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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.

Get The Quarter Back: Saving Money at a Stadium

It’s an exciting time for professional sports in Saskatchewan right now! The Riders home opener is kicking off on Canada Day, Saskatoon has two brand new sports franchises in the Rush and the Rattlers and the NHL is hosting the Heritage Classic at Mosaic Stadium in the fall. But be careful – not only can it be expensive to buy a ticket to the game, the game day atmosphere may have you whipping out your wallet a little more than you’d expect. Let’s get you set up with some spending hacks from a former sports marketer for how to save some green when cheering for the green and white or attending any other sporting event.


According to a CNBC article, Americans spend $56 billion USD on sporting events each year. For comparison, that’s more than double than what they spend on book purchases. We’re not immune to this fanatic spending north of the border, and in some instances, we go above and beyond. We just witnessed how ridiculously expensive seats can become during a playoff run when the Raptors entered the NBA Championships and seat prices in Toronto STARTED at $800 and topped out at $60,000! It’s just not fair that I could have given up my chocolate milk addiction for an entire year and I STILL wouldn’t have been able to afford a seat in the nosebleeds.

That’s a grandiose example, but you can easily rack up a pretty large bill at a local sporting event if you aren’t careful. Berkeley Data Science produced an in-depth report that breaks down the cost of attending a game (ticket, parking, hot dog and a beer) for every team in each of the four major professional leagues (MLB, NBA, NHL and NFL) and measures them against winning percentages, fan loyalty and in-game experience to give the best deals in professional sport. Here are the most expensive game day experiences around each league:

    • NFL – Dallas Cowboys ($199.20 USD)
    • NBA – New York Knicks ($176.38 USD)
    • NHL – Boston Bruins ($144.95 USD)
    • MLB – Chicago Cubs ($104.07 USD)

How does a CFL game day experience at Mosaic Stadium stack up? An average ticket to a Rider game would cost you $69 for a ticket in the bronze section (including ticketmaster fees), $25 for stadium approved parking and $16 for a beer and a hot dog (depending on the vendor). Granted, Mosaic Stadium is touted as one of the nicest outdoor facilities in Canada and a CFL game puts on one heck of a show, but $110 CAD on a relatively lean budget is a pretty penny!

I spent five years working in marketing for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and have seen first hand how deceptively expensive attending a professional sporting event can be. Here are some inside secrets from a former sports marketer and some tips on how to save money at a stadium:

BUYING TICKETS FOR THE GAME:


Choose your game wisely

Not all games are priced equally. If you are wanting to just check out a casual game and don’t really care about the opponent or the importance of the match – don’t go to the big game. There is a trend in ticketing right now called “Dynamic Pricing” where the cost of a ticket is variable based on the demand (airlines use a similar pricing strategy). Essentially, an algorithm increases or decreases the price based on how quickly the game is selling out. To put this in perspective, I went to two Raptors games last year in Toronto that were only two days apart and sat in the exact same seats for both games. One game’s seats were $71 and the other was $131. The ONLY difference was that the first night the Raptors played the Minnesota Timberwolves (a team fighting to even make the playoffs) and the second night hosted the Golden State Warriors (the reigning NBA champions at the time). The Riders don’t use dynamic pricing – but they do charge more for “premium games” like Labour Day or when the rival Calgary Stampeders come to town.

PRO TIP: If all else fails, you can always purchase the cheapest ticket offered and roam around the stadium for the game. There are plenty of drink rails that offer great vantage points before you mosey on over to your new location.

Check out the re-sale market before you buy!

I once went to a garage sale and found a Super Nintendo being sold for $14 (I know, right!?). I snatched that sucker up in a heartbeat and walked away from that garage sale giddily feeling like I robbed the place. How does this relate? I would compare the re-sale market to that garage sale where you can find some tickets being sold at “What a STEAL!” prices. A lot of times, people post their tickets on the re-sale market in hopes of recovering some costs for a game they can’t attend (because Cousin Randy just HAD to get married on Labour Day). Buying tickets from StubHub or Kijiji is very risky due to fraud or double selling tickets. It really does happen – one day over a beer I will tell you a heartbreaking story that involved a Montreal Canadiens game, fake StubHub tickets, and a very heartbroken Mason.

What a lot of people don’t know is that Ticketmaster has their own verified re-sale network where you can sell tickets you originally purchased through Ticketmaster. You can even set your own prices which drives ticket prices down as sellers fight to undercut each other. Speaking from experience, I’ve been there when you scan your tickets at the gate and are turned away due to suspicious activity from third party re-sellers (again, Mason’s Misery in Montreal is a tale for another time) and I highly recommend purchasing through a verified re-seller to avoid that experience.

Tips for families

That same CNBC article estimates that it costs the average family of four approximately $500 to attend an NFL Football game. Yikes! There has to be a more affordable way to pack up the kids in the mini-van and get them to the stadium for their first game day, right? Sadly, there is no magical solution that will help you spend less than the college kid “having a little too much fun” in Pil Country, but there are ways to make it a little more manageable! Most stadiums have family pricing to help break down some barriers to get your family through the gates. The top sport franchises will even take a loss on family priced tickets in order to play the long-term game and build life-long fans. Before you buy, do some research to see if your team is having a “Family Day/Night” where they offer bundled discounts and bring in kid friendly entertainment each game. (In my last season with the Riders, we did a Family Day game where we brought in Paw Patrol mascots and kids lost their minds!) Finally, before you complete your purchase, sometimes it is worth calling the ticket office to see if they have any special family promotions to help knock down a few more dollars. If they can’t save you some money, sometimes they’ll throw in soft drink or popcorn vouchers for the inevitability of your kids wanting a snack immediately after kickoff.

Hit up friends who are season ticket holders

If you have friends who are season ticket holders, it’s worth asking them to let you know if they ever have a free ticket. They would have purchased their tickets at a volume discount and almost always purchase with one of their friends or family members. When one of them can’t make a game (probably for Cousin Randy’s second marriage. He never learns.), they’ll be looking to avoid the inconvenience of finding a suitor for their ticket and will pawn off it off to you. Best case scenario, they’ll give it to you for free or at the very least (providing you aren’t friends with a tycoon) will give it to you at cost – which will be below the price of a single game due to the volume discount AND you’ll avoid Ticketmaster & facility fees.

PRE-GAME:


Public transit & stadium shuttles are your friend

We’ve all been there where you’ve missed kick-off because you had to circle the surrounding area of the stadium for an hour trying to find a parking spot, only having to park 16 blocks away in an abandoned lot where they still charged you $15. Not only does it cost you money, but likely 10 years off your life. What if I told you there was a way to save on parking, gas, food AND you could be dropped off at the doors of the stadium?  If you are a local to the city, any professional sports team will have public transportation shuttles that will transport you back and forth from various access points around the city FOR FREE. If you can bear listening to the drunk guy beside you screaming Sweet Caroline – it’s worth it. Outside of the city? There are options, too! The Riders offer the “Rider Express” which are transportation shuttles from Saskatoon for only $50. That’s cheaper than a tank of gas and gives everyone in your squad the freedom to enjoy a couple of adult beverages without the pressure of someone having to be the designated driver.

Seek out game day food & shuttle packages

Sometimes restaurants/pubs within or just outside of the city will source their own shuttle service and package it with a meal. For them – it gets you in their doors before and after the game. For you – it’s a cheap way to save money on meals so you aren’t spending a ton of money on food at the stadium and you also don’t need to worry about the hassle of traffic and parking. It’s a win for everyone involved! For example, Broncos Pub and Grill in Pilot Butte charges $30 for a shuttle to the game, a burger, fries and a draft beer! If you were to pay for that at the stadium while paying for parking – it would cost more than double!

AT THE GAME: 


Tailgate! … or whatever we do in Canada

Once you get to the game, check out the pre-game festivities outside of the gates. Sponsors pay a lot of money to be able to set up shop in the tailgating areas and a lot of them will have give-aways or products to sample. Whether you are there to party with some friends or you showed up with your kids hoping to have them burn off some energy before the game – there’s something there for everyone and might save you some money on food and drink before prices skyrocket when you walk through the gates.

Beware of the dreaded impulse buys

When you get through the gates – you are going to be incredibly excited and there will be money grabs hitting you from all sides. On your left you’ll see the 50/50 stand, on your right you will encounter the merchandise store with the new game day special you’ll want to snatch off the shelves, and if you are like me, your first stop will be at the mini donuts cart. The atmosphere on game day can be incredibly exciting but if you are not careful, you’ll find yourself whipping out your wallet and blindly spending more than you can afford.

PRO TIP: Make a budget for the day before you leave your house while you are in a calmer, more rational mindset to look at your account and decide what you can realistically allocate to elevate your game day experience. This will make it much easier for your wallet to survive the cash grabs around the stadium that seemingly become irresistible once you drink the home team kool-aid. Make sure you stick to it, too! If you don’t trust yourself to not overspend at the game – take out cash that matches the amount you budgeted before the game. That way, when the cash runs out – you know when to stop spending. Trust me, it will save you from buying that celebratory round of shots after a touchdown that will not only save your money, but will also save yourself from a headache in the morning.

Study the prohibited/permitted items list

Every major sport team will have their Permitted & Prohibited items listed on their website. Review it beforehand and buy supplies in advance to avoid vendor markups and avoid wasted money when grumpy gate attendants confiscate your bottle of Orange Crush. For instance, every stadium allows you to bring in water bottles as long as they are clear and sealed. I highly recommend hitting up a Walmart and grabbing water bottles for you and your group. It may seem like you are only saving $2 per water bottle but if you are attending a number of games this season – this adds up fast!

PRO TIP: If you bring your supplies in a clear bag, you will save A TON of time at the gate and won’t have a security guard sifting through your purse.

Cheap end-of-game munchies

In sport, “crunch time” means the pivotal final moments that can decide the outcome of a game. In the last quarter or period of the match, your definition of “crunch time” could mean cheap snacks. If you aren’t really tied to the outcome of the game or the score is lopsided in one direction – walk around the concourse to see if any vendors are offering deals on food that they made too much of. If you can hold off your in-game snack attack until the end of the game, you can score some really great deals on food that vendors are trying to recoup some costs on before they throw it away.

Sport fans – there’s nothing more powerful than when we unite around our team and a common goal. Let’s band together and share some tips and tricks that you’ve learned about saving money at a stadium. Comment below with your wisdom and check out our other #MONEYTALK blogs to further help your financial well-being!

Top 5 Strategies to Pay Off Your Debt

Believe me, I know – if you’re in debt, whether it’s big or little, getting started on paying it off can be overwhelming. Here are my top five strategies to get you started and moving in the right direction and tackle that debt. Find a strategy that works for you and stick with it!


1. Pay off your most expensive debt first

If you have one particular debt with a super high interest rate, try making that debt your priority. You’ll need to maintain minimum payments on your other debts, but really putting everything you can into your most expensive debt will help to make your overall future debt less. The power of compound interest means that this debt has the possibility to grow the fastest, so eliminating it first is a solid step in the right direction.

2. Pay off your smallest debt first

This is a strategy for when you really need a win to get you motivated. By maintaining minimum payments on all of your debts and focusing on the one that will be the fastest to pay off, you’ll quickly get a little victory to keep you moving forward with the rest of your debt repayment plan.

3. The cash diet

Especially if you can get yourself into trouble with a credit or even debit card, the cash diet is a strategy where your budget becomes absolute law. You plan your budget (give our budget calculator a try), then take out cash to see you through a set amount of time like a week or the whole month. Once the cash is gone, that’s the end of your spending. It’s helpful to break up the cash into your individual budgets for things like groceries, gas, or pet expenses.

4. Use a tool to track your spending

If you’re struggling to find the money to pay off your debt, knowing exactly where all of your money goes is an important first step on finding room in your budget. Use our spending analysis tool or there are lots of great free apps that you can hook up to your bank account and credit cards that will track and categorize every transaction. Maybe you’ll realize you’re spending $30 a month on subscriptions you don’t even use, or that your grocery budget is way more than you thought it was. Knowledge is power, and with detailed knowledge of your spending, you can build better habits and cut out excess. For recommendations on how much of your income should go to which areas of your life, check out our how much money should I spend blog.

5. Ask for help

The burden of debt is worse if you’re suffering in silence. Talking to your friends, family, partner, or trusted mental health professional about how you want to start tackling your debt can help to make the stress more manageable. You can also talk to a financial expert, like one at Conexus, on your best path forward, and they can even help you refine your game plan. You can also talk to your creditors. It’s worth a phone call to see if any of your creditors are able to lower your interest rates, especially if you’ve been keeping up with minimum payments.

Debt is personal, so any strategy for tackling it that will work for you is the right strategy!

What debt strategy have you found success with? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

filing system for income taxes

Why you should file an income tax return

Filing a tax return is important, even if you had no income for the year, as you may be eligible for credits that could result in a refund. Here are several reasons why you should file a tax return. 


It’s that time of year again – tax season. Whether you have income or not, there are many reasons why you should file an income tax return each year.

You owe tax or will receive a refund.

When you file your taxes, there are two outcomes – either you’ll owe tax or you’ll get a refund.

Of Canadians who have filed their 2018 income taxes, approximately 71% have received a refund, with the average refund being just over $1,600.

Owing tax is not as fun as receiving a refund, but it’s important to file a return and pay these taxes by the deadline to ensure you’re not charged interest which will increase what you owe.

Take advantage of non-refundable and refundable tax credits

You may be eligible to receive certain credits from the government but must file an income tax return in order to determine eligibility and your benefit amount.

Non-refundable tax credits:

Non-refundable credits lower your tax payable. They are named “non-refundable” as these credits cannot, by themselves, get you a refund. A few examples include:

  • Tuition
  • Charitable donations
  • First-time homebuyers amount
Refundable tax credits

Refundable tax credits are a specific amount of money deducted from the amount of tax you owe and is the same amount whether you owe $100 or $1000. For refundable tax credits, the government will pay you the refundable tax credit you qualify for whether you owe tax or not, meaning if you had no tax payable, theses refundable amounts would result in a refund on their own. Examples include:

  • Working income tax benefit
  • GST/HST credit

Recuperate any tax you overpaid from your pay cheque

If you’ve switched jobs part way through the year or worked multiple jobs last year, you may have overpaid taxes on your paycheque(s). When you file an income tax return, it allows you to recover any taxes you may have overpaid.

Carry forward or transfer any unused tuition, education or textbook amounts

If you attended a post-secondary level course, you may be able to claim the tuition credit. This credit is non-refundable, meaning if the tuition is greater than the tax you owe, the tax credit can only be used to reduce or eliminate what you owe. Any unused amounts can be carried forward to a future tax year, or you can also transfer to a spouse/common-law partner or parent/grandparent.

Even if you have no tax to pay, it’s important to file an income tax return to claim your tuition, education and textbook amounts so that you can update any unused amounts, and carry them forward to future years.

 

When it comes to doing your income tax return, there are many tools and resources to assist you including information on the Government of Canada’s website.  As well, often organizations within different communities offer free income tax preparation services which you can usually find through a quick Google search. Are there any free income tax preparation services available within your community? Share with us below by telling us which community and who offers the services.

living room of home filled with moving boxes

5 tips for anyone moving out for the first time

Moving out on your own for the first time can be quite overwhelming, especially when it comes to your finances and all of the extra expenses you now have. Here are some tips for managing your finances when moving out on your own for the first time. 


Moving out on your own for the first time is a big life decision. Like any big life decision, it comes with its own set of challenges and excitements. Often, we focus on the excitement of it all – the freedom we’ll have in our own place, being able to make it our own, and more. Yes, those things are exciting, but what we forget or be naïve to is all the #adulting that comes with it, including all the extra expenses we didn’t have before. Paying rent or a mortgage is often a financial obligation people are aware of before moving out, but what often comes as a shock is the actual costs of maintenance, utilities, insurance, groceries, toiletry items, cleaning supplies and decorative items for your new home – really, a throw pillow is $35?!?

Growing up, my family required everyone to help. Whether you were running small errands to the grocery store, cooking meals or helping clean the house, everyone was expected to do their part. We also talked about money including the importance of budgeting, the difference between wants and needs and spending wisely. Although I did not enjoy this or see it as a good thing back then, I now understand that this was preparing me for the day that I moved out on my own.

This day came just a few months ago for me. Though it’s only been a short time of me being on my own, I’ve learned quite a bit. Here are all of the things I’ve learned and a few tips to anyone considering living on their own for the first time.

Shopping & cooking for yourself

I come from a family of five, all of whom were very active and ran on different schedules. This resulted in having large meals that provided many leftovers for the week. Large meals also meant large grocery hauls and bills. As someone who has very little experience in the kitchen, this was all I knew. Needless to say, the first grocery shopping trip was large and the few meals I cooked on my own were enough to feed my entire neighbourhood. This led to a lot of wasted food by the end of the week.

Tips:

  • Make weekly meal plans. Planning your meals also allow you to make a list of only the items you need. When you go grocery shopping, this will help reduce you from buying things you don’t need and save money. Here’s a tool I use: Mealime, a meal planning app for healthy eating.
  • Use a recipe. Often recipes provide serving sizes which can help you understand how much food you’ll be making. Cut the recipe in half in only cooking for yourself or two of you, helping ensure you’re not wasting a bunch of food

There’s food in the fridge

You know when you were younger, and you’d beg your mom or dad to take you out for food and they’d say no we have food at home? Yeah, I never thought I would have that talk with myself. However, eating out or ordering in all the time can add up quickly especially nowadays with all the food delivery apps available.

  • Don’t give in to cravings. Yes, I agree, movie theatre popcorn is way better and why make it at home when you can have it delivered, right? The reality, that craving will cost about 20X+ what it would cost you to do at home and though you may be craving it, your stomach won’t know the difference.
  • Delete your apps. Gone are the days of waiting on hold to place an order and in are the days of clicking a few buttons, within just a few seconds, to place an order for takeout. Because it has become too easy, we don’t take the time to ask ourselves if ‘we really need this’ or convince ourselves ‘there’s food at home’. By deleting your takeout apps, you’ll be forced to go online or call for takeout, decreasing the convenience and providing you time to rethink your spontaneous takeout purchase.
  • Pinterest is your friend! Cooking supper doesn’t have to be difficult. For someone like me though who doesn’t overly enjoy being in or is comfortable in the kitchen, I’m often tempted to just order in. I’ve quickly realized living on my own that ordering out often is not financially feasible and there are many quick and easy recipes out there – I just need to take the time to find them and make them.

Make a budget & stick to it

A budget can be a great tool for staying in control of your finances. It is something most people know they should be utilizing and to some extent do; however, most often this is a tool we start and then forget about or don’t stay on top of. When you move out, your expenses can quickly feel overwhelming if you don’t know how to manage them. My advice, create a budget and stick to it!

Tips:

  • Create a monthly budget using a budget calculator such as the Conexus Budget Calculator. This calculator allows you to get a clear picture of where you are financially and see how your expenses with within the recommended percentages.
  • In order to stick to your budget is to know what you’re spending. Use an expense tracking app such as Mobills. By tracking my expenses daily, I have forced myself to think about and know where I am spending my money, and not just on the big things like rent.
  • Set monthly goals. By setting goals it will feel like you have something to work towards and can get excited about at the end of each month to see if you achieved your goal. And be realistic; if you set unrealistic expectations this will only deter you from your budget as you might feel discouraged.

Be mindful of your spending

As eluded to above, tracking your daily expenses can be a great way to be more mindful of our spending.

Prior to moving out this is not something I did because it was never a worry of mine. I would buy a pair of shoes or a new sweater and not blink an eye. This quickly changed once I moved out.

Tips:

  • Create a list of wants and needs. Now, I don’t just mean your obvious list of food and shelter, but also all those ‘nice-to-haves’. A new pair of shoes or sweater may be needed, but having a list of wants and needs will help you set priority to your needs. This will help you to think through your purchases instead of impulse buying and can make a big difference.
  • Challenge yourself to no spending. Take the day, week or month off from spending on things you don’t need. Instead of eating out, challenge yourself to only eat at home. Or instead of going out with friends, have a game or movie night in. You’d be surprised how much money you can save this way. And hey, we have a blog on that to show you how!

Turn off the lights!

I don’t know how many times I’d leave the lights on while living at home to hear my Mom yell, “turn the lights off if you’re not in the room!” When we live at home there are many things we take for granted because we aren’t the one having to pay for them. The cost of electricity was something I quickly realized was one of those things.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I did know that energy costs money and you need it to power your house. What I didn’t realize though is how my bad habits impacted these costs. Mom was right after all these years – but shhh, don’t tell her I said that!

Tip:

  • Cut your energy costs. Energy costs money and you can control/lesson your bill by watching how much energy you’re using. Check out our Cut Your Energy Costs blog for 8 great tips on how you can reduce your energy consumption. And remember, turn off that light if you don’t need it!

 

Though my parents prepared me for success in the adult world, there were many things I had to learn on my own. #Adulting can be hard, but with a bit of planning, tracking and self-control, at the end of the day it can be fun.

Have you recently moved out on your own, and have learnings of your own? I’d love to hear them – share with me by commenting below.

Pile of sticky notes with New Year resolutions written on them

Adjusting your New Year’s resolutions

If you’re struggling to stick to your resolutions or have already failed trying, don’t give up. Instead, adjust or re-start your resolutions following these tips to help you succeed.


We go into the New Year saying this is going to be the best year yet. And it is…for the first few days anyway. Then the holiday excitement wears off, we go back to our normal routines and continue with the same habits we did before. By mid-January, we start to realize the resolutions we set were a bit more than we could chew and we soon give up on what we said we were going to do.

When it comes to sticking to our New Year’s resolutions, statistics show only 8% of people actually succeed. Why? Often the resolutions we make are unreasonable, unrealistic or we’ve set too many.

Does this sound familiar? If you’re struggling to stick to your resolutions or have already failed trying, don’t give up. Instead, adjust or start your resolution over. The only way to succeed is if you continue trying.

Here are a few tips to keeping your resolutions.

Have an action plan

Resolutions are goals and should have an action plan showing you where you want to go and how you’ll get there. Review these plans every so often and adjust your plan based on your personal situation, helping you to stay on track for success.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew

We can only do so much at once. Instead of trying to do everything at once, prioritize your goals in order of what’s most important to you. Focus on completing one or a couple goals at a time to not feel overwhelmed with trying to do it all.

Celebrate the small wins

Create milestones within your plan and celebrate when you achieve them. Smaller goals are easier to reach and help keep you motivated in reaching your goals.

Ask for support

Share your resolutions with your friends and family. Ask them for support and to hold you accountable to these resolutions. Speak to professionals for advice on your goals and tips for achieving them.

Whatever your goal is, it’s important to be agile and take the time to pause and adjust as necessary.  We may only be a few weeks into the New Year, but now is a great time to re-examine your resolutions and make any adjustments to ensure they’re realistic, reasonable and set up for success.

Did you make any New Year resolutions this year? What were they and are you on track to achieving them? What are some of the challenges you’ve come across? Share by commenting below.

couple sitting on couch, looking at a computer

10 ways to take control of your finances

A New Year means resolutions and often times have a financial component to them. Here are 10 ways you can take control of your finances this coming year.


New Year. New financial you.

It’s hard to believe the New Year has already begun. With a New Year often comes resolutions – creating a plan for the future using lessons from the past – and many times have a financial component to them.

Here are 10 ways you can take control of your finances this coming year.

1. Set goals

We all have dreams of what we want to do and what we want to achieve. Make these dreams a reality by setting goals to achieve them. Organize your goals by priority and be sure they’re realistic and achievable. Tip: Start small. Small goals are easier to reach and help train your brain into believing you can achieve it, increasing your chance for success of future goals. Get started by checking out our Goal Setting Blog.

2. Take action

It’s one thing to say you’re going to do something and actually doing it. Put action to your words by creating an action plan setting dates you want to achieve parts/milestones of your goal by. Hold yourself accountable and reward yourself when achieving each milestone helping you to keep motivated.

3. Create a budget

A budget helps you manage your money, showing you how much you’re bringing in each month and where you plan on spending your money. It can help you not spend above your means and focus on what’s important to you. To make budgeting easier for you, we recommend using our online Budget Calculator.

4. Track your spending

By tracking every nickel you spend, you’re able to get an accurate picture of your spending habits – sometimes it can be very shocking how quickly or how much your purchases add up. Tracking your spending will also help you create a more precise budget based on your spending habits and allow you to identify areas where you may need to change your spending behaviours.

5. No-spend challenges

Each month challenge yourself to a spending freeze for a day, weekend or even the full month for all non-essential items. Or pick a different non-essential category to not spend on such as ‘No Eating Out March’.

We recommend challenging yourself for a day or weekend if doing for the first time. Check out our No-Spend Weekend Challenge Blog helping you succeed in taking an entire weekend off from spending.

6. Save for an emergency

Life can sometimes throw us a curveball, threatening our financial well-being and causing us stress. Set money aside each month into an emergency savings fund for those unexpected life events. Having a fund ensures if your car breaks down or your furnace goes in the middle of winter that you’re prepared and gives you peace-of-mind knowing you won’t need to stress trying to find money to cover these unexpected expenses.

7. Prepare for retirement

We all dream of the day we’ll retire – no more alarm clock, being able to take a nap whenever we’d like and playing that golf game on a Wednesday afternoon. Being able to retire the way we want though requires some planning in advance. Start preparing now by checking out our blog, Retirement: will you have enough?

8. Save your extra money

Throughout the year we come across extra money such as an income tax return or a cheque from our Grandma for our birthday. Though we may be tempted to treat ourselves, consider putting any extra, unexpected money you come across into savings – you’ll thank yourself at the end of the year when you have extra savings in the bank!

9. Invest in a TFSA

A tax-free savings account (TFSA) is a great way to save for just about anything, whether it be a short-term or long-term goal. What you save is not tax deductible nor are you taxed when you withdraw your earnings. As well, in 2019 contribution maximums have increased to $6,000. Learn more here.

10. Plan/review your estate

We often think that planning our estates is something we do when we’re older but in fact, everyone young or old should have an estate plan in place in case something unexpected were to happen to us. Having an estate plan helps our loved ones understand our wishes and how to carry them out if we were to pass. This can include naming guardians for children, instructions for your burial/cremation and how you’d like your property divided up and should be updated at each life event such as marriage, children, divorce, retirement, etc. Start your plan by speaking with a local estate planner or lawyer today.

A New Year symbolizes a fresh start and new beginnings. Hopefully, these quick tips help you feel more prepared to take on the new year and take control of your finances. For more financial advice, we encourage you to check out some of our other blogs or contact us today to set up an appointment with a financial advisor.

five friends celebrating New Year's Eve

Ring in NYE without all the bells

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


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

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

No expectations approach

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

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

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

Don’t break your bank

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

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

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

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

holiday wrapped presents

Giving the gift of time

It’s not about how much you spend on a gift or how big the gift is, but about the emotions and experiences you create. Check out these 30 time/experience gifts, guaranteed to create memories with your loved ones.


Have you ever received a gift during the holidays that you thought was useless junk? If you said yes, you’re not alone! Last year, an Ipsos poll exclusive to Global News showed that one-quarter of people surveyed said most of the gifts they get during the holidays are useless junk.

How we feel about a gift usually comes from the emotions we get from it. Receiving another coffee cup provides us little emotion or satisfaction while receiving some type of experience can cause a variety of emotions and satisfaction, especially those that leave a lasting memory.

This holiday season consider giving the gift of time/experience and making homemade coupon vouchers for your loved ones – guaranteed to create smiles, build relationships and make memories.

Below are 30 voucher ideas to give to your loved ones.

10 ideas for kids

  1. Picnic at the park
  2. Car cleaning – inside and out
  3. Breakfast in bed
  4. Personalized chef for the day
  5. Control of the remote for one evening
  6. Breakfast for dinner – your choice
  7. Backyard camping night
  8. Date night – you pick an activity
  9. Foot rub
  10. Day of ‘I Love You’ – every hour list one thing you love about your significant other.

10 ideas for parents

  1. Sleepover at Grandma’s house
  2. 1-hour reading time with parent or grandparent
  3. You pick the supper menu tonight
  4. Movie night in – your choice
  5. Pillow and blanket fort building contest
  6. Game night – your choice
  7. Stay up 30 minutes past bed time
  8. Pick one item to add to the grocery cart
  9. Day of tobogganing
  10. Day of skating

10 ideas for couples

  1. 1-hour yard work
  2. Breakfast in bed
  3. An evening of babysitting so you can go on a date night
  4. Folding and putting away all laundry
  5. Spa day at home
  6. Cleaning of the bathroom – toilet included
  7. Parents day off – stay in pajamas all day
  8. DIY photo album day
  9. Homemade dinner including serving and kitchen clean up
  10. Design a scavenger hunt for the whole family

 

When creating vouchers for the ones you love consider their age, who they are and what their interests are.

This holiday season remember it’s not about the amount you spend on a gift or how big the gift is but about the emotions and experiences you create. Gifts that come from the heart are usually the best gifts of all.

What other gifts of time/experiences ideas do you have or have you given? Share with us in the comments below.

List of payments

How much money should I spend on…

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


 

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

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

Housing

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

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

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

Transportation

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

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

Living expenses

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

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

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

Debt repayment

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

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

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

Savings

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

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

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

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