Siminoff, March 2018)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE 

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. (Author: Courtney Rink, March 2018)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

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. (Author: Francis Dixon, December 2017)

LINK: READ THE BLOG HERE

Puppy Ownership: Financial Costs, Tips & Advice

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


Meet Nash!

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

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

Obvious and hidden costs of getting a pet

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

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

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

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

Expect the Unexpected

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

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

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

Start saving early

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

Keep saving

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

Space out your purchases

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

Cut costs where you can

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

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

An image showing growing investments

Should I Be Investing During a Pandemic?

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

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


The short answer is “Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

Time is your friend

Time is the great equalizer.

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

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

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

*Image provided by Credential®. Issue Date: 2018.11.23

Rates of return: Average vs Fixed

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

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

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

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

What about Wealth Simple?

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

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

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

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

In conclusion

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

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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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.

The Gift Of Goals & How To Reach Them

Tis’ the season for spending.  If it’s not school textbooks and parking passes, then it’s hockey fees and new skates for the kids. If you’re like me, you’ve already caught the holiday fever and you’re shopping for gifts and baking supplies. Among all this spending on others during this time of year there is one person we forget to include – ourselves. It’s important to make sure we are giving ourselves the gift of time and effort by setting up some of our own financial goals.


Make a List. Check it Twice.

Setting financial goals and how you plan to achieve them is an essential part of financial literacy. But how do you get started?

The easiest way to get started is by making a list. This study on goal setting found that we are 42% more likely to achieve our goals when we write them down. Don’t let bad hand writing stop you, writing down your goals can come in many forms; write in a notebook, type it into the notes section on your phone or save a spreadsheet. Don’t be afraid to get creative! What works well for me is to attach sticky notes on the fridge beside my grocery list. I find that with the amount of times I open the fridge, I’m constantly being reminded of my financial goals and it really helps when you are taking inventory of what you need to buy for groceries.

Your financial goals and how you plan to attack them are unique to you, so why wouldn’t the way you write them down be?  If all it takes to get some motivation to increase your chances of achieving your goals is by writing down a list then that is ink put to good use!

I’m also a big list person and to show you how serious I am about them,  I am going to give you some tips I’ve learned for setting financial goals in, you guessed it – a list!

Try These Tips!

Create SMART goals:

Setting goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely gives you a sense of direction, helps you organize and track your progress.

Set ‘sub goals’:

Achieving a long term goal can seem overwhelming when you look at it as a whole. Break it down by setting smaller goals that contribute to the long term. Achieving these help you see the progress you are making and keep up the motivation to continue working towards the larger goal. We all know there are times we need a little extra motivation so it’s important to acknowledge and celebrate achieving the smaller goals along the way.

Share your goals:

Sharing is caring right? By telling a friend or a family member our goals helps motivate us and holds us accountable. I might be slightly more competitive than the average person, but telling others makes me want to do anything not to fail, not only for myself but for them too. The same study referenced above showed that over 70% of participants who shared their progress on their goals with a friend actually accomplished or made significant steps toward accomplishing their goals. Bring on the goal gossip!

Speak to a financial advisor:

When in doubt, speak to someone who helps set financial goals for a living – a financial advisor. They are able to provide advice and different solutions you may have never thought of. They will also be a cheerleader in your corner and hold you accountable in your progress.

Check and cheer:

Make sure you monitor your progress, keep an eye on your current status and be open to adapting as your needs change. When you do reach that goal (big or small) – CELEBRATE! You’ve put a lot of time, preparation and thought into getting yourself into a better position financially so celebrate that feeling when you’ve saved enough for a hot vacation and can still afford groceries! For me, one of the best feelings I’ve had was when I was finally able to put a down payment on my house while leaving enough budget to furnish the place. Trust me – it’s worth it!


Now that you have the tools you need it’s up to you to get started! There is no better time than now to give yourself the gift of financial goal setting, especially during the high spend season!

In the spirit of sharing, we want to hear what tips have worked for you with your financial goal setting? Help the rest of us out!

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!