Category Archives: Money saving tips

Saving easier if you use a “small steps” approach

Like everything good for us – losing weight, eating right, managing debt – saving money seems like a daunting, overwhelming task. In fact, like other resolutions, it’s something that seems so difficult and impossible to stick with that we have given it up by Groundhog Day.

However, the experts tell us that great things can be accomplished by moving one small step at a time. Save with SPP today looks at tips on getting your savings effort fired up and back on the road forward.

At The Simple Dollar blog there are over 100 savings tips on offer. Among them are these ideas – to “stop collecting and start selling” any of “your collections that you thought would bring you riches,” as well as turning off the TV and signing up for “every free rewards program that you can.” The latter is self-explanatory, the thinking behind the “no TV” idea is “less exposure to spending-inducing ads,” and the possibility of a lower cable bill if you downgrade your package.

Interviewed in the Globe and Mail, Scotiabank’s Mike Henry says “to take small steps to save money, you’ve really got to understand… what’s important to you and what you’re trying to balance in your life, and you’ve got to understand how much money is coming in and how much money is going out.”  The article suggests automatic savings via payroll deduction or automatic transfers between accounts, and to examine any expenses that can be cut or reduced, like “gym memberships, Internet bills and groceries.” Getting rid of the daily latte is also advised, the article reports.

A key strategy – “living below your means” – is recommended by the Creating My Happiness blog. “If you earn $1,500 a month and you spend $1,500 a month, you have nothing left to save!  You have to start living on less than you’re making so that you can put money away for the future,” the blog advises.

Other tips for those wanting to reduce spending including “starting small – don’t try to cut your budget by 50 per cent right away,” and making saving a priority. On this last point, the blog says spending “temptation is everywhere. We are bombarded with images of people who appear to be happy because they got the new iPhone/Xbox/gadgety thing-ma-bob.” Tell yourself that having the latest thing is “nice, but not a priority,” and walk away, the blog recommends.

The Better Money Habits blog stresses the importance of recording all expenses, making a budget, and then planning to save some of your money. “Try to spend 10-15 per cent of your income,” the blog suggests. “If your expenses are so high you can’t save that much, it might be time to cut back.” Focus on the expenses you can trim, such as non-essentials like dining out and entertainment, the blog advises.

There are many ways to turn your financial ship around, and all of them involve living within your means and not spending more than you make. We can all get there by making little improvements which will add up over time. And when you’ve creating a regular budget for retirement saving, a great destination for those funds is a Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Check it out today!

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Why some Canadians choose to retire to other countries

Let’s face it – it’s hard to find good things to say about winter in Canada when it’s 40 below with the windchill and the snow is piling up in your laneway.

Save with SPP knows a number of people who head south for the winter every year. And there are others who leave Canada for good and live out their golden years abroad. We took a look around to find out some of the reasons why some of us take this step.

Well, one reason might be finding not only warmer weather, but a lower cost of living, reports MoneySenseRetiring in North America, the site advises, means you’ll need an average of about $625,000 in the bank at age 65 (or an equivalent pension), or “annual retirement income of $55,000.”

But this amount, the site notes, is enough to let you “live in luxury” in a variety of other countries, including Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and Malaysia, all modern countries with much lower living costs. You can, the article says, get a three-course meal at a restaurant for about $10 in some of these countries, and rents are in the low hundreds, rather than the low thousands.

The Roam New Roads site also cites lower living costs and a better climate in France, Panama, Thailand or Belize. Some offer low-cost national healthcare, the article notes, as well as lively culture, history, and wonderful culinary expertise.

However, there are other factors to bear in mind if you are moving away from your home country, notes the Escape From America blog. You can be homesick, which “leads to many expatriates returning home every single year,” often a costly process. Retirement abroad means little or no time with family and friends, a “forced loneliness,” the blog reports. Culture, language, accessibility (driving a car) are all other potential downsides in a faraway land, the article says.

The government of Canada’s website notes that living outside Canada will have an impact on your taxes, and may change how you are able to receive your Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security benefits. If you are living outside the country for part of the year, there may be provincial or territorial requirements for your healthcare – a set amount of time you must reside in your homeland in order to keep your benefits. Or, you may have to try and arrange health coverage for the foreign country. It’s certainly a cost to be aware of.

So putting it all together, you can live on less money by moving to another country, where your retirement savings will allow you to trade middle-of-the-road living here for luxury and new adventures there. You’ll be free of snow shovelling and dark winter afternoons. But, if you get homesick, the cost of travelling back will put a dent in your now-lowered cost of living. You may find yourself isolated by language and culture. And you’ll have to figure out how to keep your healthcare or find an alternative.

It’s a big commitment, and not for everyone, but on a cold winter day, it’s nice to imagine heading down to the beach.  Any sort of retirement, be it here in the good old northland or off in some exotic sunny country, will require income. If you’re dreaming about retirement, take some time to put away a few dollars now for that eventual future. You’ll be happy you did. And a great destination for retirement savings is a Saskatchewan Pension Plan account.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Top ways to stretch that dollar

Whether you’re saving for retirement or are living on those savings, one thing’s for sure – the more you can stretch your spending dollars, the more you can save.

Save With SPP took a look around the Interweb to see what the experts say about the spending side – or more particularly, ways you can spend less and save more.

The Money Saving Expert blog offers three great ideas to save big. They recommend you quit smoking, try to shop around for cheaper, generic prescription drugs, and to have a “money saving wedding.” They offer tips on “how to get the best value out of your big day, so you don’t spend the rest of your married life paying for it.”

Over at The Simple Dollar blog ideas include shopping for the bank that has the lowest fees and highest interest, watching less TV (and cutting the cord to cable), a great one – “stop collecting and start selling.” Those old collections of trinkets, keepsakes and other clutter creators can be converted into cold, hard cash, the blog advises.

At Clark.com, one idea is one that your humble blogger used to use when paid every two weeks. Since you are getting 26 pay cheques a year, work it so you are living on 24. The other two can be treated as bonuses. The extra money, the blog advises, can be used to “pay off debt, contribute to a retirement account, (be added) to a new car fund,” and more.

Other tips from this blog include shopping for a cheaper cell plan and cutting way back on restaurant meals.

The MyMoneyCoach.ca blog recommends another strategy that we have tried – banking your raises. “You lived on less before… do you really need those extra few dollars?” the blog asks. Use the same budget you had before the raise and bank the difference – and do it again with the next raise.

Other great tips from this blog are using tax refunds to increase your savings and picking one expense to cut out completely. Once you do that, you save the money associated with that single expense. Examples might be a coffee on the way to work, a subscription, and so on.

Life is good, and making it a little less costly is a strategy that will pay you back in the future. And imagine all the extra bucks you will be able to direct to your Saskatchewan Pension Plan account.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

What apps are the most helpful for retirees?

A bunch of us old guys were shooting the breeze after a round of golf when the topic of apps came up – what apps did we find the most helpful/useful, and why?

Going quickly around the room, our gang liked Microsoft Translator, which you can get here. This is a handy app if you’re going out of the country and is a lot of fun to fool around with – it talks to you in many languages and goes slow to help you learn better.

More practically, all of us liked having a good blood pressure log app, here are a few, to track our BP results, and to share with the doc. Some of the newer BP machines can actually send your results directly to your app, one of our golfers noted.

One of us had MapMyRide, a cool app for tracking your bicycle ride – it counts off every kilometre you ride, giving you time and speed, shows you a route map at the end, and sends you monthly stats on how you have been doing.

We all had banking apps, fitness/calorie trackers, investing apps, and apps to watch TV (Netflix, CBC, etc.) which made Save with SPP wonder what other retirees have on their phones.

According to the A Place for Mom website, EyeReader by Netsoft is a great magnifying app. Hold your phone over a book, a menu or other printed text and it not only magnifies it, it lights it up.

A CBC news story mentions Fongo, a free Canada-wide phone app that lets you make calls using WiFi. The story quotes Diane Thomson, who lives in Ontario, saying that “It’s amazing…I can call my family back in Nova Scotia for free.”

The SeniorNet blog likes an iPhone app called Park and Forget, which logs where you parked your car in a parking garage so you can find it later.

Many seniors don’t really get how phones, tablets and apps work. For them, there is the Oscar Senior app which provides an easier-to-use interface that simplifies the process of using mobile communications. In other words, an app that helps you understand how to work your phone.

There are, of course, zillions of apps out there and this represents only a small sampling. If an app eliminates time-wasting note-taking, helps you remember things, or makes it easier to stay in touch with family and friends, it may be worth checking out.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

A look at the fascinating world of “extreme couponing”

On an almost daily basis we are all inundated with coupons – 10 per cent off this, that, and the other – that we sometimes remember to use. But there’s a group of people out there who take part in “extreme couponing,” a gang that seem to have the discipline to make maximum use of this everyday savings tool.

An article in the Globe and Mail describes the world of extreme couponing as “a no-holds-barred pursuit of savings that has earned itself a weekly TV series and countless obsessive Internet followers who strive to maximize their savings at the checkout by spotting the best sales and by hoarding coupons.”

It takes work, the article notes. In the piece, a woman called Aimee Geroux, who has her own blog called Extreme Couponing Mom, says she has walked out of stores with $300 worth of goods that cost her $20 of her own money.  She tells the Globe that she totes a binder full of coupons when she goes shopping, but also employs “price matching.” That’s when stores match the sale price from other stores – you get a lower price if you can show the flyer, the article notes. Another trick is the “scanning code of practice,” the article says. If the item’s price on the shelf is more than the scanner says, you can get it for much less, even free, the article notes.

If you don’t feel like cutting coupons out of flyers and newspapers, there are online sites that can save you a lot of trouble. The Balance Every Day blog lists 11 Canadian sites that give you access to savings coupons and other deals.

If you like shopping online, going through the E-bates portal first gives you automatic discounts that are mailed to you by cheque every couple of months.

Like everything else that’s good for you – exercise, proper eating, and balancing the budget – extreme couponing requires commitment. Sue Neal of Investors Group recommends putting all your savings in a fund, the Globe article notes. “Now you can really see the savings you’re making,” Neal said. “It could actually get you more excited about using the coupons.”

It’s also a great way to save some money for retirement. Maybe some of your coupon coinage can be directed to your Saskatchewan Pension Plan account – visit SPP to find out how.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

How to move to a bigger place without spending money – declutter!

Isn’t it funny how that new apartment, condo, or house seems to get smaller with each passing year?

It’s not because the place is shrinking – it is usually because of all the stuff you have accumulated. So rather than packing up everything and moving to a bigger, more expensive place, Save with SPP sought out some expert tips on how to save big by decluttering the space you’re already in.

The Becoming Minimalist blog  offers some great tips on how to take on the overwhelming task of decluttering.

Decluttering is a financial thing rather than a neatness thing, the blog notes. “The idea of living a simplified, uncluttered life with less stuff sounds attractive to many,” the blog advises. Many have “considered the benefits of owning fewer possessions: less to clean, less debt, less to organize, less stress, more money and energy for their greatest passions,” the blog states. However, the blog continues, the big question is “where in the world do I begin?”

On their list of top approaches to decluttering are giving the job a solid five minutes per day, giving away one item every day, filling one trash bag every day, and “the four-box method.” In every room, the blog notes, place four boxes – one for trash, one for giveaway, one for relocation, and one for keeping.

The Home Storage Solutions blog  suggests getting rid of the easiest stuff first, namely garbage, things that are broken or don’t work, duplicates, and “items not used for a year.”

The Life Hack website says clear floors first, then countertops. Move onto furniture last. Again, the advice is “toss, donate, or keep.” To clean a closet, take EVERYTHING out and then go through those same three steps – get rid, give away, or hang on – before you put things back in.

If you find you’ve got a lot of things to give away, why not hold a garage sale? The proceeds from clearing your living space can be tucked away in a Saskatchewan Pension Plan account, invested, and then enjoyed thoroughly in the future when you’ve retired! For more details, visit www.saskpension.com.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

What’s on your bucket list for retirement?

We often hear about “bucket lists” and what should be on them – things that people want to do, boxes they want to check off, all before they reach the end of life’s runway.

So what’s on some of these bucket lists? Save With SPP took a look around the Internet to see a few examples.

In the UK, Mature Times lists three ideas – seeing the Northern lights, buying a dog, and travelling the country by train. The article is based on a study of 2,000 Brits. “Many Brits view their later years as a chance to do all the things they’ve wanted to do for ages, it is considered to be one big long holiday,” the article notes, gently reminding readers that you still have to pay the bills and taxes once work is in the rearview mirror.

The late chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain once said a tour of Newfoundland and Labrador should be on everyone’s bucket list. The province, he once told the Chronicle Herald, has “that perfect mix of culture, cuisine and landscape that travellers want to experience.”

From the Personal Excellence blog, the top three are travelling around the world, learning a new language and trying a new profession. Number four – achieving your ideal weight – is also noteworthy. 

Forbes magazine recommends making a pilgrimage, eating a meal “good enough to be your last,” and climbing a mountain.

The Great Canadian Bucket List recommends seeing polar bears in the wild, walking the seabed at Hopewell Rocks in New Brunswick, and cycling across PEI.

Have you already done any of these bucket items? Remember, in order to do your list to its fullest, it’s wise to save for your golden years. A great way to do that is by signing up to be a member of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

How SPP changed my life

Punta Cana: March 2018

After a long career as a pension lawyer with a consulting firm, I retired for the first time 13 years ago and became Editor of Employee Benefits News Canada. I resigned from that position four years later and embarked on an encore career as a freelance personal finance writer.

In December 2010 I wrote the article Is this small pension plan Canada’s best kept secret?  about the Saskatchewan Pension Plan for Adam Mayers, formerly the personal finance editor for the Toronto Star. The Star was starting a personal finance blogging site called moneyville and he was looking for someone to write about pensions and employee benefits. I was recommended by Ellen Roseman, the Star’s consumer columnist.

The article about SPP was my first big break. I was offered the position at moneyville and for 21/2 years I wrote three Eye on Benefits blogs each week. It was frightening, exhausting and exhilarating. And when moneyville began a new life as the personal finance section of the Toronto Star, my weekly column At Work was featured for another 18 months.

But that was only the beginning.

Soon after the “best kept secret” article appeared on moneyville, SPP’s General Manager Katherine Strutt asked me to help develop a social media strategy for the pension plan. Truth be told, I was an early social media user but there were and still are huge gaps in my knowledge. So I partnered with expert Leslie Hughes from PunchMedia, We did a remote, online presentation and were subsequently invited to Kindersley, Saskatchewan, the home of SPP to present in person. All of our recommendations were accepted.

By December 2011, I was blogging twice a week for SPP about everything and anything to do with spending money, saving money, retirement, insurance, financial literacy and personal finance. Since then I have authored over 500 articles for savewithspp.com. Along the way I also wrote hundreds of other articles for Employee Benefit News (U.S.), Sun Life, Tangerine Bank and other terrific clients. As a result, I have doubled my retirement savings.

All my clients have been wonderful but SPP is definitely at the top of the list. I am absolutely passionate about SPP and both my husband and I are members. Because I was receiving dividends and not salary from my company I could not make regular contributions. Instead, over the last seven years I have transferred $10,000 each year from another RRSP into SPP and I would contribute more if I could.

By the end of 2017 I started turning down work, but I was still reluctant to sever my relationship with SPP. However, as my days became increasingly full with travel, caring for my aged mother, visiting my daughter’s family in Ottawa, choir and taking classes at Ryerson’s Life Institute, I realized that I’m ready to let go at long last. After the end of May when people ask me what I do, I will finally be totally comfortable saying “I am retired.”

I will miss working with the gang at SPP. I will also miss the wonderful feedback from our readers. I very much look forward to seeing how both savewithspp.com and the plan evolve. My parting advice to all of you is maximize your SPP savings every year. SPP has changed my life. It can also change yours.

Au revoir. Until we meet again….

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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.

Wedding Insurance: Why you need it and what’s covered

You have been planning a wedding for months. The venue has been booked, invitations sent and the flowers selected. Then an immediate family member becomes very ill and the event has to be postponed. Or the banquet hall goes belly up and a hefty deposit is lost. These unfortunate events happen rarely, but when they do the extra expense can put a strain on an already tight budget.

According to an unscientific survey by Weddingbells magazine, there were 162,056 weddings across Canada in 2014, each with an average price tag of $31,685. Furthermore, a survey conducted in the same year by a Bank of Montreal subsidiary suggested that people in Saskatchewan and Manitoba planned to spend, on average, $27,200 on a future wedding. That figure was the highest in the country.

You insure your car, your home, your life and your health. But you may not be aware that you can also insure your wedding. Coverage may range from a wedding guest’s slip and fall to stolen wedding gifts to extreme weather on the day of the event that causes 50% of the guests to be unable to attend the wedding or reception. But there is a specific exclusion if a bride or groom gets cold feet and does not show at the last minute.

Pal Insurance Brokers Canada Ltd. is one company that offers Weddinguard insurance online. This insurance provides financial protection against many of those things that can go wrong with your wedding plans, subject to policy wording. You are eligible if you are getting married within 1 year and the reception date is at least three days in the future. You can see a pdf of the full policy and what it does and does not cover here.

You can get an online quote here. While researching this article I completed the online questionnaire for the four different levels of coverage and got the following pricing information, including up to $1 million of liability coverage.

Weddinguard Insurance

Potential reimbursement up to stated amount + premiums
Silver package Gold Package Diamond Package Platinum Package
Cancellation expenses $4,000 $10,000 $30,000 $50,000
Honeymoon cancellation $2,000 $2,500 $5,000 $5,000
Loss of Deposit $2,000 $3,000 $5,000 $6,000
Wedding photos and video $2,500 $5,000 $7,000 $7,500
Loss or damage to bridal attire $2,500 $2,500 $5,000 $7,000
Wedding presents $5,000 $5,000 $7,000 $8,000
Rings $1,000 $1,500 $3,000 $5,000
Cake and flowers $2,000 $2,500 $5,000 $6,000
Wedding stationery $1,000 $1,500 $3,000 $4,000
Rented property $1,000 $10,000 $15,000 $20,000
PREMIUM $250 $400 $650 $950

For destination weddings, PAL says underwriters must manually review the request for coverage which can take three or four days. There is also a special exclusion for Florida, Georgia and Caribbean weddings due to hurricane force winds in August, September and October.

Matt Taylor, general manager for PAL Insurance company recently told The Canadian Press that PAL sells between 1,500 to 2,000 wedding policies each year. Front Row Insurance also offers wedding insurance with policies starting at $105 and up to $5,000,000 in General Liability Coverage to cover damage to the wedding venue and injury to third parties.

Lacie Glover who blogs at  nerdwallet offers the following tips for buying the right policy for your wedding:

  • Look over your existing homeowners and renters insurance policies — or those of any relatives hosting or paying for the wedding — to see whether existing liability insurance will cover you.
  • Check the deductible, which is the amount deducted from a claims check. If one vendor doesn’t show up, and the deductible is higher than the deposit for that vendor, you’ll swallow the cost for that lost deposit.
  • Look at coverage limits. For cancellation coverage, you’ll want the limit to be close to your wedding budget, including the honeymoon.

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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.