May 19: Best from the blogosphereMay 19, 2014
By Sheryl Smolkin
In our eternal quest to link you to the best in personal finance blogging, once again this week we combed the web looking for great stories that will incent you to watch your nickels and save more for retirement.
On Boomer & Echo, Robb Engen discusses his experience Breaking Subconscious Money Habits. Something as simple as eating weekend breakfasts at home instead of at Tim Hortons saved his family over $500/year.
Sarah Milton writes on Retire Happy about how Impulsive spending can derail your finances. While it may be tempting to buy something on sale because it’s a bargain, it’s only a bargain if you need the item and will use it within a reasonable period of time.
Automated arrangements where money comes out of your account to pay bills or amounts are regularly charged to your credit card are a great idea until something goes wrong and you don’t catch the error. That’s why Mr. CBB on Canadian Budget Binder says it is essential to review automated bill payments every month. That way you can discover and rectify inadvertent overbilling, duplicate bills or amounts incorrectly charged to your account.
If you really want to decrease the amount of income tax you have to pay, Big Cajun Man, Alan Whitton tries the idea Work Less and Pay Less Tax on for size. He says he’d rather take an extra 10 weeks of vacation off than go down to a four or three day work week, because he probably would have to do the same amount of work in a shorter period of time. Nevertheless, rather than working less, he would be more inclined to try to earn more money, so the tax hike didn’t hurt as much
And finally, Dan on Our Big Fat Wallet discussed what everyone loves to hate – bank fees. In I Hate Bank Fees, So I Bought the Banks he admits being frustrated by all of the bank charges he pays each month. So he decided to buy bank stock. The big 5 Canadian banks have had stellar capital gains and paid great dividends over the last five years.
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.
Budget-friendly holiday giftsDecember 13, 2013
By Sheryl Smolkin
Christmas can be an expensive time of year. You have to come up with presents for your parents, spouse, kids, cousins, aunts and uncles. But you may also want to give small but meaningful gifts to numerous other people including helpful neighbours, your children’s teachers, the mailman and your hairdresser.
Where families are large and it is impossible to buy for everyone, it can help to pick names so you only have to buy one more expensive gift rather than a dozen smaller items. Another approach is outside of immediate family, to only give gifts to children under a certain age – say 16 or 18.
However, you may still end up with a long list and an overloaded credit cart. That can be a real problem come January when you have to top up your retirement savings. Here are some ideas for less expensive gift options that will satisfy everyone on your list.
- Food gifts: If you make the best banana bread in town, whip up a couple of batches, wrap them with pretty cellophane and ribbons and give them to people who always finish the last slice when you bring your speciality to a pot luck dinner.
- Coffee cards: As a rule I’m not a big fan of gift cards because they always seem like an afterthought and people tend to lose them. But many of us need our daily coffee fix and fancy specialty coffees can cost $5 or more. Find out if intended recipients are Tim Horton’s or Starbucks fans and make your purchase accordingly.
- Gift baskets: Gift baskets can contain anything from yummy treats to bath and beauty supplies. If you purchase baskets already made up, they cost much more than the contents which are often meagre once you remove all the packaging. Bulk stores and craft stores sell almost everything you need to make your own gift baskets for a reasonable price.
- Child care: Young parents with small children and big mortgages generally don’t get a night to themselves very often. Offer to babysit so they can go out for a quiet dinner or agree to take the kids for a weekend so they can plan a mini-vacation out of town.
- Consignment stores: Kids stuff is often gently used because children grow out of their clothes and toys long before they wear out. My daughter recently found a great pair of red winter boots in perfect condition for our granddaughter for only a few dollars at a consignment store.
- Business cards: How often have you wanted to exchange telephone numbers or email addresses with someone but couldn’t find a pen or a piece of paper? Business cards are handy to have whether you are a teenager, stay at home Mom or a small business owner. Card stock is available from any office supplies store and you can download templates for your colour or black and white printer.
- Magazine subscriptions: Magazine subscriptions are a great inexpensive gift that keeps on giving for a whole year. For example a new subscription to Chatelaine is only $14.95 for 12 issues and it includes access to a digital edition you can download on your iPad.
- Potted plant: Cut flowers will brighten up the house, particularly in the depths of winter but potted plants will last a lot longer if properly cared for. In fact by February, I usually toss out my poinsettia because I’m more than ready for daffodils and hyacinths. Most grocery and gourmet stores have a great selection of seasonal plants.
- Groupon: You can purchase discount coupons for half off or more on Groupon and other similar sites. Spa, haircut, belly dancing classes or dance lessons anyone?
- Kitchen gadgets: Spatulas, corkscrews, vegetable peelers, bag clips, tongs, whisks or a turkey baster. A trip to a dollar store, department store or specialty kitchen store can uncover a treasure trove of kitchen gadgets in all price ranges for stocking stuffers.
Whatever items you decide on for the people on your list, consider starting your shopping early and buying at least some items online. Companies like Amazon and Chapters deliver for free for orders above a certain amount and it sure beats finding a parking spot and carrying heavy bags around a mall.
If your friends or relatives live out of town, the added advantage is you can have a wrapped package delivered directly to them.
Do you have any ideas for inexpensive Christmas gifts that will wow your friends and relatives? Share your money saving tips with us at http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card. And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar every time you use one of our money-saving ideas.
Beginning in January we will be mixing things up a bit, and in addition to blogs that discuss ways to save money so you can save more for retirement, we will be interviewing our favourite financial bloggers, reviewing books that will help you better manage your finances and rolling out a monthly Retirement Savings 101 series.
The team at Saskatchewan Pension Plan wishes you a happy, healthy holiday season.