Tag Archives: Krystal Yee

July 17: Best from the blogosphere

Many prolific personal finance bloggers don’t hesitate to share a surprising amount of information about their family finances and the milestones on their journey to financial freedom.

In his Net Worth Update: 2017 Mid-Year Review, Boomer & Echo’s Robb Engen reports that he is well on his way to meet his, “big hairy audacious goal of Freedom 45.” To do so, his savings rate will need to remain high and he’ll have to avoid the evil temptation of lifestyle inflation. Currently his net worth is $574,296.

Tim Stobbs is an engineer in his thirties with two kids living in Regina, Saskatchewan who decided working until 65 sounds like a bad idea. At first he thought Freedom 45 might work, but he is now aiming to retire on his 40th birthday. Since he is mortgage free, and his May 2017 Net Worth is $972,000, early retirement could be right around the corner.

Krystal Yee has been sharing her financial goals and challenges for 10 years on Give me back my five bucks. Her recent blogs The real cost of moving in Vancouver, How I’m saving for travel this year and May 2017 Goals: Recap will give you some perspective on how this busy professional freelance writer is managing her finances and what she hope is her final household move until retirement!

Are you expecting an addition to the family? Personal finance and travel writer Barry Choi (Money We Have) and his wife have been Getting the baby room ready and buying all the necessary bits and pieces from furniture to car seats to strollers. He figures they have spent about $1040 so far. And these expenses are in addition to the costs of IVF which he estimated at $25,000. Although he says, “I’m on the hook for 20 years and I could do a running tally but the costs may terrify me,” he is thrilled at the prospect.

Bridget Eastgaard (Money After Graduation) is also contributing to the personal finance blogger baby boom. She notes that many millennials want to become parents, but their finances are holding them back. The combined burden of student loan debt and sky-high housing prices make having a family seem like an unaffordable dream, but it doesn’t have to be.

How to save for Baby? “You have an Emergency Fund, you have a Retirement Fund, and now you need a Baby Fund — a dedicated savings account to afford all pregnancy, birth, and child-related expenses.” Eastgaard advises. “Ideally, you would start this before you even begin trying to become pregnant, but even if you find yourself with an unplanned baby like yours truly, a Baby Fund is a crucial first step to ensuring your family starts off on the right financial foot.”


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.

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.

Jan 30: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

The thing about January is that everyone is either trying to get physically, mentally or financially fit, although some people are closer to the end game than others. Here’s what some of our favourite bloggers wrote about saving money and reaching other goals in 2017.

In How to Save Money on Groceries: 10 Easy Ways to Cut Your Bill in Half Tom Drake gives the usual advice, such as make a list and stick to it, try private label brands and buy case lots of products you use regularly. But he says you can also kill two birds with one stone by eating less so your grocery bill goes down.

Stephan Weyman says one of the reasons he shops at Costco is the company’s “no questions asked, crazy return policy.” For example, the company took back a three year old recumbent bicycle that broke down two years before and he got a $500 refund. He has also successfully returned a bicycle purchased for his wife that turned into a garage ornament for $200; cushioned floor mats, and frying pans that were supposed to be professional quality and didn’t hold up.

On Give me back my five bucks, Krystal says her primary 2017 goals are to have a fun year full of travel and adventure. She plans to stay debt free and continue to save save at least $1,650/month in her RRSP/TFSA. She also resolves to curb impulse spending, continue to be active and keep in better touch with friends.

Cait Flanders (formerly Blonde on a Budget) who paid off her $28,000 of debt in two and a half years and in July 2014 completed a year- long shopping ban, plans to make 2017 the year of slow living.

Each month, she is going to experiment with slowing down in one area of her life. Some of the different things she will experiment with are: slow food, slow mornings, slow evenings, slow movement, slow technology and slow money. “The only thing I won’t do is make a list of what I’m going to work on each month. If I’ve learned anything over the past few years, it’s to trust my gut,” Flanders says.

And finally, Tim Stobbs has documented progress towards his early retirement goal on Canadian Dream: Free at 45 for several years. He hopes 2017 is the last year of his full-time working career. However, he is beginning to notice a new emotion in the people around him: fear. He gets the usual well-meaning queries like:

  • Are you sure you have enough saved?
  • What happens if you don’t get a part time job?
  • What will you do with unexpected expenses?
  • Maybe you should work just one more year?

But Stobbs figures the worse that can happen is that he will have to go back to work for a few years. “I fully admit I may not have enough saved to head into semi-retirement,” he says.  “But I don’t want to live a life based on fear of the unknown.  I’m willing to try out something new and see what happens. “


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.

Dec 28: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

This is the last Best from the Blogosphere for 2015 and I’m taking a break, so the next one will be published on January 25, 2016. We wish all savewithspp.com readers a healthy, prosperous New Year.

As we look back on 2015 and ahead to 2016, there is much to think about. We have a new Federal government, the loonie is at an all-time low and Canadians have extended extraordinary hospitality to Syrians and other refugees from war-torn lands.

Here are some interesting stories we are following:

In TFSA vs. RRSP: How are Canadians saving? I interviewed Krystal Yee (Gen X), Tom Drake (Gen Y) and Bonnie Flatt (Boomer) to find out how Canadians are taking advantage of the tax-sheltered savings vehicles available to them.

In What Sean Cooper Really Achieved By Paying Off His Mortgage In 3 Years Robb Engen from Boomer and Echo tells us that Sean Cooper didn’t just pay off his $255,000 mortgage in three years; he taught us all a lesson in personal branding. Mr. Cooper, a pension analyst by day, mild-mannered blogger by night, took an almost Machiavellian-like approach by achieving fame through mortgage freedom at age 30.

Jim Yee offers some Year End Finance Strategies that will take advantage of ongoing changes to our tax rules. For example, in 2016, the new Liberal government will be lowering the tax rate on the middle income bracket from 22% to 20.5% so those individuals making more than $45,283/year but less than $90,563/year, deferring income to next year might save some tax dollars.

On the Financial Independence Hub, Doug Dahmer writes about the timing of CPP benefits. He says the CPP benefit for a couple can be in excess of $700,000 over their lifetime and the study demonstrates that the difference between starting your benefit at the least beneficial date and starting at the best date can be more than $300,000.

And finally, Rob Carrick at the Globe and Mail offers some thoughts on how to prepare for a frugal retirement. Frugality is assumed to be a virtue in the world of personal finance writing, but on the outside, frugality is sometimes a synonym for cheap. He refers to a blogger on Frugalwoods who argues that making the choice to be frugal is about asserting your independent thinking about 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 with us 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 19: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

One of the ways many of us try to stretch our dollars further is by taking advantage of rewards programs ranging from cash back or travel rewards on credit cards to points cards from your local supermarket or drug store.

I have been a big fan of travel rewards ever since I did a distance Master of Law degree in the UK in the mid 1990s that required me to travel to Europe half a dozen times in two years. But I have a collection of other loyalty cards in my wallet including a punch card from a bakery that rewards me with a free dozen bagels every time I’ve purchased ten dozen in total.

A September 2015 report from Montreal-based Aimia Inc., which operates Aeroplan and other customer-loyalty programs says of the 89% of Canadians enrolled in a loyalty program, 59% have done so with supermarkets, 22% have signed up with banks and 18% with restaurants.

On itbusiness.ca Brian Jackson reported in March 2015 on a research study conducted by Yahoo Inc. The average Canadian has four loyalty program cards in their wallets, the study found. More than half of consumers say they frequently use those cards to accumulate points and miles. Two-thirds of them go online to calculate the value of the loyalty program, and six out of 10 choose loyalty programs that come free-of-charge.

On Robb Engen’s say-so, I replaced my CIBC Aeroplan VISA with a Capital One Aspire Travel World MasterCard about 18 months ago. This week I was delighted to get an email from the company describing how their program has been enhanced by elimination of the the tiered redemption program and the introduction of partial redemptions. Read all about the changes on RewardsCardsCanada and why with these changes, Capital One has further cemented its status as the best value rewards card for everyday travelers.

If unlike your jet setting neighbours, you travel infrequently, you may be interested in the blog on familyfuncanada.com about the best loyalty programs for infrequent travelers. Helen Early says Airmiles can bring you plenty of rewards. According to Early, the best thing about the Airmiles program is that you can earn points almost anywhere, through activities that you probably already do. She also notes that hotel chains like Faimont, Starwood, Best Western and Hilton offer great deals and discounts for even the lowest tier of members.

Krystal Yee wrote a sponsored post on Give Me Back My Five Bucks about how you can be rewarded for everyday purchases when using your debit card. She reports that while there are very few debit rewards in Canada, Scotiabank offers three.

  • The SCENE Debit Card allows you to earn accelerated points through Cineplex online and in person (5x based on purchases) as well as at a few other select locations including Sport Chek, Milestones and East Side Mario’s. You will also earn one point for every five dollars spent in other locations.
  • With the Moneyback Debit Card you can earn 1% on every purchase you make – up to a maximum of $300 per year. Those that open up an account before October 31st will earn double the rewards – $600 – through to that day.
  • With every purchase made on a ScotiaHockey NHL® debit card, you will be entered to win grand prizes including four 2016 NHL® All-Star Game packages, four 2016 Stanley Cup® Final packages, four 2016 Molson Canadian NHL Face-Off™ packages as well as 45 monthly prizes.

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.

June 9: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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There is nothing I love better than planning a vacation or two or three. At the moment we have two weeks in our Muskoka fractional ownership cottage coming up; a week at Disneyworld with our granddaughter in September; and I’m working on the arrangements for a family vacation somewhere warm in February.

So with summer vacations coming up for many families, I pulled together a series of posts both old and new, with a vacation theme.

Krystal Yee explains how she is saving money and travel rewards points for a European vacation this fall and prioritizing her travel plans. She is comfortable that nearer term trips to Edmonton and Las Vegas are off the table because her long term goal is worth saving for.

Peggy Goldman, President of Friendly Planet Travel offers 9 Great Tips For Budget-Conscious Travelers. Choosing a hotel with breakfast, avoiding baggage fees at all cost and selecting a credit card without foreign conversion fees are all good suggestions.

Several years ago on Brighter Life, Helen Burnett-Nichols weighed the pros and cons of buying a fraction of a vacation home. She says because most people don’t use their cottages all year it may be difficult to justify full time cottage ownership. Shared ownership means you have the property for 4 or 5 weeks a year and when you arrive it’s like walking into a “no upkeep resort.” However ongoing maintenance costs will increase and the re-sale market for fractional units is often limited.

In a more recent Brighter Life blog, Brenda Spiering gives some interesting suggestions for preventing family cottage feuds. She says the best way to decide how to pass on the family cottage to the next generation is to talk to your family and consult a financial advisor. Depending on your needs, he or she can direct you to other professionals, such as an estate-planning lawyer or tax accountant.

And don’t forget the many vacation destinations close to home. Tourism Saskatchewan’s Travel Tales Blog gives you updates on things to see and do, places to stay and eat, and exciting year-around experiences available in Saskatchewan, all only a few mouse clicks away.

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.

Apr 21: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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If there are snow flurries as forecasted for this week, it’s probably all my fault because I took our winter coats to the dry cleaners this past weekend. But when the temperature goes up, the temptation to put away boots and down jackets for another year is irresistible.

Sometimes your financial accounts also need a spring cleaning. In Spring Financial Cleaning Big Cajun Man recounts how he cleaned up his Quicken data files removing redundant accounts so they give him a more realistic financial picture.

Jim Yih reminds us that investing and taxes go hand in hand, particularly outside of your RRSP. That’s because different forms of investment income can provide significant tax benefits.

In spite of the plethora of personal financial blogs and other sources of financial advice available to Canadians, Brighter Life editor Brenda Spierling reports on Brighter Life that Women lag behind in financial planning. Does this sound familiar? She suggests that you create a financial plan and open an automatic savings plan or payroll deduction plan as soon as possible.

This week Robb Engen on Brighter Life writes tongue-in-cheek about Bank Slogans And Taglines, Translated. For example, he says TD’s “Open earlier, open later. Even Sunday” really means, “We don’t care that most of you want to bank online. We’re going to make you come in and speak to an advisor so we can sell you more products  any time, day or night.”

Finally, after a foot injury in January, on Give me back my five bucks, Krystal Yee reports that she laced on her running shoes for the first time 75 days later and that she is determiend to run and blog her way back to top physical condition.

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.

Mar 24: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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Whether you simply can’t face the pile of paper on your desk or you are waiting for the last few T5s to come in the mail, the deadline for filing your income tax return is on the horizon.

In Income Splitting 101: Tips On Keeping It In The Family Boomer & Echo’s Robb Engen discusses the Conservative government’s proposal to permit income-splitting for families with children and some legitimate income-splitting strategies that are already available under the Income Tax Act.

Many young people are considering post-secondary education with a co-op component. On canadianbudgetbinder.com Mr. CBB tells us How his co-op program at a zoo shaped his work ethics.

He says one of the greatest parts of his co-op program was when he was feeding the animals and visitors to the zoo asked him questions he learned how to interact with people and share his knowledge freely.

Blogger Krystal Yee has a new job working close to the downtown Vancouver core. She says Having a car is expensive, particularly now that she has to rent a downtown parking spot. But her home is in the suburbs and she’s not ready to give her car up yet.

Brenda Spiering the editor of brighterlife.ca has some great ideas for spring cleaning your finances. Begin by digging out all of your essential financial documents. If you are unsure what they are, check out Twelve key documents you need to gather.

And as wedding season comes into full bloom, take a look at How I Made 100 Wedding Invitations for Under $60 on whenlifegivesyoulemonsaddvodka.com. All it took was card stock from a stationery store, an online template and a new printer cartridge.

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.

Mar 3: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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If you haven’t started to think about filing your 2013 income tax return, this week is as good a time as any. You’ve made your 2013 Saskatchewan Pension Plan and RRSP contributions and T4s are in the mail.

Last April, on Million Dollar Journey, the Frugal Trader wrote a great blog to help readers prepare for filing their 2012 income taxes. It is equally relevant this year – a great checklist to get all your paperwork in order before you sit down to complete your return.

If this is the first year your home was your principal place of business, you’ll want to read what Canadian Finance Blog’s Tom Drake has to say about how you can reduce your taxes with business-use-of-home expenses.

On a similar note, in Canadian Living, blogger Krystal Yee offers income tax tips for freelancers so those of you in that category you can get all of the deductions that you qualify for. She also warns the self-employed to put money away for taxes on a regular basis so there are no surprises at the end of the year.

Media-savvy accountant and author Evelyn Jacks writes about claiming employment expenses. Even employees may claim certain specific expenses, depending on whether their employer will verify that this was a necessary condition of employment. Allowable expenses may include travel costs, the cost of using an automobile to earn income, supplies used up in the course of employment, the cost of an assistant, and home office costs.

Retire Happy blogger Jim Yih reminds us to take advantage of the Pension Income Tax Credit. He says if you are age 65 and do not receive a pension (other than a government benefit) you should open a Registered Retirement Income Fund and transfer $12,000 from your RRSP. If you draw down $2,000/year until age 71 you will be entitled to the pension tax credit and effectively receive the money tax-free. An unused pension tax credit can also be transferred to your spouse.

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.