Tag Archives: Canadian Finance Blog

April 17: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

In a guest post for the Financial Independence Hub, Certified Financial Planner Gennaro De Luca writes that based on his experience, men and women approach taxes and investing differently. For example, he says nine times out of 10 it is the woman who takes the bull by the horns to get the family’s taxes done. Women tend to be more involved and are much more apt to ask questions of their accountant or tax preparer about tax credits and government benefits the family may be eligible for.

Robb Engen on Boomer & Echo discusses which accounts to tap first in retirement with Jason Heath,  a fee-only financial planner. Heath says it may make sense for people who retire early to withdraw funds from their RRSPs first and defer CPP and OAS until age 70.

Retire Happy veteran blogger Jim Yih outlines the top 5 new retirement trends and how they will affect your retirement. For example: retirement is not about stopping work; many people are “phasing into retirement.” Furthermore, long term care is an essential component in a retirement plan.

10 simple ways to save money at the gas pump was recently posted by Tom Drake on the Canadian Finance Blog. Who knew that avoiding unnecessary weight in your car; using cruise control on highways and driving under 100 km/hour could save you money?

And Sean Cooper recounts the story of his unexpected $1,300 furnace repair bill in the depths of a Canadian winter. Luckily, he is mortgage-free, so he had the necessary money sitting in his savings account. But his experience shines a spotlight on the importance of saving up an emergency fund in advance.


Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Jan 9: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Fireworks on Parliament Hill and across the country ushered in Canada’s sesquicentennial or 150th birthday. I’ll never forget babysitting on New Year’s Eve in 1967 and hearing Gordon Lightfoot’s Canadian Railroad Trilogy for the first time. It’s still one of my favourites!

As our contribution to Canada’s big birthday, in this space we will continue to direct you to the best from Canadian personal finance bloggers from coast to coast with an occasional foray south of the border. We hope you will let us know what you like and what we may have missed.

Recently Ed Rempel addressed the perennial question, Should I Delay CPP & OAS Until Age 70? and included some real life examples. While he illustrates that many Canadians can benefit from waiting until age 70 to start their government benefits, he agrees that if you are retired at 65 and have little income other than these two government pensions, you may have no option.

Barry Choi on “Money We Have Have” explores 5 differences between cheap and frugal people. He thinks calling a frugal person cheap is pretty insulting. “Frugal people understand the value of money and are willing to pay when it counts,” Choi says. “On the other hand, cheap people are only looking for ways to save money regardless of how it’s done.”

With credit card bills that reflect holiday excesses hitting mailboxes this month, many of us are looking for ways to save money. Canadian Finance Blog’s Tom Drake breaks down ways to save money both monthly and annually.

Think about your energy use and your water use to figure out ways to save money on your electricity billgas bill and water bill. Two other services that have many opportunities to cut back include the cable bill and cell phone bill.

“Reducing these five bills could easily save you over $100 a month, or more than $1,000 in a year. That’s not too shabby at all,” he notes.

For Alyssa Davies at “Mixed Up Money” an emergency fund (which she calls money to protect your other money) of three months pay is not enough. She has another account called her “comfy couch” for the months she overspends or under-saves.

When Davies wrote the blog she only had $583 in her comfy couch account but that small amount was all it took to make her feel comfortable. She says, “Whenever I need to use some of that money, I simply take it out, and replace the amount the next time I have available funds to do so. If you’re anything like me, you will want to find a magic number that allows you to breath without feeling like a giant horse is sitting on your chest.”

And finally, Retireby40 says he had a terrific 2016 and achieved 9 out of 11 goals. His approach for setting New Years goals is to set achievable objectives; make the goals specific and measurable; and, write them down so he can track his progress. Several of his goals for 2017 include increasing blog income to $36k, redesigning the blog and save $50,000 in tax-advantaged accounts.


Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Personal finance writers share 2017 New Year’s resolutions

By Sheryl Smolkin

Several years ago Globe & Mail columnist Tim Cestnick listed what he considers to be the top five opportunities for anyone looking to get their financial house in order:

  • Create a pension
  • Own a home
  • Pay down debt
  • Start a business
  • Stay married

So I decided to ask 10 money writers to share their top personal finance New Year’s resolution with me, in the hope that it will encourage readers to establish and meet their own lofty goals in 2017.

Here, in alphabetical order, is what they told me:

  1. Jordann Brown: My Alternate Life
    I’m still in the process of ironing out my New Year’s resolutions but here is one I’m definitely going to stick to. I plan to save $10,000 towards replacing my vehicle. It’s always been a dream of mine to buy a car with cash and as my car ages it has become apparent that I need to start focusing on this goal. I never want to have a car payment again, and that means I need to start saving today!
  2. Sean Cooper: Sean Cooper Writer
    I  paid off my mortgage in just three years by age 30. My top personal finance New Year’s resolution is to ensure that my upcoming book, Burn Your Mortgage, reaches best-seller status. A lot of millennials feel like home ownership is out of reach. After reading my book, I want to them to believe buying a home is still achievable.
  3. Jonathan Chevreau Financial Independence Hub
    My top New Year’s Resolution, financially speaking, is to make a 2017 contribution to our family’s Tax-free Savings Accounts (TFSAs). This can be done January 1st, even if you have little cash.  Assuming you do have some non-registered investments that are roughly close to their book value, these can be transferred “in kind”, effectively transforming taxable investments into tax-free investments.
  4. Tom Drake Canadian Finance Blog
    My New Year’s resolution for 2017 is to increase my income through my home business. But this can be done rather easily by anyone through side-gigs and part-time jobs. While saving money by cutting expenses can be helpful, you’ll hit limits on how much you can cut. However, if you aim to find new sources of income in 2017, the possible earnings are limitless!
  5. Jessica Moorhouse Jessica Moorhouse.com
    My personal finance New Year’s resolution is to track my spending, collecting every receipt and noting every transaction down, for at least 3 months. Doing this really helps me stay on track financially, but for me it’s definitely something that’s easier said than done!
  6. Sandi Martin Spring Personal Finance
    I don’t expect much to change in our financial lives over the next year. I hope to avoid the temptation to build a new system because the boring old things we’re already doing aren’t dramatic enough. I’m prone to thinking that “doing something” is the same as “achieving something”, and I’m going to keep fighting that tendency as 2017 rolls by.
  7. Ellen Roseman Toronto Star Consumer Columnist
    My personal finance resolution for 2017 is to organize my paperwork, shred what I don’t need and file the rest. I also want to list the financial service suppliers I deal with, so that someone else can step into my shoes if I’m not around. It’s something I want to do every year, but now I finally have the time and motivation to tackle it.
  8. Mark Seed My Own Advisor
    I actually have three New Year’s resolutions to share:

    • Eat healthier.  We know our health is our most important asset.
    • Continue to save at least 20% of our net income. We know a high savings rate is our key to financial health.
    • After paying ourselves first, simply enjoy the money that is leftover. Life is for the living.
  9. Stephen Weyman HowToSaveMoney.ca
    For 2017 I’m looking to really “settle down” and put down roots in a community. I believe this will have all kinds of family, health, and financial benefits. The time savings alone from being able to better develop daily routines will allow me to free up time to focus more on saving money, growing my business, and better preparing for a sound financial future.
  10. Allen Whitton Canadian Personal Finance Blog
    I resolve to keep a much closer tab on my investments and my expenses, while planning to retire in four years. I have a pension, I have RRSPs, but I still have too large a debt load. Not sure this is possible, but I will try!”

Nov 21: Best from the Blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Lots of interesting reading this week from bloggers both old and new.

On Millenial Revolution, FIRECracker writes about How to Succeed at Anything. She says success is not linear so you have to keep on trying and eventually things will click.

For example, in 2013 she and her husband had two failed children’s novels and 75 rejection letters. But since then, they have had three books published by Scholastic. Their blog has also been internationally syndicated by CNBC and in less than six months it has grown to 650,000 page views.

If you can never figure out where all your money went (a key requirement for budgeting), take a look at Jordann Brown’s blog 50 Ways to Track Your Spending. From personal experience she recommends Mint.com, and best of all, it is free.

As a new homeowner, Jessica Moorhouse says the one thing she wishes she had researched more thoroughly is mortgages. Read 10 Questions You Need to Answer Before Getting a Mortgage to benefit from her experience.

Jonathan Chevreau advocates for “Freedom, Not Stuff.” In Survey finds financial security beats milestones like buying a home and a car on the Financial Independence Hub, he is happy to report on a survey released by Credit Canada Debt Solutions and Capital One Canada that reveals the majority of Canadians agree with him that that financial security beats milestones like buying a home or a car.

Making Financial Decisions? Beware of Confirmation Bias says Tom Drake on the Canadian Finance Blog. When it comes to making financial decisions, confirmation bias can lead you to stay the course with an investment that has changed fundamentally for the worst, all because you are sure that you can’t make a wrong decision, or because you dismiss the reasons that the investment is no longer a good choice.


Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Apr 25: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

I can never get too excited about the make and model of the car I drive. All I expect it to do is to reliably get me from A to B and cost as little as possible to run. But there has been a lot of press about the pros and cons of electric cars lately, including the latest luxury Tesla.

If owning a Tesla is on your bucket list, you may be interested in a blog from the self-proclaimed tightwad Mr. Money Mustache describing his 1400 miles of non-driving in a Tesla with a friend who recently acquired one for over $75,000 USD. He says the autopilot actually works, and the company has lined U.S. interstates and major cities with high-speed electric charging stations fueled with free solar electricity available 24 hours a day.

However for the rest of us, the more realistic option when we are looking for a family car is to purchase or lease a new or used vehicle from a car dealer in our community. Automobiles – Buying and Selling, an interesting post from Saskatchewan’s Public Legal Association discusses the pros and cons of these alternatives and your legal rights and responsibilities in each situation to help you make the decision that is best for you.

If a used car is in your future, take a look at What You Need to Know Before Buying a Used Car. When it comes to inspecting a car you are interested in, TrueCar.Advisor says be a “DIY detective.” For example, he suggests bringing along a little fridge magnet and placing it all over the car (lower door, front fender, etc). If there is any plastic body filler present, the magnet won’t stay in place, indicating the vehicle has been in an accident. If you want a more in-depth list of possible DIY Detective skills, visit the DMV guide.

Andrew Wendler acknowledges on caranddriver.com that vehicle listings on Craigslist are always free of oversight and may include half-truths and incomplete vehicle histories. However, this classified advertisements website can be a highly effective tool for locating the car of your dreams, so he provides 10 Tips for a Successful Car-Buying Experience on Craigslist that should help you separate fact from fiction and make a satisfactory purchase.

And finally, in a guest post on the Canadian Finance Blog, Retire Happy’s Jim Yih warns readers Don’t Fall for This Amazon Payments Car Scam. Unfortunately there are phishing scams out there that make you think you’re paying through services like Amazon Payments or PayPal, but you’re really sending your funds to a fake site and are unlikely to ever see that money again. He recounts how he almost got taken in by an Amazon Payments scam when he was looking for a used car a few years ago and includes screen shots, illustrating how you can identify signs of a bogus offer

*****

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Nov 16: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Most of the time when I sit down at my computer to write the weekly Best from the Blogosphere post I have absolutely no idea what the theme will be until I read a few articles from other bloggers that send me off on a tangent.

Such was the case this week when the first message in my inbox was from Robb Engen at Boomer and Echo writing about Mischief Managed: How I Went From Credit Card Abuser To Rewards Card Master. He says optimizing credit spending means using one card for groceries and gas, one for dining and entertainment, one for travel and one for everything else. Last year he used six credit cards to earn over $1,500 worth of rewards.

In 2012 Carla Wintersgill wrote in the Toronto Star about How travel hackers maximize loyalty points. She reports on the inventive way American author Chris Guillebeau collected points through the United States Mint. For a year and a half, it was possible to buy U.S. dollar coins directly from the Mint, which included free shipping. Over the course of a few months, he bought $70,000 in coins using a points-collecting credit card and then re-deposited the coins in the bank to pay his bill.

With Black Friday and Christmas on the horizon, reader may be interested in the Top 5 tips for maximizing miles on your holiday shopping by Patrick Sojka at Rewards Canada. He suggests double or triple dipping to rack up your points faster. This basically involves your mileage earning credit card being used for a purchase where you also earn miles in the same program as the credit card. For example, pay for your Air Canada flight with a TD Aeroplan Visa or American express.

When you use travel rewards, at some point you may be juggling way more credit cards than the average consumer. Even with a really good system to ensure that you have paid your cards in full each month, at some point something may slip through the cracks. On Frugal Travel Guy, Caroline Lupini explains How to Get Credit Card Late Fees Refunded and Interest Charges Reversed at least once, but it is important not to make a habit of missing payments.

In a guest post on the Canadian Finance Blog, How to Get the Best Value from Air Miles Rewards, Retire Happy blogger Jim Yih explains how he exchanged 15,850 Air Miles for six flights from Edmonton to Ottawa that saved him $2475.99. He calculates that he is getting about one Air Mile for every dollar spent and his equivalent cash back is about 1.67% over the longer time frame. He also endorses double-dipping and believes that with a little more conscious effort and awareness he can get the reward up to a 2% cash back equivalent.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Aug 4: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Every week in this space we offer examples of some of the blogs and personal finance articles we believe represent the Best from the Blogosphere. That’s why we were interested in a list recently published by LSM Insurance of the Top 50 Canadian Personal Finance Websites using various online metrics described in the accompanying article.

Here are several blogs (as opposed to mainstream media outlets) that made the list, and the “most shared content” that helped them get there.

Tom Drake at the Canadian Finance Blog was #10 on the list. How to Calculate Your Credit Score For Free has been a perennial favourite. Drake says that it’s actually fairly easy to see where you stand when it comes to your credit score. All you need to do is visit this credit score estimator and fill in the fields. Once you have done so, the calculator will tell you what range your score falls into.

Young and Thrifty was ranked #13. Sean Cooper helped to put this blog over the top with his guest post How to Achieve Findependence at Age 31. His three step approach is to achieve mortgage freedom by renting the top floor of his house and living in the basement apartment; have multiple income streams – by day he is a pension analyst, and by night he is a financial journalist and landlord; and, frugal living. You can see his own blog here.

The 24th spot went to Mo Money Mo Houses where How Can She Afford That? She Can’t, That’s How generated considerable interest. Jessica Moorhouse says people may appear to be more affluent than you are because they have big houses or fancy cars, but if they are in debt up to their eyeballs, it’s all an illusion. In order to maintain a lifestyle in the black, her parents had to live frugally. They only bought what they needed and lived fairly simply. To this day, that’s how she still lives her life and that’s why she is also not in debt.

At #30, Nelson Smith on Sustainable Personal Finance got the blogosphere buzzing when he wrote about Living in a Shipping Container – really! After their life is over making trips across the ocean, shipping containers are often auctioned off to the highest bidder. Sometimes these high bidders are businesses looking for cheap storage options. Or, if you want to get really crazy, you can build a house with them. Before you poo-poo the idea, Smith says that you can check out some pictures of houses built from storage containers in his blog post.

And rounding out the list at #50, Nancy at Money on Trees questions whether Netflix is really all you need. As a first time home buyer with little discretionary income, she says she simply cannot afford to spend $80 a month on satellite or cable. What she really misses are sports but even these are becoming more accessible as major events like the 2014 Sochi Olympics and CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada are streamed online. We have also been watching many Pan Am events online this summer and displaying then on our “smart” television which has a bigger screen.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

May 18: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Over the last few weeks, the Globe & Mail has featured an interesting series on debt, and how it is affecting both individuals and the economy. If you haven’t been following it, take a look at some of the stories below:

A taste for risk: Looking into Canada’s household debt

In deep: The high risks of Canada’s growing addiction to debt

Are you drowning in debt? See how you compare to other Canadians

Laurie Campbell: Credit Canada CEO shatters debt myths

I particularly like Rob Carrick’s article There’s no such thing as good debt. Mortgages, investment loans and student loans have traditionally been characterized as “good” debt. Carrick agrees borrowing for each of these purposes can be a rational thing to do and you may end up wealthier as a result. But he concludes there are too many pitfalls today for any one of them to qualify as a no-brainer financial decision.

Big Cajun Man (Alan Whitton) on the Canadian Personal Finance lists several articles about the evils of debt among his personal favourites. In 2008, he wrote Debt is like Fat. He says that just like his weight gain occurred a little at a time over 14 years, if you are not careful, debt build up can occur slowly without your noticing it.

If you are facing a mountain of debt and don’t know where to start, take a look at How I Paid Off $30,000 of Debt in Two Years, The Blog Post I’ve Been Waiting to Write  and What a Year of Being Debt-Free Has Taught Me  by Cait Flanders, who blogs at Blonde on a Budget.

In 2013, Krystal Yee at Give me back my five bucks wrote  How do you fight debt fatigue?. Debt fatigue is a mental state that can happen when you’ve been in debt for so long that you think you’ll never dig yourself out of the hole you’ve created for yourself. She quotes financial expert Gail Vaz-Oxlade who often tells people on her television shows to try and make a plan to get out of debt in 36 months or less – because anything more than three years, and you’ll likely suffer from some form of debt fatigue.

And finally, in a guest post on the Canadian Finance blog, Jim Yih from Retire Happy wrote that Debt Can Be A Problem For The Baby Boomers’ Retirement Plans. He says baby boomers who are getting ready for retirement need to get serious about planning for the best years of their lives.  Part of getting serious is addressing debt head on and taking the necessary steps to develop good habits around debt. His five tips on how boomers can deal with the debt epidemic are: stop overspending; increase your income; get support; focus on you before your kids; and, take one step at a time.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

The Dreaded B word: Budgeting

By Sheryl Smolkin

Everyone has their own system for handling the family finances, but if you are carrying expensive debt and always borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, you definitely need to do some serious budgeting. If you think you can’t afford to save for your children’s education or your own retirement, closely scrutinizing how you spend your money will help you to uncover ways to free up the funds you need to plan for the future.

Budgeting isn’t rocket science but it requires time and commitment. On her television show Til Debt Do Us Part personal finance maven Gail Vaz-Oxlade helps floundering families by putting them on a cash-only budget and dividing up into jars the amounts they can spend each week for each category, including debt-repayment and savings.

All nine seasons are available to watch online and there is more information and there are budgeting tools on her website.

Almost every personal finance blogger has done a series on budgeting and created budgeting spreadsheets you can download. For example, take a look at the Squawkfox budget series and tools. Retire Happy’s Jim Yih has also posted templates from his Take Control of Your Money workshop.

When my husband and I were first married, money was scarce and we budgeted quite carefully. Although we kept separate bank accounts, we did have a joint account for paying house expenses.

Once we had children our expenses increased but we also earned more. We still kept separate bank accounts, but each of us was responsible for specific expenses.

This ad hoc arrangement has worked well for us and for many years we have not had a formal budget. However, as we get closer to retirement, I realize that we will have only about 50% of our pre-retirement income. Therefore, it’s time to take a serious look at how we are spending our money now and how we will spend it once we are on a fixed income.

I can write off a portion of our house costs because I work from home, so I have a pretty good handle on these expenses. Most other expenditures like food, clothing, gas, car repairs, insurance, entertainment, travel, pet care, gifts etc. are charged to credit cards so we can accumulate airline points. It will take some time but it shouldn’t be too difficult categorize and analyze these expenses.

Finally, both of us withdraw cash at irregular intervals to pay for personal grooming plus lunches out and other miscellaneous expenses. These amounts are more difficult to track and we will have to make lists in our smartphones or find the right smartphone app to organize the information.

Once I get a handle on what we are spending now as compared to what we will have available to live on in future, I will track our monthly expenses as against income and projected income on a spreadsheet.

Some of our expenses will go down after retirement because we won’t have to pay professional fees and my husband won’t be commuting to work. We will also pay lower taxes and no longer have to save for retirement. Going down to one car or moving to a less expensive home are longer-term possibilities. But there is no doubt we will have to make compromises.

Whether you are just starting out or close to retirement, you may need help to create and stick to a budget. On the Canadian Finance Blog, Tom Drake discusses How to Choose a Fee-Only Financial Planner. If you are deeply in debt, the Saskatchewan Credit Counselling Society can help you consolidate your debts, develop a budget and get back on track.

If we had budgeted more carefully over the last 15-20 years we would have more to spend in retirement. But you can start right now. If you have used budgeting tools or resources that you recommend to others, let us know and we will share them in a future post.

Aug 4: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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It’s hard to believe its August already and before we know it the kids will be back in school. But you know for sure summer is waning when it starts to get dark earlier and the temperatures begin dropping at night.

This week we feature a selection of interesting blogs from some of our favourite personal finance bloggers.

Tim Stobbs from Canadian Dream: Free at 45 has opted to work four days a week instead of five. In 10% Less Pay, But $8 Less on My Paycheque he tells us why at least for now, there has been hardly any impact on his take home pay.

Blonde on a budget’s Cait Flanders has undertaken a massive purge of her possessions starting with her bedroom closet as part of her commitment to a one year “shopping ban.” Find out what’s left and the few necessities she needs that will be exceptions to the rule.

Do you need a little extra money? Tom Drake says on Canadian Finance blog that you might already have it. He suggests Tracking your spending for one to three months. You might find that there are money leaks that are costing you big. Once you plug those up, you can essentially “find” more money in your budget.

In the  Weekend Reading: Banking Bonus Edition Dan Wesley at Our Big Fat Wallet highlights some deals at Tangerine, BMO, Canada Trust and RBC.

And finally, whether you are a new graduate looking for your first job or a seasoned professional looking for new opportunities, take a look at Ten steps to a productive information interview by Kevin Press at BrighterLife.ca.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.