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Eliminating the Stress in Buying a House

Buying a house is stressful. At least, that’s what I hear. As someone who is planning on buying a house within the next few years, I want to make sure my experience is stress free… or at least as stress free as humanly possible. That’s why I decided to do a little sleuthing to see if I could uncover some tips and tricks to improve the home buying experience so that you can enjoy the process as much as possible. 


Tip #1: Use a Real Estate Agent

Simple, right? Using a real estate agent will definitely cut down on the amount of stress you feel while purchasing a house, especially if you’re working with someone you can trust. Yet as of 2020, 12% of people still don’t use them. Why?

Well, most people who aren’t using a real estate agent are looking to save money. This can work out if you’re already familiar with the property and are buying from someone you trust, like a family member. But if you’re looking at properties that you’re not familiar with, it has the potential to lead to all sorts of issues. Long-term, not using a realtor has the potential to cause far more stress than using one.

But what about the money? Well, using a realtor may not be as expensive as you think. Of course, it’s not free either. You will need to pay realtor fees. But the real estate agent’s commission generally comes from the seller, not the buyer. So, it may not add up to quite as much as you expect.

Using a real estate agent does come with its own stresses (we’ll get to some of those later) but overall, it’s the correct choice for most people.

Tip #2: Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

While doing my digging, I decided to reach out to our team of Mobile Mortgage Specialists to see what the number one tip they would give prospective home buyers was. The answer was nearly unanimous: get pre-approved for a mortgage!

What exactly does that mean? Well, it’s just like it sounds. Having a mortgage pre-approval means that a lender has reviewed your financial information and has determined that they would be willing to provide you with a mortgage to buy a house. Having this in-hand while you’re shopping for a home makes it easier for agents and sellers to take you seriously and can possibly save you from future disappointment.

Don’t believe me? Here’s what Lehanne Potts, one of our Mobile Mortgage Specialists, had to say about getting a preapproved mortgage:

“Getting pre-approved for a mortgage is your first step towards homeownership! It’s important whether you’re a first-time home buyer or an experienced purchaser. When you have a pre-approval, you can shop confidently knowing that you are looking in the right price range. And if there are any issues with the application, we’re able to develop a game plan to set you up for success in the future. By taking this very important first step, you can help avoid any disappointment or frustration that may come along if you skip this process.”

Tip #3: Know When to Compromise

Home buying involves compromise. Odds are that you aren’t going to find that perfect home with the attached two car garage, huge walk-in closet in the master bedroom, partially covered back deck with a hot tub. And if you do find a house that has everything you want? Odds are that it’s probably going to cost twice as much as you can afford. What I’m trying to say is, it’s important to know what sorts of things you’re willing to compromise on and which ones you aren’t before you get started.

The budget for your home isn’t something that you should typically be making changes to halfway through the process. A study by homes.com in 2018 showed that 13% of people feel that they overpaid for their home. That’s not a good feeling and it’s not one that’s going to go away anytime soon either. Avoid bidding wars and stay away from spending above your budget on the things you “want” for your house (like that hot tub) and focus on the things you “need” your house to have (like enough bedrooms for your growing family).

Another thing you don’t need to compromise on is your timeline. I know I was just talking about how great realtors are a few paragraphs ago, but sometimes they will try to get you to work on their schedule instead of your own. That’s because they’re likely working with several potential home buyers and the sooner you purchase your future home, the sooner they can switch their attention to helping someone else.

Well, that speed has the potential to add stress. There are a lot of important things to do and decisions to make during the home buying process, even after you’ve put an offer in, and this is not something you want to feel rushed while doing. If you are feeling the pressure to move through the process too quickly, talk to your realtor and let them know you need more time.

Tip #4: Talk to Someone Who’s Done It Before

There are a lot of things to consider when you’re buying a house – more than we could possibly cover in just this one blog. It can be overwhelming, especially if you’re buying a home for the first time (and if you are a first-time home buyer, you might want to check this blog out as well). Like so many things in life, it can start to become clearer and you will start to feel better if you talk to someone about it.

Obviously, you can always go to your realtor to ask them questions. But you can also learn a lot by speaking to other people in your life who have already gone through the process of owning their own home. They might have great tips to share with you about what they thought they did well when buying their house. Or, more likely, they might be able to share things they wish they’d done differently during their own home buying experience.

To test this out, I decided to ask some homeowners from my own life what advice they’d have for me. Here’s what they had to say:

“Buying a new house for the first time can be filled with a lot of emotions – but the first one should always be excitement!

If I could go back to the first time my husband & I bought a house, I would make sure I sat down and prioritized a “wants” and “needs” list. My needs list would be the things that the house would HAVE to have and I would not budge on. The wants list would be filled with things that I really want in my first home, but that when push came to shove, I could sacrifice. For example, something that was on my needs list was three upstairs bedrooms and something that was on my wants list was an attached garage. I ended up sacrificing my attached garage in order to find something with three bedrooms upstairs.

Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the process – you only get to be a first-time homeowner once!”

Amanda, Moose Jaw

“As a first-time homebuyer, I found working with an experienced realtor to be extremely beneficial throughout the process. I had lots of questions, and they were able to answer everything I asked in terms I could easily understand. By using a realtor, I found that it took a lot of the stress of the process off my shoulders. I would also recommend doing your research into the home buying process beforehand so that you are able to ask the important questions.”

– Jarvis, Watrous

“I would recommend that people shop around. Don’t let the real estate agent dictate what you do or the speed you do it at – they are there to serve your needs. Also, make sure you get a house inspection. If you can’t afford one, you probably can’t afford a house.”

Eric, Swift Current

The Answer to The Question…

So, can buying a house be totally stress-free? Honestly, probably not. There’s always going to be a certain level of stress that comes with making such a costly and impactful purchase.

But as I’ve learned while writing this, there are a lot of things that you can do to reduce the amount of stress you feel throughout the process. By using the tips in this blog as a starting point, you’ll be setting yourself up for a successful experience.

Happy house hunting!

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.


You don’t think it can happen to you, until it does. We often think we will never fall victim to a scam, but it can happen to anyone. Fraud scams are under reported because victims are too embarrassed to admit they were exploited, and this perpetuates these crimes.

Fraud doesn’t discriminate and the tactics become more predatorial and sophisticated in health and economical crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic. More than one million Canadians applied for Employment Insurance between March 16 – 22, 2020 because of COVID-19 job losses. The Government of Saskatchewan started introducing public health orders on March 17 that restricts social gatherings and business closure for non-essential services. People are more isolated than they’ve ever experienced, they’re feeling financially insecure, and their sense of normalcy has been disrupted. Criminals target these feelings and with the increase of information about COVID-19 in media coverage, on social media, and direct email, it can be difficult to know what is trustworthy. Let’s make sure you are aware and protected from the following scams:

Social Media Questionnaires

Have you ever used your first car or your pet’s name as the answers to security questions? I know I have. Although harmless at first glance, these questionnaires are an easy way for a fraudster to gain access to your personal information to either answer your security questions or even pose as you to gain financial access.

You might be thinking, “I would never post this”, but someone you care about might or maybe has already. You may also think “I trust everyone in my friend list to not share my information.” They may be trustworthy, but it just takes one of them to get hacked and all of a sudden your personal information is in the hands of a fraudster.

Here’s how you can protect yourself:

  • DO NOT participate in these questionnaires and delete any old ones that you’ve posted. Spread the word to your friends and family as well.
  • Do not accept any friend requests from people you do not know and remove anyone that somehow slipped through the cracks.
  • Restrict the privacy settings on your social media accounts
  • Use secure passwords that include letters, numbers, and characters. Change your password routinely
  • Avoid security questions that could be easily guessed

CRA Text Scam

Do you know the warning signs of a scam? With all the uncertainty in the world right now, it’s easy to want to believe the best in people. This is what fraudsters are thriving off – vulnerability. This news story from CBC, warns Canadians of a text scam exploiting the new emergency relief program.

However, this isn’t the only scam going around. Some other scams to be alert for are text messages or emails from fraudsters impersonating the Canada Revenue Agency. This article outlines what to actually expect when the Canada Revenue Agency contacts you.

Here’s how you can protect yourself:

  • If it’s an unfamiliar phone number or email, don’t automatically trust the source
  • Look for spelling and grammatical errors in the text
  • Ask yourself “Does the URL look credible?” If you have ANY doubt, contact the company and fact check the message.

For more information on how to protect yourself, here the CRA outlines how to ‘Slam the Scam’.

Work From Home Scams

The provincial government recently warned against a work from home scam during the COVID-19 crisis. Fraudulent ads by companies offering opportunities to work from home as securities traders are appearing on social media. These ads promise that traders can keep a large percentage of the profits and they don’t need experience or a license. They only need to pay fees to the would-be traders.

If you’ve experienced job loss from COVID-19 and you’ve lost childcare, this would seem like a good way to replace your income – which is exactly why this tactic is being used. In Saskatchewan, anyone in the business of trading securities must be registered with Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority (FCAA), unless an exemption applies. The FCAA expects that similar scams will continue to increase during the COVID-19 crisis.

Fraudsters Posing as Financial Institutions

In times of uncertainty or struggle is often when individuals turn to their financial institution for advice, services or products to help them navigate their financial situation.

A text message scam has been circling around where fraudsters are posing as a financial institution, using scare tactics to try and gain access to your information.

 

 

As seen in this message below, someone impersonating Scotiabank has used a scare tactic to make you think your access has been disabled to get you to click the link. As we touched on before, here are some things you want to look out for:

  • Unfamiliar phone number
  • Spelling and grammatical errors
  • Unusual links

Here’s how you can protect yourself:

  • Don’t click any of the links in the message – go directly to your financial institution’s website through your web browser
  • Always log in to your account directly online or through your mobile app
  • Double check the source of the text – when using scare tactics people often just react, but in reality, you may not even have an account with Scotiabank
  • If something serious was happening to your account, your financial institution would definitely call you, not text you.

Exploiting Grocery Delivery for seniors

As we all take measures to social and physical distance ourselves, common tasks such as grocery shopping have become difficult, especially for some of the most vulnerable in our communities. Unfortunately, fraudsters are posing as helpful citizens offering to deliver groceries to seniors who are socially isolated or are physically unable. These scams ask for e-transfers or credit card numbers in advance with the grocery list. They’ll also ask for your address – not so they know where to deliver the groceries, but so that they can list it as the billing address when they charge the card. Disgusting, right?

Here’s how you can protect yourself:

  • Utilize delivery services offered directly through grocery stores/business in your community. Many grocery stores have started offering special shopping hours for seniors
  • Rely on friends and family to shop for you
  • Be alert and aware of other scams that exist right now
  • Have conversations with your parents and grandparents to educate them on how they can protect themselves

Remember, fraud does not start and end here – it’s important that you remain alert even as the COVID-19 pandemic comes to an end. If you have been targeted or have fallen victim to an attack, it’s nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. It can happen to anyone.

For more information about protecting yourself from fraud and to learn about different scams out there right now, visit https://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/features-vedette/2020/covid-19-eng.htm.

Beware of These Scams During the Coronavirus Pandemic

As you take precautions to protect yourself from the coronavirus, don’t forget to safeguard your financial well-being from fraudsters who are hoping to cash in on the paranoia. Here’s how you can identify scams that are currently being used and what you can do to ensure you are shielded from fraud during the pandemic. 


Well this escalated quickly.

The coronavirus is a devastating pandemic that is making a massive impact on the economy and health care systems all across the world. As of March 20, the world has experienced over 267,000 cases of the virus and although Canada is only representing a small portion of that total with 925 cases, we are in uncharted territory. Terms like “social distancing” and “self monitoring” have become second nature in (remote) conversation and we’ve all been exchanging shows to binge on Netflix during our two week long self-isolation periods.

This is truly an unsettling time where paranoia and panic are running rampant. Unfortunately, like a virus themselves, fraudsters and scammers feed on this urgency and as if we didn’t have enough to worry about, with the increase in global coverage comes an increase in fraud activity. Let’s make sure you are briefed and safeguarded against the types of fraud to watch out for so you can focus on protecting yourself from the global pandemic.

Fraudulent Health Products & Professionals

Fraudsters know that during a pandemic, your anxiety surrounding your health skyrockets and you’ll do whatever it takes to ensure you and your family are protected. From the moment that the coronavirus hit the global media, scammers were creating fake products that claim to boost your immune system, cure you from symptoms and, in some instances, have access to a vaccine.

The sad truth of the matter is that although they are in development, we are likely a year away from having a vaccine available and there are no approved drugs to prevent the virus. The websites and messages that these scammers are sending are chocked full with convincing information on the product, faux testimonials, professional sounding terms like “clinical trial” and even conspiracy theories about their company having access to a vaccine that the pharmaceutical industry is withholding for money. We’ve also seen con artists who are impersonating World Health Organization professionals with alleged access to information on a miracle drug. These con artists have been sending emails with important updates on the virus that prompts readers to click on a phishing link or download malicious software.

How you can protect yourself: Caution will prevail here. As long as you know that any medical information, especially on vaccines or treatment, will come directly from your healthcare professional and not from a link from a suspicious email address – you’ll know not to click anything or entertain any offers for a miracle drug. Be suspicious of products and “professionals” that have cured the virus and when in doubt, check with your health care professional.

Fake Charities & Fundraising Efforts

Another tactic that fraudsters employ is to pull on your heart strings. With the coronavirus affecting so many small businesses and charities, many are calling for aid in order to navigate these tough waters. Scam emails and phone calls have been going out to try and trick people into donating to fake charities and relief efforts. They may say that they are looking for a small donation but as soon as they have your credit card number or authorization, they have access to take as much as they want.

In addition, you may see a few GoFundMe pages pop up on social media feeds to rally monetary support to offset expenses that affected families are incurring due to the virus. Most of these pages are started by incredibly generous people in order to provide support for families in a time of need, but unfortunately, scammers and fraudsters have also taken advantage of this method.

How you can protect yourself: Unless you know the family that is garnering the support or someone you know can vouch for them, it is safest to move along from any GoFundMe page or fundraising websites calling for monetary support. If you do want to contribute some money to a relief fund, consider experienced or established relief organizations, especially those that clearly describe the use of the funds. Beware of scammers impersonating those organizations, though!

Face Mask Scams

Yes, these are a thing. Scammers are actually capitalizing on the high demand for face masks. Many different websites and organizations claiming to sell face masks online are attempting to lure you in by showing they have a limited amount of stock available. Why is this effective? The urgency and scarcity for an in-demand product will increase the likelihood of an impulsive purchase. It’s the same method that infomercials employ with “Act now before it’s gone!” messaging. The Red Cross has actually issued a warning that scammers are posing as them to solicit face mask purchases through text messages.

How you can protect yourself: Whether it is face masks, hand sanitizer or another product you are buying to protect yourself and your loved ones, make sure you are keeping an eye out for phony e-commerce sites and scams. If your gut is telling you that something “just doesn’t feel right” or “it seems too good to be true”, it most likely is. Only purchase from stores and websites with an established reputation. The most effective way to avoid a scam is to buy directly from a seller you are familiar with and who you already trust. When in doubt, make sure the seller has legitimate contact information, a real street address and a customer service number you can call before you hand over your name, address and credit card number.


It has yet to be seen how long the coronavirus will remain classified as a pandemic, but heightened fraud activity will be a constant throughout. Remain vigilant to avoid scams related to the virus, use caution when giving out your credit card information to e-commerce and relief efforts,  and look out for fake cures, phony prevention measures, and other coronavirus cons. We’ll get through this – but let’s make sure your financial well-being does, too.

The Great Buy vs. Lease Debate

It’s one of the most hotly contested debates of our time: Is buying or leasing a new vehicle the way to go?

Depending on who you ask, you’ll typically get a passionate and definitive answer based on personal experience. This blog weighs the pros and cons for each alternative and attempts to crown a victor. Spoiler alert: it’s not as clear cut as you may think. 


I currently drive a 2011 Ford Escape that has been an absolute dream for the past nine years. For about a year and a half, I’ve been contemplating trading it in for an upgrade but I’ve really enjoyed not having to worry about a monthly vehicle payment. The thought of trading in my SUV remained dormant in the back of my mind until one day when I was driving on Ring Road (Regina’s controlled highway that circles the city) and it hit me!

No, it actually hit me. Mid-transit, my hood flew up and smashed my windshield which left me travelling at 80 km/h on Regina’s main expressway without being able to see in front of me. Once I somehow safely navigated my way to the side of the road and got over the shock of what had just transpired, the first thing that went through my head was “it’s time for a new vehicle.”

In the past, I’ve always bought my vehicles (because that’s what Dad had always told me to do) but I’ve noticed that leasing is growing in popularity. Before I jumped on the same path, I decided to do my research to figure out the answer to the age-old question: “lease or buy?” Let’s break down both sides:

The Case for: Buying

  • No limits on the amount of kilometers you drive. Drive it off the lot and into the ground if you want! When you lease, you have a maximum amount of annual kilometers that you have to stay under without paying a penalty.
  • Your monthly payments will likely be higher than leasing, but you are paying to own. Eventually you will pay off your vehicle and will eliminate your monthly payment. I just spent five years without a vehicle payment and it made an enormous difference to my budget.
  • Freedom to customize, sell or trade in whenever you want. The vehicle is yours so feel free to put in those customized velvet seat covers to match the fuzzy dice hanging from your rear view mirror. You can’t do that under a lease.
  • No transactional fees. Depending on who you are leasing from, they may charge a “transaction fee” when you exchange your vehicle or buy it out at the end of your lease. Dealerships will claim it is to cover the paperwork that needs to be done, but these can usually be negotiated down before you sign your lease. Leasing will also require you to purchase a package policy on your insurance so be prepared for that expense as well.
  • Cheaper in the LONG run. Assuming your vehicle doesn’t require a ton of repairs once your warranty runs out and we’re operating in a stable market, purchasing is typically cheaper in the long run. Although your monthly payments will be more expensive compared to leasing, you will likely only need to pay for maintenance once you’ve paid off your vehicle. On the other hand, leasers will always have a monthly payment. In addition, you’ll be able to sell or trade-in your vehicle which will earn you a big chunk of change towards your next vehicle.
  • You don’t always have to buy new. Buying can be A LOT cheaper if you buy a used vehicle. Depending on how used the vehicle is, you will be incurring more risk for repairs but if you do your due-diligence, this can drastically boost your budget.

The Case for: Leasing

  • Cheaper in the SHORT term. Your monthly payments will be lower than financing a new vehicle. This allows you some more capacity to cover your monthly expenses and the ability to drive a newer vehicle without busting your budget.
  • Better warranty protection. Last year, I had to pay a couple hundred dollars to have my spark plugs changed. Apparently this can be done for much cheaper if you know how to do it yourself but if you are like me and feel incredibly accomplished after hanging a picture frame – finding coverage to make these repairs is definitely the best route. When leasing, the only thing you’ll need to worry about is regular upkeep (oil changes, car washes, etc.) and any damage subject to your deductible if you cause an accident.
  • New car every 2-4 years. When you finance a car, it will typically take you 3-5 years to pay it off and then you’ll likely spend another couple of years enjoying a life with no monthly car payment. By the time you are ready to trade-in your car, you’ll be craving the newest features. After driving without them for ten years, I would be tempted to take heated seats and a backup camera over a functional airbag at this point. A lease allows you to drive a new vehicle every 2-4 years which will help quiet your hankerings to sacrifice safety for comfort.
  • No money up front. When you are purchasing or financing a new vehicle, you’ll likely need to put down a big chunk of money in order to unlock smaller interest rates and shrink your monthly payments to a point where they won’t eat you alive. Buying instead of leasing typically takes more time as you’ll need to save for a while before you are ready to put a down payment on a car. You should obviously take some time to ensure leasing a new car fits your budget, but once you’ve made that decision, not having to pay any money up front can put you in the drivers seat of your new vehicle much faster.
  • Tax break if you are using it for business purpose. There are some tax advantages if you are leasing a car and using it for business purposes. Turbo Tax Canada breaks down these benefits in this article, but you can deduct the business percentage of your lease payments on your income tax. For instance, if you own your own business, your annual lease payment is $4,000 and you use your car for 75% business use – you may be able to deduct $3,000 on your annual tax return.
  • Easier to budget and no unexpected, expensive trips to the service department. I mentioned my spark plug struggle above, but that costly experience came when I took my post-warranty vehicle to the dealership to check out why my rear-windshield wiper fluid squirter (I’m quite confident this isn’t the technical term) was not working. This quick trip turned into an unexpected $2,000 purchase that included new brake pads, spark plugs, a new wiper squirter (again, not the technical term) and a few other things. This unexpected cost not only ruined my day, but it completely threw off my monthly budget and sentenced me to a month of eating ramen noodles. Because you’re always under warranty while leasing, your monthly payments are expected and you don’t need to worry about unexpected issues that will quickly burn a hole in your wallet and your budget.
  • No trade-in hassles at the end of the lease. Whether you are privately selling your car or looking to trade it in, it’s a huge hassle. Assuming you aren’t looking to buy-out the rest of your vehicle and you kept your vehicle in good condition, the end of your lease is quite hassle free. If you are continuing with a new lease, all you have to do is drive up with your old vehicle and drive off with a new one.

The Verdict: It Depends.

I know, I know – that’s the answer that nobody likes but it’s true. The good news is that there really is no wrong answer, but the trick is finding the best solution for you and your lifestyle. This decision is comparable to whether you want to buy or rent a house. Buying allows you more freedom to customize and is generally cheaper in the long-term, where renting removes the hassle of making repairs and gives you the flexibility to jump from house to house once your rental contract is up. If you are somebody that knows autobody, craves customization and ownership, wants to commit long-term and possesses the ability to diagnose and make repairs on your vehicle, buying may be the best route for you. If you prefer to drive a new vehicle without having to worry about maintenance costs and are comfortable with always having a monthly payment – leasing might be your best bet.

Here’s more good news – you aren’t stuck on one path for your entire life. Feel free to try out both options if it makes sense for both your budget and your lifestyle!


Like I said above, it’s common for people to have a very definitive opinion on this debate. Let’s hear yours!

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.

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!

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!

4 Quick Tips to Save on Insurance

Home insurance. Life insurance. Car insurance. All important to have, ensuring you’re financially protecting yourself in case of emergency. With each insurance type comes many different options as well as a number of ways you can save. Here are a few savings tips and advice to look into when purchasing (or renewing) insurance.

Home savings that can be spent elsewhere

A part of homeownership includes purchasing home insurance to ensure you’re covered for loss or damage to your property due to unforeseen situations. Home insurance is a must, especially if you live in a condo, townhouse or apartment and share walls with a neighbour. You may trust yourself to not start a fire but you never know when your neighbour will find a way to set a bowl of ramen noodles ablaze. Some insurance companies offer different discounts to help reduce the cost of your home insurance including discounts for:

  • Having a monitored security system
  • Being claims-free for several years
  • Your age and the number of years you’ve been with the company
  • Having a good credit score

A big misconception that comes with buying insurance is that it is a standardized rate among all suppliers. When choosing home insurance, be sure to shop around for the best rates and ask what discounts each company can offer you.

Safe driving does pay off

SGI’s Safe Driver Recognition program rewards drivers with a discount on their vehicle insurance for safe driving. For each year you drive without an incident, you earn a safety point that corresponds to a discount on your vehicle’s plate insurance. As you can earn safety points, you can also lose points for unsafe driving such as speeding, accident, etc. If your safety wasn’t enough motivation to put the phone away while driving, one texting and driving ticket wipes away the points that would have taken you four years to accumulate. That could mean an additional $200 on top of the $280 ticket.

Bundling up

Some insurers will offer discount incentives if you purchase multiple insurances from them. The most common insurance bundles include home insurance and car insurance. When you are shopping around, check how much money you can save by bundling. It’s also very convenient for when renewal time comes around to do it all at once so you don’t have to wonder all year “Wait… is my car insurance due in March? Or is that home insurance?”

Improving your health

Life insurance prepares you for the unexpected and helps protect the people you love if something were to happen to you. When choosing life insurance, consider your family and work situation, life goals and your budget.

If you’re a smoker, your insurance premiums will be higher than a non-smoker. Now you may be thinking, well I just won’t tell my insurance provider that I smoke so I don’t pay as much. Wrong – don’t do this because if you hide it and it’s discovered you’ve been lying, your insurance could be rejected. On a positive note, if you need that extra reason to quit smoking, some insurance companies will consider you a non-smoker if you’ve been smoke-free for a year and will reduce your premiums. Not only will you be able to save on insurance, you’ll also be saving money due to no longer buying your cigarettes. Bonus, Smoker’s Helpline has a Quit to Win Contest where you can enter to win $500 cash if you quit smoking.

 

Whenever you’re purchasing insurance of any kind, be sure to do your research and shop around for the best rate. Always ask questions and inquire about any discounts your provider may offer.

Know of other discounts or incentives to save money on insurance? I’d love to hear them – share with me by using the comment section below.