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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!

Condo or condon’t? Is condo living right for you?

Purchasing a house is a huge decision and choosing the type of home you buy adds a whole other layer. Let’s break down all things condos so that you can make sure you think about all the options because after all, you’re the one who will have to live with it – or in this case, in it.


Are you currently considering purchasing a home for the first time? Or are you possibly looking to downsize from a house to a condo? Before making a purchase, especially one as big as a house, it’s important to weigh all the pros and cons. As a current condo owner for the past three years, I’ve started a list of things to consider to help you decide if condo life is right for your lifestyle.

Condo Pros

Condo living comes with a lot of pros – here are some that I would consider positive:

  • Low Maintenance – Condos usually come with snow removal and landscaping built into condo fees.
  • Affordability – Condos tend to be lower in price and newer, so you get more bang for your buck.
  • Amenities – If you get lucky, your condo could have access to some extra amenities, such as a pool, fitness centre, clubhouse, meeting space, BBQ, underground parking, gated community park, etc. These extra amenities could also help you save money on other expenses, like no gym membership or sharing a BBQ.
  • Less Hidden Costs – What you see is what you get with a condo. There are usually no extra costs when it comes to shingle repair, deck, landscaping, etc.
  • Location, Location, Location – Many condos are located close to downtown or commercial developments so you’re usually within walking distance to city attractions.
  • Size – Bigger doesn’t have to be better, especially when it comes to cleaning a big house or buying furniture to fill it. Depending on the condo, they usually give you a good size designed for comfortable living for families while allowing space for storage.
  • Utility Savings – Sometimes utility costs are built into your condo fees which means you share utility costs with your fellow tenants. This can be a blessing or a curse (depending if you have neighbours who love to take 45 minute showers), but by sharing utility costs – you avoid having to pay setup and maintenance fees. You also don’t have to worry about paying multiple bills during the month.
  • Board Experience – Each condo building typically has a Condo Board that makes decisions for your facility like the use of your reserve fund and any increases/decreases to your condo fees. If you are looking to gain Board experience, this is a great place to start while also having a say in what happens in your neighborhood.

Condo Cons

Here are some of the cons that come with condo living that I would suggest you consider before committing to a condo:

  • Close Quarters – You’re usually sharing walls with neighbours resulting in loud distributions and lack of privacy. I used to live beside a neighbour who had a dog that really missed them when they got home from their nightly shift work at 4:00 a.m.
  • Difficulty Re-Selling – Depending on the market, a condo can generally take longer to sell since condo living is not for everyone, market saturation or too many condos are on the re-sale market.
  • Lack of Back Yard – One luxury I wish I had access to would be a bigger back yard. I do have something (and by “something” I mean a strip of shared grass), but it is tough to entertain during the summer when you don’t have access to a large lawn or privacy from your neighbours.
  • Rules – Condos tend to have set rules that vary per condo like “quiet time”, no pets, renovation restrictions, no smoking, etc. unlike living in a stand along home where you are generally free to do what you want to do.
  • Condo Fees – As mentioned in the pros, condos come with condo fees that go towards the building upkeep, shared utilities such as hydro, electric, grounds keeping and a reserve fund for emergencies (although this could be considered a positive – yay for savings!). The older your condo building is, the higher your condo fees can be as there is generally an uptick in the amount of upkeep needed for the building.

When purchasing a home, I highly recommend making a good ol’ fashioned pro and con list for each separate property because it’s highly unlikely you will find a home that has absolutely everything and a list will help weigh your options so you can find out what you can live with and what you can’t live without.


Do you or have you lived in a condo and have any pros and cons to consider? Comment below!

Help! I Need a Mortgage!

Purchasing a home, especially your first, will be one of the most expensive and important purchases of your life. It’s important to understand how the process works and the impact that buying a home can make on your short and long term finances. Follow these three handy tips to see how much house you can afford! 


Did you ever drive around with your parents during the holidays looking for the best lights in town and thought “I wonder how much this actually costs?” Or maybe you’ve started looking at listings in neighborhoods you’d like to live in, only to realize you have no idea how much you can afford? Whatever the case may be, securing a mortgage is an intimidating process. We’re here to help with a three step process that gives you a great starting point for where to go and how to makes sure it fits your budget.

Step 1: Check, Check, Check It Out

Are you ready for this next chapter to begin? It starts with a word that still sends shivers down everyone’s spine after high school… “homework”.

First you’ll need to determine your credit score. I recommend sitting down with your financial advisor who will be able to best accurately determine how much debt you’ll be able to undertake.

Financial advisors use your credit score to determine whether you qualify for a mortgage and how much you will qualify for (alongside the Mortgage Stress Test). An easy way to take a realistic look at your spending patterns is by going through your banking and credit card history. Staying in touch with your current spending habits will prevent any unpleasant surprises when going in to discuss your options with your advisor.  

Step 2: Evaluation Time: What Can You Spend?

Figuring out “how much you can afford to spend” versus “what you should spend” can be hard. Imagine spending your entire budget on your lavish dream home, but you can’t invite anyone over because you don’t have furniture for them to sit on. Compare that with a home within your means that you can afford with furnishings that you, your friends and family will enjoy. Just because you qualify to buy a large house, doesn’t mean you should make yourself “house broke”. If you purchase a home and leave yourself some wiggle room, it’ll give you more flexibility to spend your disposable income on other things such as trips, family, and decor for your new digs! Ask your financial advisor about the lifestyle trade-offs that occur when you take that step to become a homeowner.

I also recommend talking to your financial advisor about creating a budget that provides a holistic picture of your current expenses, long-term expenses, future expenses, and miscellaneous expenses that will come with being a new homeowner. Compare this budget with your current spending habits you identified in step one and you should be able to identify if you can realistically afford the purchase of a home. Need some help? We have some tools to help you create a budget. 

Tip: Practice living on this self-made budget for a while before making the steps to purchase. This way, you know that you can actively save and handle the budget change while making sure it is accurate.

Step 3: What You Should Spend & Knowing the Fees

Time to look at all the fees that come with buying a home! *Gulp* Many of these fees exist on top of the cost of your home so make sure you leave room in your budget.

  • Down payment (at least 5%),
  • Mortgage Default Insurance Premiums
    • Your down payment amount affects the costs associated with your mortgage. The higher your down payment, the less Mortgage Default Insurance Premiums (more commonly known as CMHC). Mortgage Default Insurance Premiums are mandatory in Canada, and are calculated based on your down payment amount. These fees are an insurance on your mortgage. If you can realistically afford putting down a 20% down payment, you can avoid paying CMHC. If you have the means to save for a 20% down payment, it will save you a ton of money.
  • Appraisal fees,
  • Home inspection fees,
  • Land transfer fees, and
  • Lawyer fees (approximately 1.5% of the total cost of your home)

As well, remember that once you buy a place to call home, your total monthly house costs are much more than just your mortgage payment and things like property taxes, home insurance and condo fees should be added to your budget. One of our previous blogs explores the expenses of homeownership.

In Canada, there are guidelines on how much an individual can spend on a house, based on your monthly income. In most cases, it is recommended that your monthly housing costs do not exceed 30-40% of your total gross monthly income. There are many good reasons to stay well under that number, remember, all those pesky fees and your monthly house costs we discussed above? They stack up fast and can leave you “house broke” if you are not careful.


Only you can decide your lifestyle and how much you’re comfortable spending each month, and if having a mortgage payment is right for you. Your finances are one of the most crucial and personal pieces of your life so it is important that you feel confident making the decisions that are right for you!

Are you thinking of purchasing a home? What advice do you have for people looking to buy a home? Share your thoughts in the comments below, it’s on the house!

engaged couple holding a sign that says I said yes!

I’m engaged! Now what?

Being newly engaged is such an exciting time and an important part of the wedding milestone. But it’s important to put down all the wedding magazines and hold booking venues, to take some time to enjoy the engagement bliss and focus on your wedding budget with your partner first.


Congratulations! Now it’s time to freak out

Your turn has come where you’re finally engaged to be married and the first few moments are blissful and celebratory. Before you know it, the champagne flutes are empty and your Pinterest board has more pins than a sewing kit. It doesn’t take you long for the stress to kick in and you start asking yourself, ‘How am I ever going to afford my dream wedding?’

Hit pause

In the first month after you get engaged, it’s very important to take time to let these special moments soak in and avoid making big decisions. Instead, talk to your partner and discuss one-on-one what you both want your wedding to look like. This can be a challenge, especially as you may be tempted to make decisions right away and people are asking you every day if you’ve started planning. To avoid these inevitable questions have a planned response such as, “We haven’t started planning much, but we’re thinking a small wedding sometime next summer.” This will usually end the conversation without being rude or opening yourself up to outside opinions – trust me, you’ll get them.

Start the budget

Warning: you’ll want to sit down for this.

Now that you’ve taken time to soak up the first part of the engagement and have those crucial conversations with your partner on what you want your wedding day to look like, it’s time to get started with wedding planning. Before deciding on a venue, guests, or what your flowers will look like, you’ll first need to tackle setting a budget for your special day. It can be a lot and I recommend taking it one step at a time as to avoid feeling overwhelmed – start with these 3 steps:

  1. Decide on a wedding budget – This can sometimes start with conversations on who else would be contributing to your wedding and what dollar amount they are putting in. From there you will know how much will be coming out of your own pocket. Make sure your budget includes everything from rings, gifts, to finally the honeymoon. It’s also important to leave a 5% – 10% contingency in case you go over.
  2. List your priorities – Decide what’s most important to you as a couple. Is it food? Then spend more on food. Maybe it’s music – be willing to spend more on entertainment. If it’s just simply having everyone there, the more people usually come with a bigger price tag so you’ll need to compromise on other items, like no dinner and instead do a canapé hour.
  3. Get a budgeting tool – I like using Wedding Wire Budget Planner because it tracks all my categories for spending, tallies the costs against my total decided budget and sends reminders for payments. The biggest mistake you can make is not tracking your spending and costs get out of control pushing you off budget.

Now that your budget and priorities are decided the fun stuff can begin! Start doing your research on venues and vendors and try to stay calm when you see price quotes come back – that’s why you made a budget at the start. The fact is, weddings are expensive and the average cost of a Canadian wedding in 2018 was $27,000, but this doesn’t mean that’s what your wedding needs to cost. Don’t get hung up on what other people are doing and instead focus on what is right for you as a couple and what fits within your budget.

Are you married or getting married? I’d love to know what your wedding budget was/is as well as any challenges you had when it came to your budget and costs related to your wedding. As well, do you have any wedding cost saving tips? Comment below to share and be sure to check back soon for future wedding advice and tip blogs.

five friends celebrating New Year's Eve

Ring in NYE without all the bells

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


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

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

No expectations approach

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

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

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

Don’t break your bank

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

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

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

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

List of payments

How much money should I spend on…

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


 

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

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

Housing

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

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

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

Transportation

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

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

Living expenses

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

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

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

Debt repayment

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

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

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

Savings

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

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

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

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

Baby lying down with silly face

Surviving the first year of parenthood: advice from Moms

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


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

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

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

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

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

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