Tag Archives: Huffington Post

May 29: Best from the blogosphere

I got married in November, but the fact is that the spring and summer are the prime season for weddings. Whether you are planning a wedding or have been invited to attend one this year, it probably didn’t take you long to realize that weddings are not cheap.

Of course, the all time classic budget wedding story that went viral is Kerry K. Taylor’s How to get married for $239.00. This is based on the cost of a marriage license and services of a marriage commissioner in B.C. several years ago. While she threw in a few extras, getting married on the family farm and ruthlessly paring down the guest list kept the wedding costs to hundreds rather than thousands of dollars.

In a 2014 CBC article, Nisha Patel offered additional tricks to trim wedding costs. She suggests ditching pricey paper invitations in favour of a digital solution. She also recommends that you “Say yes to a cheaper dress,” and “Say no to expensive extras from photo booths to late night snack bars when you have already provided dinner.”

While still lavish by most standards, the wedding profiled by Wedding Chicks on How Much Does a DIY Wedding Cost has lots of great ideas like making almost everything yourself, scouting out pre-owned items, spray painting decor to match with the theme and baking the sweets for the dessert table. Bouquets included blush pink garden roses, snow-white dahlias, and a mixture of wildflowers from a nearby fresh cut flower farm.

Participating in a wedding party or even just attending as a guest can also be an expensive proposition, particularly if you have to buy an outfit and travel to the event as well as paying for a hotel and costly engagement, shower and wedding gifts.

Pattie Lovett Reid gives six financial tips for wedding guests. In general, she says the closer the relationship, the more you should spend. “The old rules say to estimate how much the couple spent on hosting you, i.e. the price of your plate. But the new rules say to spend whatever you think is appropriate depending on your relationship with the couple,” says Constance Hoffman, the owner of etiquette and professional skills firm Social and Business Graces.

In 5 rules of gift giving on The Knot, group gifts are encouraged based on a survey of married couples who said their favorite gifts were big-ticket items purchased by a group of their friends that they would most likely never be able to afford on their own.

How You Can Reduce The Financial Stress Of Attending A Wedding? Book travel early. Consider unique gifts like pre-arranging an experience the couple can enjoy on their honeymoon like a local excursion or a surprise picnic on the beach. Wear what’s already in your closet. And if the wedding weekend includes several events, try wearing the same outfit but dressing it up with a pashmina or different jewelry.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Feb 13: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

There is always lots of speculation prior to the federal budget about possible tax changes. Last week we noted that Prime Minister Trudeau publically backed off from rumoured changes to the taxability of employer-contributions to group health and dental plans.

However, in the Financial Post Jamie Glombek writes about more tax changes to watch out for in the upcoming federal budget. He covers tax rates, “boutique tax credits,” employee stock options, capital gains inclusion rates and possible changes that may be of interest to small business owners.

MoneySense has a great slide show profiling 10 personal finance heroes you really need to meet. For example, star tennis player Milos Raonic learned to save 90% of his income. Philippe Alberigo, from Whitby, Ont worked several jobs and started stock investing at a young age. When he hit 22 in 2014, he had a $100,000 portfolio.

Financial trainer and blogger Avraham Byers writes in the Huffington Post that The Snowball Method Can Help You Put Your Debt On Ice. Method 1 which he calls the Debt Avalanche prioritizes paying off your debts from the highest to lowest in order to minimize the amount of interest you pay. In contrast, Method 2 – Debt Snowball tells you to pay off your debts from smallest balance to largest — ignoring your interest rates. The idea is that paying off your smaller debts sooner will give you confidence and financial momentum to stick with your plan to the end.

Leo T. Ly, a blogger who is new to this space blogs at ISaved5k. He says the first step to save $1 M is for young people to research the jobs/career that have the potential to make six figures salary a year in the industry in which they want to build a career and get the required training. The second step is to minimize various kinds of debt.

In 2016, millennial personal finance expert and award-winning blogger Jessica Moorhouse announced she was quitting her 9 to 5 job to become a full-time entrepreneur. In Here’s What Happened to My Finances After I Quit My Job she explains that in 2016 she made just over $34,000 from her side business and she made sure she had an emergency fund of $25,000 before she took the plunge. She also embarked on a “spending cleanse” to simplify her life and be smarter with her money.


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.

Oct 31: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Last week we included links to blogs and articles discussing the implications of the new mortgage rules announced by Finance Minister Bill Morneau in early October. But the ultimate impact of these changes on individuals and the housing market are still emerging. Here is some additional insight you may be interested in.

RateSpy.com’s mortgage expert Robert McLister writes that the Feds Nuked the Mortgage Market. He calls it “a stealth rate hike” by federal policy-makers that is an end run around Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz  who has opted not to drive up Canadian interest rates.

Even Liberal MPs are concerned new rules will shut out first-time homebuyers  and they are wondering why Morneau didn’t consult the national Liberal caucus or the House Finance Committee prior to making the announcement intended to cool down the overheated housing market in major urban centres.

But Boomer & Echo’s Robb Engen says Cool It. The Feds Aren’t Killing The Housing Market. He acknowledges that home builders are upset with the feds for introducing new rules, but says maybe this time the feds got it right. Commenting on this blog, Michael James from Michael James on Money says, “Maybe new rules will save some from the biggest financial mistake of their lives.”

If you or someone you know has been saving for a down payment, Canada’s New Mortgage Rules: This Is How Much You Can Afford in the Huffington Post includes a great chart that will help prospective buyers to determine how much house they can afford with 20% down based on a benchmark qualifying interest rate of 4.64%.

And finally, Sean Cooper says in spite of the new mortgage rules, First-Time Homebuyers Shouldn’t Throw in the Towel. He says, “While I’m not a fan of parents gifting their adult children their entire down payment, there’s even more reason now for parents to top up their child’sdown payment to reach 20% and avoid the stricter qualifying rate.” He also believes first-time homeowners should avoid buying “too much house.”


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.

Aug 29: Best from the Blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Late August is one of the most expensive times of the year for families with young children. Kids seem to grow like weeds in the summer and often have to be outfitted from head to toe. And expensive computers, tablets, smart phones and sports equipment are now on many back-to-school lists list along with low tech supplies like pencils, pens, binders and post-it notes.

Here are some ideas I have gleaned from other bloggers to help save you money:

  1. Check with the school: Find out from your child’s school what exactly you are expected to provide. There is no sense buying all sorts of notebooks, binders and pens if the basics are already handed out to students.  And teachers often have strong preferences about how they want students to complete and organize their work.
  2. Make a list: Before heading out on a shopping trip for school supplies, check what items from previous years are unused and which binders and back packs can be re-used because they are still in good condition. Then make a list and stick to it.
  3. Take inventory: Try on coats, boots and other clothing items to see if anything still fits. Where you have several children close in age, determine what can be handed down. Consider a clothing swap of gently used items with friends and neighbours.
  4. Spread it out: While you may feel pressured to buy everything at once before school starts, you won’t need snowsuits and boots until November. Spreading out necessary purchases over the next few months until you see great sales will take the pressure off your budget.
  5. Online deals: Major retailers with bricks and mortar stores often offer deals online. In addition to using coupon sites, like RetailMeNot, there are a number of price comparison sites, including shopbot.ca and ShopToIt.ca, that list how much an item costs at various retailers. When shopping online, choose retailers that offer deals such as free shipping, promo codes and discounts.
  6. Buy generic: Pre-teens and teens in particular may be into “name brands” that can cost hundreds of dollars more than generic equivalents of similar quality. Giving your children a limited clothing budget or telling them they have to earn the money to buy trendy items will help them to better understand the value of a dollar and keep your overall costs down.
  7. Shop alone: This may or may not work depending on the age of your child and what you are shopping for. However, the easiest way to avoid arguments about buying more expensive school supplies and clothes with the latest Disney characters may be to shop without your kids so they won’t distract you from your mission of finding and buying items that are the best value.
  8. Used sports equipment: Children grow out of skates and skis every year. Outfitting a minor hockey player can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year. Some sports stores sell hockey equipment starter kits for better prices than if you buy each item individually. You may find gently used equipment on sites like Kijiji. Craigslist, Ebay or a local classified website. Some arenas have sports exchanges or you can talk to parents of older hockey players.
  9. Last year’s model: Contrary to what your kids may tell you, they don’t need the latest iPhone or iPad. The odds of mobile devices being lost or broken are very high. Earlier models may be offered by carriers for under $100 and you can often share minutes on a family plan. Also, kids typically text as opposed to sending emails so a costly data plan may be unnecessary.
  10. Extra-curricular activities: Extra-curricular activities like dancing, swimming, sports and music lessons are an important part of every child’s education but they can add up. Don’t fall in to the trap of signing your children up for more activities than the family schedule can mange for more money than you can afford. Go over the brochure for the local community centre with each child and pick one or two convenient activities that are offered at a price that fits within your budget.

Also see:

Back-To-School Costs: How To Avoid Blowing Your Budget
How to Save Money on School Supplies
Back-To-School Shopping: Five Money Saving Tips
Back-to-School Shopping on a Budget | MintLife Blog
Back to School Tips – How to Balance Your Budget with Needs and Wants

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.

Jul 18: Best from the Blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

We recently posted the blog Rent vs Buy: A Reprise, but the subject of when, or even if millennials will ever buy homes seems to be a continuing theme in both the blogosphere and the mainstream media.

Its not surprising that issue is still a live one, particularly in cities like Vancouver and Toronto where housing prices have gone through the roof and only young people with great jobs and a hefty gift from the Bank of Mom and Dad can get their foot in the door.

Several months ago BMO published the report Rent-Weary Millennials Not in a Hurry to Become Home Owners; Need to Save Accordingly. In the prairie provinces, people age 19-35 gave the following reasons why they are delaying home ownership:

  • 27%: Don’t feel comfortable making such a large purchase at this point in my career
  • 46%: Other priorities take precedence (such as traveling, continuing education or starting a business)
  • 33%: Don’t want to be left with no disposable income
  • 40%: Not sure where I want to settle down
  • 27%: Have to pay off debt first

In a Huffington post blog, Jackie Marchildon asks Are Millennials Choosing To Rent, Or Just Choosing Not To Buy?  She argues that renting is its own lifestyle and although currently dominated by millennial city dwellers in Toronto and Vancouver, it is not unique to this generation, nor to their respective cities.

On the Financial Independence Hub Helen Chevreau (daughter of well-known personal finance guru Jonathan Chevreau) says she is  Young, saving, and hopefully one day will buy a house. She critiques an article about “Tony” in Toronto Life who would rather spend his generous pharmacist’s salary on exotic trips and lavish spending than be shackled by a mortgage. She advocates for a happy middle ground: “somewhere between throwing down $1,500 on a meal and stealing toilet paper from the bathroom of the bar to save a few bucks.”

Another perspective comes from a young married couple who is saving up for a cottage because “they don’t want to invest their money in a shoebox.” They are also paying off student debt ($700/month) and spending $300/month on dog walking for their new Labrador mutt puppy.

Rent to Own | Option to Purchase is an interesting article by Saskatoon lawyer Richard Carlson. “There is no such thing in law as a ‘rent to own agreement.’ The idea was made up by people who wanted to sell to someone who did not qualify for a mortgage,” he says. “There is a good chance it will lead to a problem and a dispute.” He also distinguishes “rent to own” from an “option to purchase” which comes with its own set of challenges. Bottom line is, get independent legal advice before you enter into one of these questionable arrangements!

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.

Oct 26: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

As I write this, perhaps the most newsworthy item of the last week has been the election of the new Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. But it will be weeks and months before we know what impact the change in government will actually have on our day to day lives and the Canadian economy.

So today, we go back to basics and draw on the writings of many of our favourite personal finance bloggers and mainstream media pundits who day in and day out, produce articles that help us better manage our money.

The thought of being unemployed is terrifying, but the odds are it will happen to you or a close family member at least once in your lifetime. On Money We Have, Barry Choi writes about How to Prepare for Unemployment. He suggests that you have an emergency fund; a side hustle and that you improve your skills.

Gail Vaz-Oxlade tackles Parenting on a Budget. She says the trick to not letting kids’ expenses get way out of hand is to allocate a specific amount to each child’s activities and needs, and stick with the plan. Start by listing all the things your children do for which you must lay out some of your hard-earned bucks.

Krystal Yee has been vegetarian for almost two years now. She shares on Give me back my five bucks her one month experiment moving from vegetarian to vegan. She anticipates higher than normal grocery bills and that it will be tough to change her habits, but she is hoping that one month will turn to two months and the result will be a new lifestyle.

If you wonder where your money goes, you’ll enjoy The crunch years: Where the money goes by Matt McCleern on MoneySense. McCleern tracked every cent he spent digitally, over the last 12 years. He says transportation and daycare were real budget busters, but the best financial decision he ever made was to aggressively pay down his mortgage.

And in the Huffington Post, Pramod Udiaver discusses five major trends that will affect how you retire. They are increasing longevity; the lower return environment; fewer defined benefit pension plans; and growing health care costs.

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.

Oct 14: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

blogospheregraphic

From almost the first day you started working, you began saving for retirement by paying into a pension plan or an RRSP. But now that you are on the “home stretch” to life after work, have you decided what you are going to do with your time?

Brighter Life’s Dave Dineen says now that he is retired, “What do you do?” is the question he dreads the most. Read how he seizes the day, does whatever he likes and makes up for lost time.

On FreefromBroke, Brianna discusses 9 things to do when you retire. Go back to school, travel, volunteer, start a business or start a blog! Suddenly your options are endless.

Huffington Post, senior editor Ann Brenhoff ponders how so many aspects of her personal life flow from her work. She says, “For my retirement equation to balance, I need the sense that I am essential to something or someone. And that’s what I fear trips up a lot of us. Is taking a photography class at the library really going to rock my boat?”

Daniel, a guest blogger on Boomer and Echo took a package after a 40 year career. Since then, he has had opportunities to work part-time but he is so busy with hobbies that he no longer wants to be tied down to a calendar.

And David Ashton notes in an August 2012 MoneySense article that Canadians can no longer rely on pensions, government benefits and bull markets to carry them through their golden years. He offers 7 strategies to make your money last including reinvent your job and cash in on the equity in your home to move to a less expensive area.

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.