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person holding sign that says budget

Kick-start your finances: creating a budget

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


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

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

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

Determining your monthly income

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creating a budget based on what you have

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

Example:

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

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

Example:

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

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

One-time, occasional expenses

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

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

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

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

Example:

Create separate savings accounts for your goals

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

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

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

Have any questions? Ask below in the comments!

retired couple hiking in field

Retirement: will you have enough?

Retirement – whether far away or just around the corner, it will require some planning in advance. Are you prepared?


We all dream of the day we’ll retire. No more alarm clock and having to get up early to go to work. Being able to take a nap whenever we like. And doing the things we want, whenever we want – a golf game at 2 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon, why not?

Being able to do all the things we want when we retire though will require some planning in advance. It’s recommended to start early and if you haven’t started yet, it’s not too late. When planning for your retirement, here are a few things you should consider.

How much money will I need?

The amount of money you’ll need to retire will depend on what you plan on doing and the expenses you’ll incur. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • At what age do I want to retire?
  • What types of expenses will I have when I retire such as housing, bills, etc.?
  • What type of health insurance will I need? Will I need extra coverage as I get older?
  • What types of activities/hobbies do I plan on doing such as traveling, etc.?
  • Will I move into a senior’s complex and what expenses will I have?
  • Do I want to leave an inheritance for my family?

Considering all factors, what yearly income would you need and feel comfortable living off of? Take this amount and divide by 12 to get your monthly income. Is this still an amount you’re comfortable with? If not, you may need to relook at the things you may want to do or think about increasing your yearly income to make an amount that you’re happy with.

I know how much money I’ll need, but now what?

Now that you have an amount in mind that you want to retire with, you need to put together a plan on how to start saving money to reach this goal. Starting early is key as it allows you to save more over a longer period of time. Starting later is still possible, but you may have to put more money away in a shorter amount of time to reach your goals.

A retirement calculator helps you figure out the amount of savings you’ll need each year to meet your retirement needs. It takes into account any money you’ve already saved, retirement income you may receive from the government or an employer and rate of returns. It also helps show if you’re on track and provides advice on adjusting your savings if you have a shortfall.

Through the calculator, you’ll be able to see what yearly contributions you should be making. To find a monthly amount, take the yearly contributions and divide by 12. Does this amount fit your budget? If not, consider adjusting your retirement goal or putting away smaller amounts that fit your budget now with a plan to reevaluate and increase contributions over the next several years.

When creating a plan, it’s great to have an understanding of what your goals are and what is needed from you now in order to reach your long-term goals. It’s also important to know that things change in life and you may need to adjust your plan along the way. This is why it’s also important to speak with a financial advisor when creating a plan as they can provide guidance and advice based on your needs and things that may change over time. A financial advisor can also help determine what products would be in your best interest and help reach your goals.

Where should I invest my money?

Everyone’s situation and goals are unique as should be the products to best meet your goals and needs.  There are many different ways you can save and invest money for retirement such as RRSPs, TFSAs, etc. Talking with a financial advisor will help determine what products work best for you. Prior to discussing, become familiar with the different options available and jot down any questions you may have.  Your financial advisor can help answer these questions and set you up with any products identified in your personalized plan.

When planning your retirement, there are many factors to consider and starting as early as possible is key. First, understand what you want when you retire and factor in all related expenses. Talk to a financial advisor to help determine where you want to be and how to get there. And then start investing today. Putting as little as $20 every couple of weeks now can make a big difference later on. There’s no better investment than in yourself and your future… so what are you waiting for?

black background with hanging lightbulbs

Cut your energy costs today

Becoming more energy efficient is a great way to potentially save money. Check out these energy-saving tips to get started.


Thinking back over the last few weeks and the cold weather we’ve been experiencing, how many times did you go and turn up your thermostat? With the days being shorter, have you noticed a change in how often, and long, you’ve needed your lights on?

All of these things impact energy consumption and the costs can add up quickly. Unfortunately, most times we don’t realize the financial impact until we receive our monthly bill. This is especially true during the winter months as our energy usage, and our bills, tend to increase due to the weather we’re experiencing.

When it comes to the power we use, there are many things we can do to reduce what we use and in turn, reduce the money we pay each month. SaskPower provided us with the following eight power-saving tips that can help the environment and reduce your power bill at the same time – and who doesn’t want that!

  • Turn down the thermostat when no one is home. Cooling and heating represents approximately a quarter of residential power bills.
  • Plug in your car with a timer. Even on the coldest nights, your vehicle only needs to be plugged in for four hours. Using a block heater timer can save you about $25 per year on your power bill.
  • Turn off your lights when possible. Shorter days and longer nights mean interior lights in your home are on longer.
  • Convert to LED lights. Along with shutting lights off, you can cut the electricity needed for lighting your home by three-quarters by using LED bulbs.
  • Running a space heater 24/7 can be expensive. To help manage your energy costs, try extra blankets or a sweater first.
  • Only preheat your oven for baking, and only if the recipe calls for it. Most foods like roasts and casseroles don’t need a preheated oven to cook properly.
  • Use the right burner. Using a six-inch pot on an eight-inch burner on an electric stove can waste more than 40 percent of the burner’s heat.
  • Check your fireplace. When it isn’t heating the room and warming your toes, a fireplace may be cooling your house. Make sure the damper is closed when the fireplace isn’t in use to keep cold air out and warm air in.

Throughout the year, also look for in-store rebate programs typically offered by SaskPower in the spring and fall. Through these programs you can purchase energy-efficient products at a discounted price, and in turn reduce your energy costs – that’s a double save right there!

In order to see a difference on your energy bills though, you’ll need to do some work and change behaviours to ensure you’re more energy conscious. A small change may not be as noticeable but when you make multiple changes, and look at the impact over a longer period of time, the results can be shocking.

There’s no better time to start than today. Create a plan on how you can become more energy efficient and figure out the necessary actions to take today! For more information on power-saving tips, visit http://www.saskpower.com/efficiency-programs-and-tips/.

van with luggage tied to top, driving on a beach

Planning a vacation? Consider this to save & be prepared

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


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

Do your research

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

Avoid travelling during the peak season times

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

Look for seat sales

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

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

Utilize family discounts

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

Get travel insurance

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

Protect your finances

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

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

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

man kick boxing

Kick-start your finances: goal setting

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


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

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

Creating goals

There are three types of goals:

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

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

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

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

Prioritize. Prioritize. Prioritize.

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

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

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

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

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

Team effort

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

Talk to your financial advisor

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

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

busy shopping mall

Boxing Day shop like a champ

Take the stress out of Boxing Day shopping by following a few of these tips that will help make the best of your time, money and sanity.


We understand Boxing Day can be quite chaotic especially when you start to think about the large crowds, long lines and the amount of money exchanging hands. A survey by RetailMeNot.ca showed that Canadians could spend as much as $600 this year on Boxing Day and New Years. When asked how in-store Boxing Day shopping made Canadians feel, it isn’t surprising to hear 77% said “overwhelming”.

To help with that overwhelming feeling, we’ve put together a few tips to help you prepare for Boxing Day shopping and make the best of your time, money and sanity!

Create a game plan

Boxing Day can be full of temptations and impulse buying. Setting a game plan in advance will ensure you shop with intention and help you avoid those unnecessary purchase.

Prior to shopping, make a list of the things you are wanting to buy. Prioritize the list and identify want vs need purchases. Are all the items on your list an absolute must-need?

Next part of your plan should be to set a budget prior to Boxing Day shopping. Without one, you can easily spend more than you’re comfortable with causing buyer’s remorse and stress later on. Use this budget to re-evaluate your list and determine if there are any items you could reconsider purchasing or that you can purchase at a later date.

Do your research

Research before venturing out for the day, taking a look at flyers, going online or even using apps such as Flipp to compare item prices at different stores. Write down the stores you plan on visiting to buy the items on your list. Use this list to map out your route to help save travel time and gas! Be sure to only stop at places on your list.

Another thing to look for when researching is week-long Boxing Day sales. Many retailers now extend their Boxing Day sales for the length of the week to reduce a bit of shopping chaos. Instead of going out into the crowds all in one day, are there any items you can purchase throughout the week that allow you to still get the sale price? This can also help reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed by not trying to make your purchases all in one day

Consider online shopping

Many retailers will also have Boxing Day sales through their online sites, some even starting a few days before or right at 12:01 a.m. Boxing Day. The only downside to online shopping is having to wait for the item to ship. Depending on the item, is it an absolute must that you need the item right that second or can you wait a few days until it arrives in the mailbox?

If online shopping, be cautious of shipping and exchange rates. Sometimes the costs can outweigh the convenience of shopping online and there may be a few items that are better off you going to the store for.

Leave your credit cards at home

A simple way to not overspend on Boxing Day is to leave your credit cards at home. Only use cash or debit for Boxing Day purchases to help eliminate the temptation of buying something that’s not on your list.

If using cash, only bring as much as your budget. Once the cash is gone, you know it’s time to stop shopping. If using debit, keep track of your purchases by writing and totalling your amounts on a piece of paper. Once you’ve hit your limit, it’s time to go home.

Avoid group shopping

Shopping with friends can be fun, but creates opportunities for temptation. When you’re with a group, you tend to go into stores that you wouldn’t necessarily have gone into if you were by yourself which often leads to an unnecessary purchase. If you didn’t plan on going into that store originally, you most likely didn’t know that item existed – is it really something you need to buy?

Consider shopping alone or with one person. If partnering up, make a game plan together. Also, ask your friend to help you from impulse buying by having them look at your items before purchasing and providing their opinion.

If you do go into a store that you weren’t originally planning to, avoid impulse buying temptations and stick to the items on your list. Think about it… you weren’t planning to go to that store and the item you didn’t know existed nor was on your list. Just because you see the item now, is it really something you need to buy?

Avoid spending to save

We all know the deals on Boxing Day can be great but beware of the deals that make you spend more to save. A great example of this is the ‘Buy One Item, Get Another 50% Off’ deal. Yes, the second item is 50% off, but if you were only planning to purchase one in the first place, you now are paying 50% over your budget for the second item. Many stores also put the discount on the lowest priced item, which also can cause you to spend more than you were planning.

When looking for deals, be sure to read the fine print, sign and prices carefully. Also, become familiar with the store’s return policy so that if you decide you no longer want it, you are able to return it.

When it comes to a successful Boxing Day shopping haul, patience and comfortable shoes will be the most important thing. Paired with the tips above, you’ll also eliminate spending stress and hours spent in stores and lines. Happy shopping!

holiday cup and pastry

Holiday entertainment on a budget

The holidays can be quite busy and costly, especially if you’re hosting a holiday party with family and friends. Here are a few tips on how you can save when entertaining for the holidays.


When you think of December the first few words that may come to mind are busy and expensive. From the parties, work events, concerts, school activities and more, it all starts to add up not only in costs but also time.

Hosting a party  can be a daunting task in itself and when you factor in the stress of costs, it may not seem worth it. To help save on costs, and stress, we’ve put together a few tips for holiday entertaining, ensuring to make you the hostess-with-the-mostess.

Invite guests by e-card

There are tons of great free ecard options available online that allow you to invite your guests by email. These sites are quick and easy to use and also give you the ability to design the invitation to fit your party theme. As an added bonus, some sites even allow you to manage RSVPs and message guests through the invite! A site we recommend for all your party invitation needs is www.evite.com.

Image via www.evite.com.

Host a potluck

Potlucks not only make it easier on the host but also are a great way to save on costs. Instead of planing and purchasing every food item for your event, request your guests each bring a dish.

To switch it up from the usual random potluck, select a theme and have everyone bring a dish related to that theme. You can then carry the theme throughout the rest of your party in your decorations or even a signature drink. Check out a few great potluck theme ideas here.

Borrow from the outdoors

Decorating can be the most expensive part of hosting a party. Luckily you shouldn’t need to invest too much into décor since you likely have already decorated for the holiday season. To add that something extra to your table setting, try bringing the outdoors inside by using spruce trees, branches and pine cones as your centrepiece. We love the idea of using pinecones as a name tag holder or to label your guests’ potluck dishes.

Image via DIY Cozy Home.

Holiday mug gift exchange

Having a gift exchange is a great way to get into the holiday spirit of giving. Why not put a spin on the gift exchange and ask your guests to each bring a holiday mug to your party to exchange. You can set a price limit on a mug and have your guests purchase from a local store, or you can do a re-gift only where your guests will bring a holiday mug they already own for the exchange.

Take the theme further by having a dessert hot chocolate bar where your guests can use their new mugs. Don’t forget to include the marshmallows, whip cream and all the candy fixings to go on top!

Image via Home Cooking Memories

Cozy Up With The Classics

Nothing screams the holidays like a classic holiday movie! Have your guests bring their favourite holiday movie and then get everyone to vote on which one to watch. Most votes wins. All you’ll then need to do is pop some popcorn and cozy up to watch a holiday classic!

Here are a few of our favourites:

  • It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
  • Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
  • A Christmas Carol (1951)
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
  • A Christmas Story (1983)
  • Home Alone (1990)
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
  • Elf (2003)

The holidays are about gathering with loved ones, reminiscing about the past year and filling your home with joy, laughter and fun. Your party should not be measured by the amount spent, but instead on the memories made. Spending more money can make your party look more impressive, but it’s the experience and the memories you share that make the night priceless.

homemade holiday gift

The secret ingredient is love: DIY gifts

Homemade is always the best type of gift. Here are a few DIY gift ideas sure to impress those you love and help you to save money.


We all know that the holiday season can be stressful. Trying to find that perfect gift for the ones you love, while also not breaking the bank. Sometimes the best gifts are the ones we personalize and that come straight from the heart with love. Here are a few DIY gift ideas that are sure to impress the ones on your list, and help you save a little on your gift giving this year.

Holiday baking

 

Nothing says I love you more than a delicious, homemade treat. The Food Network Canada has several tasty recipes that make perfect gifts this holiday season – check them out here. Consider making a few different items and packaging a variety of deliciousness in a holiday tin.

Edible gifts in a jar

Know someone who is on the go all of the time and needs a quick-fix meal? Or someone that wants to bake but without all of the hassle of buying the ingredients, etc.? Consider putting together an edible gift jar specially made for the person in mind. There are so many different options you can do from muffins, brownies, soup, salsa, jams and more. Check out 30 recipes by the Taste of Home here.

Date night jar

Date night ideas on sticks in a jar

Date Night Photo by Meaghan Morris @MeaghanMorris.com

We all know date night can get expensive – dinner, activities, babysitter, etc. The planning also can become quite exhausting. A great idea way to ensure date night does happen, without having to break the bank each time is a ‘Date Night Activity’ jar.

To create, first make a list of different date night activities – check out 101 examples here. Be sure to include items that won’t cost you anything such as going for a walk or items that will cost you very little such as going for a coffee. Organize your list into three groups: $0 Dates; Under $20 Dates; and Over $20 Dates. Then paint large popsicle sticks three different colours. Each will represent one of the groups above. Once dry, write the different date activities on the sticks based on their group colour. Put in a jar that you have decorated to say Date Night.

When it comes to date night, leave the planning up to the jar. Determine what type of date it will be – $0 date, Under $20 date or Over $20 date. Then select the corresponding coloured stick and away you go.

Movie night in

movie night at home gift basket

Movie Night Gift Basket Photo via Kidsz Paradise Inc.

Going to the movies can add up by the time you buy the tickets, drinks, popcorn and of course, paying for extra butter! A great way to save a few dollars is a ‘Movie Night In’ gift basket. Pick up a few of your favourite drinks and treats and put together in a homemade gift basket. Include a DVD or a coupon for one Netflix movie night in. The best part is that you can cozy up on the couch in your pajamas!

Gift certificates of time

Nothing beats the time we spend with our loved ones. Consider giving the gift of time by creating activity or ‘time’ gift certificates. You can include activities such as going for a walk, doing a craft or going tobogganing – the options are endless. Not only will you save money, but the memories you make will last a lifetime.

There are many different ways you can save money this holiday season and these are just a few ideas for you to use. Another great place to find homemade gift ideas is Pinterest.

Have another DIY gift idea? We’d love to hear them – share with us by commenting below.

teal piggy bank with christmas to do list

Making a list & checking it twice

Finances can be stressful, especially during the holiday season. We’re here to help. Here are a few tips and tricks to help get you through the holiday season without breaking your bank or your sanity.


Set a budget and stick to it

  • Ask yourself, “what am I comfortable spending without feeling stressed?”. Consider the gifts you will need to buy and the holiday events you will be attending. Take this amount and write it down.
  • Don’t try and plan the perfect Christmas, but instead create a budget you’re comfortable with and work in the details from there.
  • Don’t let this amount be negotiable. Set a personal goal to stick within your budget and hold yourself accountable.

Make a list & check it twice

  • Make a list of every person you plan to buy for – don’t forget to include gifts for gift exchanges, teachers, bus drivers, etc. Beside each person’s name, jot down gift ideas and the maximum amount you are willing to spend on that person. Ensure your individual amounts don’t total more than the budget you created earlier.
  • Set a small portion of your budget towards an ‘Other’ category. Use for expenses such as gift wrap, cards or for expenses incurred from holiday events such as food, drink and a safe ride home.
  • Consider homemade or personalized gifts. Make cookies or create gift certificates to spend time with your loved ones doing activities they enjoy such as reading, going for a walk, tobogganing, etc. Not only will you save money, but the memories you create will last a lifetime.

Earn extra money

  • Consider picking up a part-time job during the holiday season. Many retailers hire seasonal help, allowing you to work a few extra hours each week to earn extra cash. Put this money directly towards your holiday spending budget or into your savings account.

Start saving now

  • Open up a gift giving savings account. Each payday put a set amount into this account that you can then use to purchase gifts.
  • Put money into an account all year round. Set up automatic payments to go into an account every payday and build your gift giving savings fund for future years.

Shop around & start early

  • Don’t leave your shopping to the last minute. This can cause you to go over budget due to rushing and grabbing whatever items you can to get your shopping done in time.
  • Compare retailers that offer the same products you are wanting to purchase. Check locally or online for the best price.
  • Shop local. Not only will you find great gift ideas, but you will also be supporting local businesses within your community.
  • Take advantage of sales such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Check your local flyers for sales near you as many start their holiday sales early.
  • If shopping online, be aware of shipping minimums and purchase multiple items at once to save on shipping and/or qualify for free shipping.
  • Local craft shows are a great place to find personalized gifts at a great price. If you find an item over your budget, talk to the vendor and see if they can customize a piece within your price range.

Not only can these tips save you money, but also time and stress when it comes to the holiday season.

hands with money

Kids & Money: Have the #MONEYTALK today

It’s important to have the #MONEYTALK with your kids. We talked with Jacques D. to learn how he talks to his kids about money and the tools he uses.


Teaching your kids about money when they’re young can help set them up for success in the future. Not only will they have an increased knowledge and understanding of managing money when they become adults, it can also positively influence their behaviours when it comes to managing their money.

The biggest questions parents ask are how early should I start talking to my kids and what things should I teach them? We sat down with Jacques DeCorby, Conexus’ Vice President of Retail Banking, and Dad of three, to learn more about how he has the #MONEYTALK with his kids and the tools he uses.

When did you first start teaching your kids about money and what are some of the things you are teaching them?

We started talking to our kids early teaching them about the value of money and the power of savings and giving behaviours. We also talk a lot about a need vs. a want and have discussions on how money makes them feel, whether they’re saving it or spending it.

Do you give your kids an allowance? If so, when did you start and how did you determine an amount to give?

We started giving our children an allowance all around the same time, with the oldest being about ten and our youngest being five. I don’t recall how we settled on an amount to give them, but it was an amount that we could fit into our budget as well as help our kids see the value of money. We haven’t adjusted this amount, but it does make sense to periodically review the amount as it could illustrate the influence of inflation.

When teaching your kids about managing money, are there any tools you use?

We use the save-give-spend tool – pay yourself first with savings; give back and support your community; and, the remainder can be used for discretionary spending. In our household, we agreed on the split of 40-10-50 but another common split is 20-10-70.

We use this tool when splitting any money they receive including their allowance and money as gifts. With my oldest starting a part-time job, we also use this tool to help him manage his pay cheque. Though we have set these split percentages, they do have the option to put more into their savings if they chose. With three boys, it is interesting to see their different personalities – our oldest can’t spend it fast enough while our younger two are more focused on saving.

Another tool that we have introduced is the Conexus Credit Union app. At a certain age, our kids started getting their own electronic devices and phones and we made sure they added the app to their device to show them how to use it. It’s always fun to watch their reactions as they see their savings grow.

What advice do you have for parents wanting to teach their kids about money?

Save. Save. Save. Plan. Plan. Plan. Budget. Budget. Budget.

When talking to your kids about managing money, identify savings and set targets and milestones. Expose them early to different short- and long-term savings vehicles. Most importantly, let them make some spending decisions on their own after you’ve had the discussion on needs vs. wants. For example, if they really want that pack of gum at the store, have them purchase it using their own money. Be sure to follow up from time-to-time to talk about their spending decisions and ask them how it made them feel and if they’d do anything differently.

Also, as your kids become older (teens), I recommend parents start introducing the concept of credit ratings and the importance of building and maintaining a strong one.

By teaching your kids about money, what impacts can this have for them later in life?

By teaching your kids about money they’ll have an increased knowledge and understanding of managing money as they get older. More importantly, they will build positive behaviours and money management skills that will help minimize stress later in life that tends to affect so many other aspects of our overall health and well-being – physical, mental, social/family, occupational to name a few.

Any other advice you’d like to add?

It’s important that young people also start to build a strong network of trusted advisors around them including financial advisors. Talking about money can be hard, and introducing them early to money allows them to gain confidence and not be scared to ask questions when it comes to money.

Thanks Jacques! These are all great tips and advice. Financial literacy is important for all ages. We can’t wait to start having the #MONEYTALK with our kids and using some of the tools you shared with us today!

Do you talk to your kids about money? Share with us in the comments below including what age you started talking to them about money, tools you’ve used, other advice you have and more.