Tag Archives: Registered Educational Savings Plan

Interview: Evelyn Jacks talks taxes*

 

Click here to listen
Click here to listen

Today I’m interviewing Evelyn Jacks for SavewithSPP.com. Evelyn is the founder and president of Knowledge Bureau, a virtual campus focused on professional development of tax and financial advisors. She was recently named one of Canada’s Top 25 Women of Influence. She is also one of Canada’s most prolific and best-selling authors of 51 personal tax and wealth management books, and a highly respected financial commentator and speaker.

Every year there are income tax changes and they impact individuals filing personal tax returns. First of all, I’d like to highlight some of 2017 changes that listeners should keep an eye on when they’re getting ready to complete their tax return.

Q: Evelyn, taxpayers with children are going to see a major change in tax credits for 2017. Can you bring us up to date on what these changes are? 
A: Yes, absolutely. The most notable changes found in the past are that the children’s arts amount which was the non-refundable tax credit on the Federal tax return has been eliminated and in addition, the refundable tax credit for the children’s fitness amount is gone.

On the employer’s side, the government has also discontinued a 25% investment tax credit for child care spaces of March 22, 2017. These are quite significant changes, especially because on the federal return, there are no other places, with the exception of disabled children, to claim minor children.

Q: What has happened to tax credits for tuition, education, and textbook amounts?
A: Again here, we’re seeing some significant changes. As of January 1, 2017, only the tuition credit can be claimed on the Federal tax return and then only if the total exceeds $100 in the year. What’s happened is that the finance department has removed the monthly education amount of $400 for full time students and $120 for part-time students, as well as the monthly text book amount, which was $65 for full-time students and $20 for part-time students.

However, when you look at the tax return you are still going to see references to the tuition education and textbook amount found in Schedule 11. That’s important because, students can still carry forward any unused amount from all three components of this credit from prior years.

The other thing I should mention is that the provinces all have education credits but that’s changing too, so, in Saskatchewan, for example, there has been an elimination of both the tuition and education credits as of July 1, 2017. Therefore, on the Saskatchewan provincial return you can only claim those credits for half of the year.

Q: Now, the public transit credit is also gone. What’s the effective date on that? 
A: On the Federal side, we saw that credit eliminated as of July 1, 2017. So again, it’s a situation where you’re going to have to keep your receipts and make the claim, just for half the year in 2017.

Q: In your view, what was the Liberal government’s rationale for eliminating these credits, and what did taxpayers get in return?
A: Well, the government is really undergoing quite a significant tax reform at the moment. When they came in with their first tax changes after the election, one of the first things they did was reduce the middle-income tax rate, for income between about $46,000 and about $92,000, from 22% to 20.5%. In addition,  they created an upper income tax bracket increasing the tax rate from 29%-33% on income over $202,800. The third thing they did was they introduced the more generous child benefits.

In fact, that benefit has recently been indexed for the beneficiaries starting in July 2018. If your family net income is under $35,450 then you’ll be able to receive over $500 a month for each child under the age of 6, and around $450 a month for each child age 6-17. These are quite lucrative amounts but they require the filing of a tax return and the combining of net family income.

Q: The eligibility for medical tax credits for fertility treatments has been expanded retroactively. Please explain those changes and what actions taxpayers who are impacted should take to realize the full benefit of these changes.
A: Yes, starting in 2017 and subsequent years, the expenses for medical treatments to conceive a child will be deductible even if the treatments are not required because of a medical condition, which was the criteria in the past. If the expenses ocurred in a year from 2008 forward they can still be adjusted, because we have a 10 year adjustment period that we can take advantage of.

Q: What, if any, other surprises might tax payers have when they start filling out their 2017 tax return?
A: Well, there are a lot of things that change every year including indexing of various tax credits, tax rates and claw back zones. But I think the one big change that I’d really like to point out is the caregiver credit. It’s new for 2017, and it replaces three credits from the past: the family caregiver tax credit, the caregiver tax credit, and the tax credit for infirm dependents. So now one caregiver can get credit.

The second thing is that there are two different amounts: one that I call a mini-credit of $2,150, and one that I’m going to call the maxi-credit of $6,883. So on the mini-credit side you must claim this. It’s the only credit you can claim for an infirm or disabled minor child. But not necessarily one who receives a disability tax credit, but someone who is infirm as it relates to normal development of other children on both a physical or a mental basis.

A person that can claim this mini-credit is someone for whom you are a claiming a spousal amount or an equivalent to spouse amount. Now, the maxi-credit generally is claimed for an eligible dependent who is over the age of 18. But in some cases, if you have a spouse with a low income, you can claim a top-up credit of up to $1,683.

So you’re going to have to take a close look at Schedule 5 on the tax return and at net income allowance, particularly for low income earning spouses, to make a complicated tax calculation. What you need to remember is that your dependents no longer need to live with you. You cannot claim this amount for someone age 65, who is healthy, which is what you could do before under the caregiver amount.

Q: It sounds very complicated. Can taxpayers typically rely on their tax software to guide them and ensure they get all the credits and deductions they are entitled to? In what circumstances do you think that they should seek professional advice?
A: Well, you know, I’m a big fan of tax software because these programs, first of all, take the worry out of the math for you, and some of the math calculations, particularly as you are calculating federal and provincial taxes is very complicated. But the tax program is not necessarily going to prepare the tax return to your best advantage. There are lots of ways to do the math correctly. What you are aiming for is to calculate to your family’s overall benefit, and to do some tax planning as well.

For example, there are a number of carry-forward provisions that people may not be aware of, or they don’t enter properly. You can carry forward charitable donations to up to five years. You can carry forward capital losses in stock market investments indefinitely to offset capital gains in your future.

The other thing is that starting in 2017, you absolutely have to file the refund titled T2091, a designation of principle residence form, even if you sell a tax-exempt principle residence. Anyone who sells property starting in 2017 has to fill in this complicated form. The tax software may or may not tell you about that, and if you miss it you could be issued a penalty of up to $8000. That could really hurt.

Q: What are the most frequent errors or omissions tax payers typically make when completing or filing their income tax return?
A: Any expense that is discretionary, so, I’m thinking of child care expenses and other kinds of expenses where people have out-of-pocket costs. Moving expense are really lucrative, for example. Also, missed medical expenses are very common.

Q: If you had three pieces of advice to offer tax payers to help ensure they file a correct tax return, and get all the credits and deductions they are entitled to, what would they be?
A: The first thing is to catch up on any delinquent filed returns. The option to benefit from the long available disclosure program is actually changing and it will close for some people, effective March 1, 2018. So if you chronically ignore your filing obligations, not only will you be unable to avoid tax-evasion policies, you may not be able to avoid interest relief in some harsher cases. That’s really important. Catch up if you’re behind.

The second thing is to make a RRSP contribution by March 1st this year because that RRSP contribution will reduce your family net income, which will increase things like your child’s health benefits, your GST credit or other refundable or non-refundable tax credits. The RRSP contribution is your ticket to bigger benefits or bigger tax refunds.

The last thing I would say, the average income tax refund in Canada is $1,735, which is a lot of money. That’s just your overpayment of taxes. Most people don’t realize that’s an interest-free loan that you give to the government. Turn that around, and put that money to work for you. Invest it in a TFSA because that’s going to allow you to earn tax- free investment savings for your future, or if you have children in the family, why not take advantage of the lucrative Canada Education Savings Grants and the Canada Learning Bonds by investing in an RESP. There’s lots of ways for people to leverage the money that they pre-paid to the tax department.

That’s really helpful Evelyn. Thank you very, very much. It was a pleasure to chat with you today.

Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity.

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This is an edited transcript of an interview recorded 2/07/2018.

Canadians can receive easy-to-understand interpretations of breaking tax and investment news by subscribing to Knowledge Bureau Report at www.knowledgebureau.com.   Look for the Newsroom Tab. You can also follow Evelyn Jacks on twitter @evelynjacks.

 

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.

2018 New Year’s Resolutions: Expert Promises

Well it’s that time again. We have a bright shiny New Year ahead of us and an opportunity to set goals and resolutions to make it the best possible year ever. Whether you are just starting out in your career, you are close to retirement or you have been retired for some time, it is helpful to think about what you want to accomplish and how you are going to meet these objectives.

My resolutions are to make more time to appreciate and enjoy every day as I ease into retirement. I also want to take more risks and develop new interests. Two of the retirement projects I have already embarked on are joining a community choir and serving on the board; and, taking courses in the Life Institute at Ryerson University. After all, as one of my good friends recently reminded me, most people do not run out of money, but they do run out of time!

Here in alphabetical order, are resolutions shared with me by eight blogger/writers who have either been interviewed for savewithspp.com or featured in our weekly Best from the Blogosphere plus two Saskatchewan Pension Plan team members.

  1. Doris Belland has a blog on her website Your Financial Launchpad . She is also the author of Protect Your Purse which includes lessons for women about how to avoid financial messes, stop emotional bankruptcies and take charge of their money. Belland has two resolutions for 2018. She explains:
  • I’m a voracious reader of finance books, but because of the sheer number that interest me, I go through them quickly. In 2018, I plan to slow down and implement more of the good ideas.
  • I will also reinforce good habits: monthly date nights with my husband to review our finances (with wine!), and weekly time-outs to review goals/results and pivot as needed. Habits are critical to success.
  1. Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances and blogs at Money We Have. He says, “My goal is to work less in 2018. I know this doesn’t sound like a resolution but over the last few years I’ve been working some insane hours and it’s time to cut back. The money has been great, but spending time with my family is more important.”
  1. Chris Enns who blogs at From Rags to Reasonable describes himself as an “opera-singing-financial-planning-farmboy.” In 2017 he struggled with balance. “Splitting my time (and money) between a growing financial planning practice and an opera career (not to mention all the other life stuff) can prove a little tricky,” he says. In 2018 he is hoping to really focus on efficiency. “How do I do what I do but better? How do I use my time and money in best possible way to maximize impact, enjoyment and sanity?”
  1. Lorne Marr is Director of Business Development at LSM Insurance. Marr has both financial and personal fitness goals. “I plan to max out my TFSAs, RRSPs and RESPs and review my investment mix every few days in the New Year,” he notes. “I also intend to get more sleep, workout 20 times in a month with a workout intensity of 8.5 out of 10 or higher and take two family vacations.”
  1. Avery Mrack is an Administrative Assistant at SPP. She and her husband both work full time and their boys are very busy in sports which means they often eat “on the run” or end up making something quick and eating on the couch.  “One of our resolutions for next year is to make at least one really good homemade dinner a week and ensure that every one must turn off their electronic devices and sit down to eat at the table together,” says Mrack.
  1. Stephen Neiszner is a Network Technician at SPP and he writes the monthly members’ bulletin. He is also a member of the executive board of Special Olympics (Kindersley and district). Neiszner’s New Year’s financial goals are to stop spending so much on nothing, to grow his savings account, and to help out more community charities and service groups by donating or volunteering. He would also like to put some extra money away for household expenses such as renovations and repairs.
  1. Kyle Prevost teaches high school business classes and blogs at Young and Thrifty. Prevost is not a big believer in making resolutions on January 1. He prefers to continuously adapt his goals throughout the year to live a healthier life, embrace professional development and save more. “If I had to pick a singular focus for 2018, I think my side business really stands out as an area for potential growth. The online world is full of opportunities and I need to find the right ones,” he says.
  1. Janine Rogan is a financial educator, CPA and blogger. Her two financial New Year’s resolutions are to rebalance her portfolio and digitize more of it. “My life is so hectic that I’m feeling that automating as much as I can will be helpful,” she says. “In addition, I’d like to increase the amount I’m giving back monetarily. I donate a lot of my time so I feel like it’s time to increase my charitable giving.”
  1. Ed Rempel is a CFP professional and a financial blogger at Unconventional Wisdom. He says on a personal finance level, his resolution are boring as he has been following a plan for years and is on track for all of his goals. His only goal is to invest the amount required by the plan. Professionally, he says, “I want 2018 be the year I hire a financial planner with the potential to be a future partner for my planning practice. I have hired a couple over the years, but not yet found the right person with the right fit and long-term vision.”
  1. Actuary Promod Sharma’s resolutions cover off five areas. He says:
  • For health, I’ll continue using the 7 Minute Workout app from Simple Design.
  • For wealth, I’ll start using a robo advisor (WealthBar). I’m not ready for ETFs.
  • For learning, I’ll get my Family Enterprise Advisor (FEA) designation to collaborate better in teams.
  • For sharing, I’ll make more videos.
  • For giving, I’ll continue volunteering.

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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.

Dec 11: Best from the blogosphere

It’s getting close to the end of the year and the holiday season is upon us. Here are some examples of subjects  personal finance bloggers havw been writing about recently.

Marie Engen (Boomer & Echo) offers tips on How To Leverage Technology Into Good Financial Habits. She notes that most banks have a budgeting app that tracks your spending so you get a better idea of where your money is going. If all your accounts don’t reside with just one financial institution, there are lots of mobile apps and budgeting software available, such as the popular Mint.com, GoodBudget and You Need a Budget.

Chris Nicola on the Financial Independence Hub tackles the perennial question, Should you take early CPP benefits or defer as long as possible?  Using Statistics Canada figures, he calculates that a woman maximizes her total CPP payout by waiting until age 70, resulting in an average of $75k (36%) more than if she took it at age 60. A man maximizes his total CPP a little earlier, at age 68, receiving an average of $50k (27%) more than at age 60.

Maple Money’s Tom Drake addresses the question: Should You Invest in Group RESPs? He concludes that the risk with group plans comes if you drop out early. Many of these types of RESPs have high enrollment fees. It’s not uncommon to pay up to $1,200 in fees. With Group RESPs, you don’t pay that amount up front. Instead, it is deducted from your returns when you close the plan early. Therefore if you withdraw from the plan before it matures, you could face big penalties — and even have  your contributions eaten up by the fees.

And getting back to how to save money and still enjoy holiday entertaining and gift giving…..

Holiday décor hacks for having a dinner party by personal finance writer, on-air personality, speaker and bestselling author Melissa Leong suggests that you create your own decor very cheaply, whether by gathering some greens or acorns from outside and dumping them in a vase or using wrapping paper to wrap empty boxes, make napkin rings or use as a table runner.

What If This Christmas… You Didn’t Have to Worry About Money? by Chris Enns on From Rags to Reasonable offers the following suggestions:

  • Figure out how much you want to spend.
  • Figure out how much you can afford to spend.
  • Buy a prepaid credit card and use it as the ONLY way you pay  for Christmas-related materials.

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.

Sept 11: Best from the blogosphere

As the leaves change colours and we gear up for the busy fall and winter season, it’s time to check in on what some of our favourite personal finance writers have been discussing this summer.

With the announcement that CIBC has gobbled up PC Financial which will be rebranded as CIBC Simplii Financial on November 1st, Stephen Weyman says on Howtosavemoney.ca that it will be banking as usual in the short term but you can expect CIBC to sneak in a few fees here and there to make sure they’re profitable and try to cut costs where they can.

On Boomer & Echo, Marie Engen offers 25 money saving tips. A couple of my favourites are:

  • Turn off the “heat dry” on your dishwasher. Open the door when the cycle is done and let the dishes air dry.
  • Learn some sewing basics so you can make minor repairs and alterations to your clothing – hem your pants and skirts, sew on a button, sew up a torn seam, put in a new zipper.
  • Buy some time. Set aside the purchase you are considering for a few hours (or a day or two) before you decide whether to buy it. Often you may decide you can easily live without it.

Bridget Casey (Money After Graduation) has recently welcomed a new daughter and she is already thinking about saving for her college education. She writes about the importance of setting up your child’s Registered Educational Savings Plan as a trust so it will be covered by the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation in the event of financial institution failure up to $100,000 per account.

Retire Happy’s Jim Yih writes a thoughtful piece on Minimizing Your Old Age Security Clawback. The maximum monthly OAS benefit in 2017 is $578.53 ($6,942.36 annually). If you earn between $74,788 and $121,070/year the OAS benefit will be clawed back. He explains that with pension splitting, spouses can give up to 50% of their pension income to their spouse for tax splitting purposes. This is a very effective way to reduce income if you are close to the OAS clawback threshold.

When Sean Cooper, author of Burn Your Mortgage paid off his mortgage, he promised himself he’d stop putting off travel. His first major trip was to San Francisco this summer. Nevertheless, he still travelled frugally booking his $700 roundtrip flight through PC Travel. He also got from the airport to downtown on Bay area rapid transit for less than $10. In San Diego, he opted for a four-bed mixed dorm room at USA Hostels for less than $60 a night as opposed to $200/night in a hotel.


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.

Feb 20: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Get out the popcorn! It’s time for our selection of monthly personal finance videos.

First of all, if you don’t have a company pension plan for your employees, you need to know about the SPP business plan. Find out why the Sutherland Chiropractic Clinic set up SPP for their employees.

Globe and Mail personal finance columnist shares some great ideas for protecting yourself from online scammers.

In Save Your #@%* Money with these RRSP, TFSA, and RESP recipes Melissa Leong brings you an amusing look at the ingredients it takes to successfully save in these registered vehicles.

Preet Bannerjee explains how disability insurance works and why it is so important in this Money School blog.

And finally, if you have made financial mistakes along the way, it doesn’t mean you have irreparably ruined your financial future. Blogger Bridget Casey (Money After Graduation) makes a case for forgiving yourself for financial regrets.

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 8: Best from the Blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

And just like that, it’s August! The days are getting shorter and families are starting to think about getting the kids back to school and getting serious about the upcoming round of fall activities.

Those of you sending your kids off to college or university will be interested in The Business of University Fees by Big Cajun Man aka Alan Whitton on the Canadian Personal Finance blog. Did you know if your child is still in school he/she is probably still covered under your group medical plan at work and most universities will allow you to opt out of the university’s plan?

If you have received your first child benefit cheques and haven’t already spent them on back-to-school supplies, here are 3 Great Ways to Use Your Canada Child Benefit Payment  by Craig Sebastiano on RateHub. RESP contributions, TFSA deposits or charitable donations, anyone?

And talking about TFSAs, take a look at Robb Engen’s TFSA Dilemma and Solution on Boomer & Echo. Like many of us Robb has a ton of TFSA contribution room ($50,500) He plans to turn his $825 monthly car payment – which ends in October – into future TFSA contributions, starting in January 2017. That’s $10,000 per year to stash in his TFSA, which at that rate would catch-up all of his unused room by 2027.

Have you reviewed your life insurance lately? Are you and your partner adequately covered so if one of you dies, the other can continue to pay the family bills? Bridget Eastgaard from Money after Graduation says Cash-Value Life Insurance Is For Suckers, Buy Term Instead.

And finally, Should you work part-time in retirement? by Jonathan Chevreau on moneysense.ca includes an analysis commissioned by Larry Berman, host of BNN’s Berman Call and Chief Investment Officer of ETF Capital Management. It illustrates the powerful impact of earning just $1,000 in part-time income each month between the age of 65 and 75; or in the case of couples $2,000 a month between them.

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 17: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

You’ve been diligently socking away money in a Registered Educational Savings Plan (RESP) since your child was a toddler and in a few short weeks she starts university. Getting at the money can be a little more complicated than simply taking out money from your savings account. To help you through the process, this week we feature articles and blogs exploring all things relating to RESP withdrawals.

Mike Holman on Money Smarts discusses RESP withdrawal Rules and Strategies for 2015. He says there is one withdrawal rule to get out of the way – you are only allowed to take out $5,000 of accumulated income in the first 13 weeks. After 13 weeks, you can withdraw as much accumulated income (including educational assistance payments) as you wish.  However, there are no limits to withdrawals from the contribution portion as long as your child is attending school.

Bankrate.com blogger Jasmine Miller also writes about How to cash out your RESP. Because the government stipulates that financial institutions must follow “due diligence” to ensure RESP funds are being used for a child’s education your bank may want to see a copy of your child’s acceptance letter before releasing funds or they may take you at your word. Therefore she says it’s a good idea to keep all documentation and receipts.

The Investing for Me blog Withdrawals from RESPs notes that RESP withdrawals can generally be made to cover tuition, room and board, school supplies, computers and transportation as these are all eligible educational expenses under the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) criteria. However, guidelines for withdrawals from a Group RESP account are governed by the plan’s contract or prospectus and group plans may have more restrictions than family or individual plans.

But what if your child doesn’t continue her education? Get Smarter About Money explains that if your child doesn’t continue her education after high school, there may be financial costs and tax consequences. But you have these four available options:

  1. Keep the RESP open – your child may decide to continue her studies later,
  2. Transfer the money to another beneficiary,
  3. Transfer the money to your RRSP,
  4. Close the RESP.

In Need to use an RESP this fall? Back to school starts now, Rob Carrick covers some of the same territory as the blogs noted above. However, he says one more consideration in filling out the RESP withdrawal form is where you want the money to go. You can have it sent to your chequing account, or your child’s account. He has the money from his son’s RESP paid into his and his wife’s joint account, and then he pays tuition and residence bills via Interac online.

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 25: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Due to the holiday Monday (yeah!) and other days away from my desk for random reasons, this issue of Best from the Blogosphere is being written super early. So, on no particular theme we present some great content from the last several weeks.

The Apple watch has received a bad tap from many reviewers, but Retired Syd reports on Retirement: A Full-Time Job that the device works for her. She likes being able to do all sorts of things without digging in her purse for her iPhone like paying for coffee; listening to music; getting directions from Siri; dictating error-free texts; and just lifting her arm to display her boarding pass.

In a guest post on the Financial Independence Hub, Michael Drak writes about one thing he wishes his father had taught him. While he learned about the need for working hard, saving and eliminating debt as quickly as possible, his Dad didn’t teach him about the important concept of Findependence (financial independence) and how it could positively impact his life once it was achieved.

Freedom Thirty-Five is authored by a nameless late-twenties male living in Metro Vancouver. He recently wrote about succumbing to lifestyle inflation. It seems he’s ahead of schedule by one year to reach financial freedom by his 35th birthday. So he has decided to succumb to lifestyle inflation and increase his food expenses from $100 to $150/month; eating out from $25 to $50/month and phone and entertainment from $75 to $100/month. Could you get by on these modest amounts?

Boomer & Echo blogger Marie Engen says unless there is room for occasionally splurging in your budget, becoming too frugal can ultimately undermine your budgeting efforts. Don’t banish nice things from your life. Occasional guilt-free splurges can help you stay on budget if they don’t detract from your other goals. When you don’t feel deprived you will likely find it a lot easier to stick to the plan.

And finally, on Brighter Life, I wrote a piece about Five smart ways to use your tax refund. You can start an emergency fund; top up your RRSP; pay down credit card debt; pay down your mortgage; or, open a Registered Educational Savings Plan for your child.

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.