Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Interest Rates are Up, Up and Away

What you Need to Know About Rising Interest Rates

You've likely already heard that the Bank of Canada raised their overnight interest rates last week from 0.5% to 0.75%, but do you really know what that means and how it affects you? For the last decade, we've been living with historically low rates in Canada, and this is the first time in 7 years that rates have gone up. If you're a millennial like me, you've lived almost your entire adult life under these conditions, but that doesn't mean it's the norm. Take a look at the graph below; it was way back in 2008 when rates plummeted after the financial meltdown. I was still in University way back then with little to no clue (or interest) in how that would affect me. 

Flash forward to 2017, and I have to say that I have benefitted quite substantially from the low-interest rate environment. We bought our house in 2010 and at that time signed up for a 5-year variable rate mortgage. At the time we thought rates would go up near the end of that term but that the initial savings would still set us ahead. When our renewal came up two years ago, rates were still low, but we thought there was no way we'd make it through another term without a raise and locked in after that drop in 2015. Honestly, the timing couldn't have been more perfect for us, and we've been able to put a big dent in our principal because of the low rates. Next renewal I don't think we'll be so lucky though!  

Now let's get into why the current conditions have set the stage for the rate hike by the Bank of Canada. 

What is the Bank of Canada? 
The Bank of Canada isn't like the normal bank you periodically visit to do your day-to-day banking (does anyone actually go to the bank anymore?). Instead, they're the bank for the government. Their primary goal is "to promote the economic and financial welfare of Canada" (Bank of Canada Act). That means they are in charge of maintaining low and stable inflation by controlling interest rates and the amount of money in circulation, designing and distributing those colourful plastic bills we're famous for, managing the debt and foreign exchange reserves for the government, and keeping the Canadian banking system safe and efficient. 

The bank controls interest rates by altering what is called the 'overnight rate'. Retail banks (BMO, TD, CIBC, etc.) are constantly borrowing money from each other, and the overnight rate is the one-day interest rate they are charged for such borrowing. In turn, the banks use that overnight rate to determine their 'prime rate', which is what they base your borrowing rates on. When the banks pay more, they pass on that additional cost to us consumers. 

Why Inflation Matters to You

Inflation is basically your buying power, and it's the reason that $1 was worth more in the past and will be worth less in the future. Remember when you were a kid and you'd go to the convenience store and buy a bag of 5 cent candies? Those little frogs, eggs, and coke bottles will now cost you 10 cents a pop! That's inflation. The Bank of Canada aims to keep inflation between 1 and 3 percent, thus ensuring that your dollar is going to maintain most of its value year over year. Crazy high inflation wreaks havoc on an economy and puts its citizens in a very tough spot because wage increases rarely keep pace. 

Interest Rates and Inflation

What exactly is the relationship between the two? Inflation decreases when interest rates go up, and it increases if rates go down. This is all tied back to consumer spending. When the government wants to stimulate the economy and therefore increase inflation, they will lower rates to encourage citizens to borrow and spend more. 

This is why the Bank of Canada recently raised rates, they think the economy has stabilized and are concerned that inflation will get too high. 

And Why Do You Care?

That quarter point increase might not sound like a lot but if you are carrying a substantial amount of consumer debt you might be in for an unfortunate surprise. This won't be the case if you have a fixed rate loan, your time will come when you're up for renewal again (like me). However, if you have a variable rate loan, then your payments will be going up right away. Variable rates are based on the prime rate, which has gone up from 2.7% to 2.95%, so you'll be paying an additional 0.25%. Variable mortgages aren't the only loans that will increase, many lines of credit or student loans are also based on the prime rate and would see payment increases. 

If this is the situation you find yourself in, then don't freak out. The first thing you need to do is figure out how much your payments are going to go up. Likely your bank will be sending you out a notification indicating exactly this, but if they haven't then reach out to them. Work those new numbers into your budget and see how it looks. You might have to make a few cuts in other categories to make up the shortfall, but that's the big perk about having a budget...there's always room to play around and make the numbers work. If you don't have a budget then you can sign up for my email list to get the template I use for free; better late than never ;) 

You also have the option to lock-in your mortgage to a fixed rate if you are really concerned about your ability to handle increasing payments. Rates have already gone up, and you'll likely have to pay a penalty for making a change part-way through your term but knowing your payments will remain consistent for the remainder of your contract might be worth it for your peace of mind. There seems to be a consensus that another rate hike or two will be on the way so if you're going this route then sooner is likely better.

The majority of credit cards and car loans are based on fixed rates, so it's unlikely you'll see any change in those (aka the high rates will remain high, so they're still not a good idea). 

What's the Good Side?

Canadian households have over $2 TRILLION in debt; that's over $55,000 for every single person. I can't even imagine what that number would be if you eliminated all the kids, retired people, and super savvy people who have no debt. While increased interest rates can have an immediate negative impact on those with variable debt, it can have a positive long-term effect on the overall debt levels of this country. It will also likely have a cooling impact on the out of control real estate markets in Toronto and Vancouver. The Canadian dollar also rose sharply after the rate increase announcement, but we'll have to wait and see if it can hold some of that momentum. Savers might also see a slight increase in the interest rate they earn on their savings account, this won't be substantial, but every penny counts right? 

Take the opportunity to use this as a reminder of the downside of debt. For a long time credit has been cheap and a lot of people have taken advantage of that. Even after this increase, rates are still low, but you can see how even a small rise can cause problems. 

In Conclusion

Interest rates have gone up, and there's a good chance more rate hikes will be coming. If you have variable rate loans, you will see your payments increase, but there are steps you can take to limit the impact including amending your budget and switching to a fixed rate contract. 

What you Need to Know About Rising Interest Rates

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

No, I Won't Do 61% of the Housework because I'm a Girl

The gender gap at work and at home.

This one is for all the couples out there. I'm intrigued by where you guys and gals sit on the gender division of labour? You know, who brings home the most money and who takes on the bulk of the household chores? Are you even splitters (high five!) or does one person take on the bulk of the work?

I was recently reading (listening - that always feels weird for me to say when talking about books), Lean In (yes, that's an affiliate link, and you can get more info on my disclaimer) by Sheryl Sandberg and she talks a lot about the importance of having a partner who pitches in. I totally get that! I honestly don't know how some women handle working all day only to go home and have to do the bulk of the childcare and housework. And I don't even have kids. It's a much more even split in my house, and I wish that were the norm for everyone. There have been slight improvements in this area over recent years but the stats are still not great, and heavily lean towards women taking on more and earning less. Here are a few that I found that really highlight the disparity: 
  • The employment rate of women between the ages of 25 and 54 has increased from 48.7% in 1976 to 77.5% in 2015. (Source)
  • Despite the increase in work outside the home, there has not been a similar decrease in mother's participation rate in household work. That rate has remained at 93% from 1986 until 2015. The rate for fathers has increased over that period from 51% to 76% but mothers still complete 61% of the hours spent on household work. (Source)
  • The same pattern applies when we look at the division of childcare. Mothers care for children 66% of the time across the survey period, while fathers rates have gone from 33% in 1986 to 49% in 2015. (Source)
  • Women earn $0.87 for every dollar earned by men. (Source) This amount is bad enough, but it's even worse in the States where the pay gap is $0.79 to every dollar. (Source)
I know these outdated beliefs still exist, but I like to think that my generation will be the one to raise children who refuse to accept the gendered wage gap, childcare gap and household work gap. 

How we do it...
You are likely already aware that I don't exactly fit (or agree) with the 'traditional' gender role expectations that are still annoyingly prevalent. I work in finance, which is still very male dominated, the bf and I have been dating for over a decade, and marriage has always been on the back burner, I despise cooking, and I'm pretty iffy about whether or not children will ever become part of the picture. If I compare all these life choices to those of my mom's, they are in stark contrast. She worked part-time in a female-dominated healthcare role, married young, had a child (although only one), and was always the person cooking and cleaning. Now, this isn't to say that she agrees with this set-up, it's just the way things were. My Dad worked full-time and had a long commute, so he just wasn't home enough hours to actually contribute. 

Back to the present and our situation. Employment wise we are on a very similar track, in that we both work full time and have somewhat similar salaries. Ok, as the bf likes to remind me, I'm not exactly full-time...I usually work 9 am - 3 pm and have Monday's off in the summer, but I do work longer hours during our busy season (plus I blog which takes up a lot of my time). Let's just call it even on this front then ok? 😉 

I feel fortunate to have a partner who contributes around the house. Writing that statement actually just made me cranky. I am lucky, and do feel lucky, to be in this situation but I kind of wish I didn't. Not feeling lucky about this would mean it was a rule and not an exception. We really do split chores evenly. As I said above, I hate cooking...and I'm terrible at it. I'm the girl who puts a pot of quinoa on the stove to cook, forgets about it and nearly burns down the house (this happened last month). The bf, on the other hand, enjoys cooking and is great at it, so willingly takes on 99% of the food prep in our house. However, since my organization skills are slightly (more than slightly) better than his, I take on the role of meal planning. We always do one big grocery shop together each week, and before that I make a list of what meals we're eating and what we need to buy. That's teamwork folks! 

As for the rest of the household chores, I would say that I do the bulk of the cleaning but not everything. And let's be honest, our house is a mess most of the time. This would be the one category where we actually abide by fairly traditional roles. Laundry, dusting, floors, etc. are all on my chore list whereas shovelling snow, mowing the lawn, and taking out the garbage are more frequently done by the bf. For us, this works. Do I still dread mopping the floor? Absolutely, but it makes it easier knowing that I won't also have to cook dinner after. 

I also like to think that if we added children to the mix, we would balance their care equally. Neither of us wants to give up our careers and become a stay at home parent so we'd have to factor in daycare costs and packed schedules. How do you parents do it!?

So, that my life. Let me know in the comments how you handle the work/life balance with your partner? 

The gender gap at work and at home.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Keep your Food Budget in Check

Lower your Food Budget without Wasting Time

Today we're talking about food...whoop! Eating takes up a lot of my time. That's kind of embarrassing to admit, but it's the truth. Not only because there's the meal planning, shopping for food, cooking and the actual eating part but a lot of my social activities also revolve around food in some way. Whether that's going out for dinner with friends or going to a baseball game and getting a hot dog (because you can't not do that). This also means that food makes up a sizable portion of our monthly budget. So, how do we keep that in check? Well, there are a few tricks we've adopted along the way that have helped. 

Stop Eating Out
I know, I know...this one goes without saying, but I'm repeating it because it's the one that can really make or break your budget. Eating out even just one meal at a restaurant will often cost you as much as an entire weeks worth of groceries. I'm not saying don't ever eat out, that just wouldn't work for me. We factor eating out once a week into our plans, and sometimes that's a pricier dinner and sometimes it's a cheaper meal from a food truck. Find a system that works for you but don't overdue it. This goes for lunches, too. I'm much worse for going out to eat with my co-workers than I am at home (victim of peer pressure). The more often you eat at home, the less you'll spend on food. 

Tap Water Won't Kill You
In fact, it won't even hurt you, and no, it doesn't taste funny. You won't have any bottled water in my house. In Canada alone, bottled water generates $2.5 billion every year, and it can take up to three litres of water to process one litre of bottled water. So not only is it hurting your wallet it is also horrible for the environment. People stop! Go ahead and buy yourself a fancy, reusable water bottle and fill it up with good old fashioned tap water. Even this adorable puppy hates plastic water bottles (any excuse for a dog GIF). 

Ditch the Meat
This isn't always easy for everyone (my bf for one) but limiting the amount of meat you eat can really lower your grocery bill. I've never been a big meat-eater so this one's pretty easy to be but it's always a bit of a battle in our house. I'm super fussy with meat and will cut off every bit of fat I can find which makes it a hassle. I'd rather a plate full of vegetables or tofu any day. We aim to go meatless for at least two dinners every week, and I've found quite a few vegetarian recipes that we both enjoy. Here's five that regularly make it into our meal plans and even satisfy my carnivore bf. 
We also buy the majority of our meat at Costco and freeze it. It's not always the cheapest (usually though), but the quality of their meat is top notch and always have a stockpile in the freezer helps us avoid last minute trips for take-out. 

Stock up on Snacks
Have you ever been sitting on the couch after dinner and get a craving for something sweet? That's me, pretty much every night. I also have no willpower, so if I don't have something at home to snack on then I'm going to end up in the Dairy Queen drive-thru at 10 pm. Not good for my wallet or my waistline. I don't necessarily like the idea of spending $15 on a Costco size bag of trail mix, but if it prevents me going out for food, then I call it a win. If you're not a snacker, then you can obviously skip this one, and then tell me what sort of Jedi mind tricks you use! 

And I don't mean the TV show...did anyone else think that show was terrible? It has rave reviews, but I could NOT get into it. The best way for me to not spend money on eating lunch out is by bringing leftovers. I love leftovers, seriously! Give me leftovers over a sandwich or salad any day. Even if it means buying extra so that you have enough food to do you for dinner and lunch the next day it's worth it. A cheap lunch out will still cost you $10 to $15, and there's no way a few extra grocery items will add up to that much. Plus, dishing up an additional serving into a Tupperware container is much easier than making something from scratch. Easy always wins in my world. 

Shop Once, Eat for a Week
My final tip is to avoid going to the grocery store as much as possible. It's basically the worst place ever, so you'll be a happier (and richer) person if you aren't there every other day. We do one big shop every Sunday and pick up everything we need during the week. If there's something on the meal plan that needs to be fresh, we just make sure to cook it on Sunday or Monday. Planning ahead is essential so figure out what is on the schedule and choose your dinners accordingly. I've written before about the importance of meal planning, so if you're not already in the habit then go check out that post for a little inspiration (and a two-week meal plan). 

These are all relatively straightforward tips that work for me and won't have you clipping coupons or searching through multiple flyers for the best price. I don't have time for that, so I focus on things that make life easier while still saving money. 

Do you guys have any tips you use that I haven't included here? 

Lower your Food Budget without Wasting Time

Saturday, 1 July 2017

10 Reasons Why I'm a Proud Canadian

Why I'm Proud to Be a Canadian

If you haven't heard, it's Canada's 150th birthday today! Us Canadians aren't known for our bragging skills, but I thought I would take a quick minute to put out a non-money related bonus post and do just that. 

1. It's pretty damn gorgeous up here. Between the Rocky Mountains, the never-ending prairies, the small fishing villages, and the good side of Niagra Falls, Canada has pretty much everything you could want when it comes to geography. And the weather really isn't that bad! Sure our winters are cold, but we're a tough bunch, and that just makes us appreciate our summers even more.
Why I'm Proud to Be a Canadian
2. Our healthcare system isn't perfect, but I can get hit by a car and not worry about going bankrupt. You won't find anyone getting turned away at the hospital because they aren't covered by insurance.

3. It's really not even a contest...

4. And again, no contest...(Connor might cost us an arm and a leg, but he's worth it)
Image Credit:
5. You can thank us for creating the Hawaiian pizza, because pineapple definitely belongs on pizza. 

6. We get to experience that moment when travelling abroad and someone realizes you are from Canada and not the US. 

7. You may make fun of the fact that our money looks like it came from a Monopoly game and that it's plastic, but you'll never feel the disappointment of pulling out a $20 bill and realizing it's only a fiver. Plus, that plastic money is almost indestructible (just don't put it in the dryer). 
Why I'm Proud to Be a Canadian

8. If you have a baby, you can take time off work AND still get paid. The Canadian government recently just increased the amount of parental leave you can take up to 18 months (moms or dads). There is a caveat to this, you don't actually get more money. Instead, your benefit will be split up over a longer period. Your options are to get a 55% benefit for 12 months or a 33% benefit for 18 months. Still, it gives you the flexibility to take more time and still have a job waiting for you. 

9. Santa Claus? He lives here...and if you send him your Christmas list, he'll even write you back. 
Santa Claus
North Pole
H0H 0H0

10. You will always hear us singing along when the Canadian national anthem is playing, but sometimes we even surprise ourselves and pull off a pretty incredible version of the US anthem. A little backstory on this one for those who haven't seen the clip. This happened in Edmonton during the playoffs just this year. Brett Kissel had been performing the US anthem every time, but on this night the mic in the arena failed (the sound was working on TV which is why you can hear it on the video a bit). The crowd stepped up in a big way and turned what could have been an embarrassing moment into an unforgettable one. Sidenote, I love that Kesler's 'Godammit Edmonton' face is the screenshot that shows up. 

Now that I'm done with that and feeling all patriotic, I'm going to grab a beer and a bag of ketchup chips and celebrate this fine country. Not actually though...ketchup chips are the worst (please don't revoke my Canadian citizenship)! I do not get the fuss, they are gross and not something to be proud of. All Dressed chips on the other hand? Those are my jam. Happy Canada Day everyone! 

Why I'm Proud to Be a Canadian

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Working 9 to 5 is Old News

Millennials want work/life balance

How many of you work a standard 9 to 5 job? And of those who answered yes, how many wish that weren't the case? I'm guessing there are a lot of hands up to the second question, and I am right there with you. Improvements in technology over the last couple of decades have made it possible for you to keep up with your work and not be tied to an office. As an example, I'm currently sitting on my deck, in the sun, on a Monday while writing this post (thank you laptop, WiFi, and flexible job). The younger generations have different views on work and how it fits into their life. Just look around the internet at all the bloggers, social media consultants, etc. who have built up a career for themselves in a field that didn't even exist a few years ago. Entrepreneurship is at an all-time high, and this is forcing employers to adapt. 

I've been on both sides. My last job was the traditional 8 hour work day with very limited flexibility...basically, if the office was open I was in it. The upside was that I never ever took work home with me. When I walked out that door I was off officially off the clock. The downside was that whole having to be in the office 8 hours a day thing. Need to go to the dentist? Get approval from the boss. Want to go out for lunch? Make sure you're back by 1 pm. Finished everything you have to do? Look busy. None of this makes much sense and ends up only breeding resentment. When I switched jobs a year and a half ago, my new position came with a lot more flexibility, but it also means I need to stay on top of things no matter where I am. For me, there's no question I prefer this arrangement and I think most of you will be with me. 

“Millennials do not believe that productivity should be measured by the number of hours worked at the office, but by the output of the work performed. They view work as a ‘thing’ and not a ‘place.’” (Source)

I think this quote is SO on point! I've never really considered it, but I absolutely consider work a 'thing' and not a 'place'. Creating work/life balance has become such an important factor that companies are putting together teams to figure out what they need to do to keep their employees happy. And they don't really have a choice. It is estimated that by 2025 Millennials will make up 75% of the labour force, and you sure don't want to piss off three-quarters of your staff. 

Decreased Loyalty 

A significant factor in the reason why workplace standards in regards to flexibility are changing is because Millennials are much less willing to stay in a job that doesn't make them happy. I'm an exception to this rule and have a history of being loyal to jobs that make me miserable; mostly because I really, really hate job hunting. Most people my age though are willing to jump between jobs until they find the right fit. Jobs with strict schedules and a lack of flextime and work at home options are being passed over for companies offering a more forward thinking approach. 

Flex-Time / Working from Home

I am a big fan of flexible hours and will happily answer a few emails after dinner if it means I don't have to stay at the office past three in the afternoon. For me, this is a great perk, but it becomes a significantly more important issue for parents. Kids get sick, they perform in school plays or on sports teams, and they also get a summer vacation. Having an employer who understands this and lets you take off a random Tuesday morning to chaperone a field trip is a big deal. And really, as long as the work is getting done, does it really matter when or where it happens? 

There's a lot of people who love the idea of rolling out of bed and into their home office without even changing out of their pajamas...I'm not that person. I have a hard enough time getting myself to write a blog post while I'm at home, let alone trying to focus on my real job. Sure, answering a few emails and dealing with any urgent is one thing but there are just too many distractions. There's always a pile of laundry to deal with, or groceries to shop for, or (more commonly) a new show on Netflix to binge. I like having an office to go to for getting the real work done. I think it also helps with keeping boundaries between home and work. If your office is the dining room table, then it's just that much harder to put all your focus into the life part instead of the work part. 

Constant Connectivity

One of the main reasons any of this is even possible is because almost all of us carry around a little device in our pocket that connects us to everything, including the office. I will be the first to admit that my phone is a lifeline for me, and not always in a good way. The amount of time I waste browsing social media is a problem, but I'm not willing to part with that instant access to information. Plus, internet friends are a real thing! 

This also means that you are at the beck and call of your boss. I do not have this problem (we are pretty strict about out of the office meaning do not contact), but I know this is a challenge for other people. At the bf's last job this was a huge issue, and it used to make me crazy. He would check his work email before bed and would still wake up to a full inbox first thing in the morning. That is a stressful way to live! Social media can be especially bad for this. Take a look at the mentions for any mid to large sized company and you'll find an endless stream of questions, complaints and a few compliments and I can guarantee that almost all those people want a near instant response (I know I'm guilty of expecting that!) Remember when restaurants used to offer those complaint cards you could fill it at the end of your meal? Now Twitter is where everyone goes to air their frustrations about disappointing service...and everyone else can see it. As we've seen, companies can go viral for their good (Wendy's) or bad (United Airlines) handling of situations on social media. 

So what do you guys think? What work/life factors are most important to you and are they available at your current job? 

Millennials want work/life balance

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Financial Literacy is Your Responsibility

Financial Literacy

**This post may contain affiliate links, which means I get paid from the company if you purchase the product. For more information, you can check my disclaimer, and I promise to only recommend products I've tried and love.**

I hate the fact that you go through 12 years of school and come out the other side knowing little to nothing about finance. You'll be taught how to solve complex algebra equations but have zero clue how interest rates work and how detrimental credit card debt can be. I promise you, the ability to do algebra has never once helped me get a job or complete a work project, but knowing how to balance a budget sure has. There has been some movement to correct this, but not fast enough. You know what that means though? You are in charge of making sure you know what's up! 

Sure you can blame a lack of education as the reason you are in debt and don't have a handle on your money, but nobody is going to give you much sympathy. Everyone's in the same boat. Humans are not built with an innate sense of being good with money...we really like the instant gratification that comes with spending money. But, it's a skill you can learn, and there are a ton of resources out there with the goal of teaching you to do just that. And since you are currently reading a personal finance blog, you're already on the right track. 

So where can you turn? 

Hello Internet! 
Obviously, you have to take everything you read on the internet with a grain of salt as everyone and their dog can pretend to be an expert, but it's also a fantastic resource. Who hasn't gone to YouTube to figure out how to fold a fitted sheet (a skill I will never master)? Or browsed Pinterest for a new recipe? For your money issues, there are endless personal finance blogs to help walk you through everything you could possibly need. I've written about a few of my favourite lady money bloggers, but you should also check out Rockstar Finance. They have put together a huge searchable directory of personal finance blogs, and I guarantee you'll find something relevant to you. 

There are almost as many books on money as there are blogs (maybe even more), so how do you know where to start? To get you started, here are a few of my personal favourites. 

My parents gave me the first Wealthy Barber book to read when I was in high school (which at the time I thought was super lame), but I did read it, and it's the perfect introduction to managing your finances. It's written almost like a novel, so it's quick and easy to get through but packed with valuable info. David Chilton is Canadian, so it does cover topics that are only relevant to those of us in the Great White North, but there's still general info that can apply to anyone. The second book carries on with even more info, and I promise you'll fly through them while still learning a lot. 

Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
This one is pretty much a classic and for good reason. Honestly, this book wasn't exactly an enjoyable read for me as I found it a bit repetitive and got sick of all the personal testimonials. However, if you follow Dave's steps, you will absolutely notice a huge difference in your finances. This book didn't turn me into a huge Dave Ramsey fan, but he knows his stuff and his plan works. The Total Money Makeover can give you the kick in the butt you need to really get serious about your money. 

Broke Millenial by Erin Lowry
A newbie to the book scene and likely a lot more relevant to many of my readers because it's written by a female millennial. Full disclosure, I haven't actually read this one yet (I'm on the waiting list at the library) but have heard rave reviews from people I trust. I've also followed Erin's blog for a long time, and her writing and advice are always on point. 

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
Ok, this isn't exactly a personal finance book. Sheryl Sandberg has held high-ranking positions with Facebook and Google and runs the Lean In Foundation, which has a goal of inspiring young woman to reach their goals. This book is perfect for new graduates who are getting started on their career path (there actually is a graduate edition). Sheryl shares personal stories and practical tips that will help you navigate the corporate world (especially as a woman). She deals with common issues like speaking out, getting promoted, and having kids. 

The Behavior Gap by Carl Richards
Ever wonder why the 'buy low and sell high' concept is so challenging? This book answers that question and many more. It's an interesting read for beginner investors because it will help you overcome some of the most common behaviours that can hurt your chance of investing success. Simply being aware of how humans instinctively act, will give you an advantage over others who let their emotions dictate their decisions. 

If there's one thing parents love it's you...and parenting. 

They also have a lot more years of experience and can be a resource for you. Plus, asking your parents for advice always makes them feel For many people (myself included), the majority of our financial knowledge comes from what your parents taught you when you were growing up. Even if they weren't the best role models for handling money, they can likely still help. Sometimes making mistakes teaches you more than always doing the right thing. 

Financial Advisor
A common complaint I hear from Millennials is that they don't think they can work with an advisor because they don't have much in the way of assets. Sure, this might be the case in some situations, but it isn't always so. One option you have is to go the non-traditional route and hire a fee for service planner. You'll be able to get expert advice with no investment obligation by paying an hourly rate for their time. Another option is to take advantage of your parent's financial advisor. There is a good chance they would be willing to take you on as a client as a favour to your parents. Even if your assets are low right now, they should be of the mindset that your parent's money could one day become your money. 

You can also check out this post for additional tips on finding an advisor. 

There you have it, four resources to find everything you need to know about personal finance. No excuses ok? You might even find that you love learning about money and will be the next blogger on the block! And if you do have a question you can't find an answer to, post it down in comments, and I'll do my very best to help. 

Financial Literacy

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

How much is that doggie in the window?

Cost of Pet Ownership

**This post may contain affiliate links, which means I get paid from the company if you purchase the product. For more information, you can check my disclaimer, and I promise to only recommend products I've tried and love.**

Pets...they are my most treasured possession and the bane of my existence.

Ok, maybe that's a little overdramatic, but they have their moments. The bf and I are the proud parents of two dogs and two cats and, while I love them all to bits, they cost a lot of money and require a lot of time. If you follow me on Instagram, you're likely familiar with the crew but what better excuse to introduce them properly than this article...

Cost of Pet Ownership
Baxter the Boxer: The first addition
We got Bax as a puppy, and he's been part of the fam for almost 7 years. This is an older picture, he was still a scrawny little pup. Nowadays he's filled out and has more than a few grey hairs.

Cost of Pet Ownership
Gizmo: the kingpin
We got Gizmo as a tiny kitten from the SPCA, and he has been terrorizing us ever since. He's our problem animal...very independent and always getting into trouble. I blame the bf for this, he picked out Giz because he was the most energetic (crazy) kitten we found. 

Cost of Pet Ownership
Bree: the rescue pup
It was 100% my idea to add a second dog to the mix, and I fell in love with Bree from a picture on a local rescue organization. She came to us after living as a stray and having a little of 11(!) pups, so it was a bit of an adjustment getting her settled as an indoor dog. Now she is wonderful, sweet, and will do anything for a belly rub. (You can read more on her story here)

Cost of Pet Ownership
Gemma: the baby
Not exactly a baby anymore but she still acts that way. We also got Gem from the SPCA as a kitten, but this time I picked, so she was the most chill option. She is all sorts of lovable and never gets into trouble like her bratty brother. 

Now that you've met the inspirations for this post let's get into the nitty gritty money part. What triggered the writing of this post was a recent trip to the emergency vet. I had thought it would have cost at least $250 just to walk through the door, but we got off lucky with a bill of less than $200. Our crazy dogs thought it would be fun to get into a full-speed collision while chasing their tennis ball and it ended up with Baxter cracking his head on the ground and giving himself a concussion (yup, dogs can also get concussions). He jumped up right away and seemed fine so we weren't too worried initially but after we got him inside he was looking pretty wonky...dazed, confused, one completely dilated pupil and a big bump on his head. I am the worrier (or you could call it the more loving pet parent, you know whatever), so was freaking out and hauling Bax out the door to the vet while the bf hummed and hawed about how he had a concussion and there wasn't much the vet could do. Well, to the vet we went, and the bf may or may not have been right. We were sent home an hour later with instructions to keep him calm for a couple of days and some anti-inflammatories, but more importantly a clear conscience for me. A few days later and Baxter was back to normal and we were only $200 poorer. 

That's almost a best case scenario. With four animals in the house, I am shocked this was the first emergency visit we've ever had to make. These are the events you don't want to think about but have to consider before you make the decision to get a pet. 

The Money
Here's a breakdown of what we spend on our animals on an annual basis. The amounts are based on our spending for the past year, which was fairly standard for us. You'll see that we do pay for pet insurance. I've talked about that more extensively here, but just as a recap, we only have pet insurance for the dogs (clearly I have favourites).  

Pet Insurance$81.47Vet$223.34
Grooming$39.07Cleaning Supplies$10.00
Cleaning Supplies$20.00Toys$13.98
Accessories$50.00City Licensing$42.00
Treats$133.16Cat Tree$50.99
City Licensing$72.00
Dog Total:$1,518.06Cat Total:$482.83
Overall Annual Total:$2,000.89
Over $2,000 each year sounds crazy expensive, and I would say that we are pretty frugal spenders when it comes to our critters. You do have to remember that we have four though, so if you only have one, then that will cut the cost significantly. We don't spend a lot of money on toys and accessories (leashes, collars, etc.) and, aside for the emergency vet visit, our vet expenses only consist of annual exams and vaccinations. All of them eat Costco kibble (Kirkland Signature Nature's Domain), and I would highly recommend it. I did a ton of research on dog food because our boxer has some allergies and that Kirkland stuff is high quality and way more affordable than comparable brands on the market. You'll notice too that we don't have any boarding costs for when we travel. My parents are kind enough to take care of our two dogs, and a friend comes in to check on our cats. We don't travel a lot, but the associated boarding costs would limit us even more if we had to pay. 

Another thing to remember is that we've had all our pets for awhile. A new puppy or kitten will always more expensive at first because of the initial outset to buy the necessities, additional vet visits for boosters and you'll end up spoiling them more early on. We've had at least one pet in the house for almost 7 years so that initial spoiling rate has dropped ;) 

Obviously, the money is the biggest factor when considering getting a pet, but you can't forget about the time commitment. Cats are relatively self-sufficient, but they still require some playtime, grooming, feeding, and litterbox cleaning. Dogs, especially large dogs, will need a daily walk (even if the weather sucks) plus all of the above. The worst thing you can do is jump into getting a puppy only to realize you don't have the time or energy to take care of it. 

Favourite Products
Over the years of having our pets, we've discovered some tried and true products that we keep going back to. I thought I would share those here in case you'd like to try them out. 

Dog Toys
Hol-ee Roller - This ball lives in the backyard and gets more playtime than any other toy we own. It's made of durable rubber and survives a whole lot of tug battles between our two dogs. Usually, it spends the winter out in the snow and gets brittle, so we buy a new one every Spring (we're on our third). We buy the 'Jumbo' size for our dogs who are 60lbs and 70lbs, but there are different sizes available. 
Rope - Our boxer loves to play tug, so we always have a rope for him. They last forever, are good for his teeth and don't cost a lot to replace. 
Nylabone - The upfront cost is higher than it is for a rawhide but Nylabones last forever and are healthier for your dog. Bree is a strong chewer, and one of these bones will last her at least a year whereas she can get through a rawhide in a few hours. 

Cat Toys
Interactive Toy - Both our cats love to chase around this toy, and it's a great way to get them exercising. We've tried the cheaper versions that have feathers on the end, but they usually rip those apart after a few uses. This one is stronger and can stand up to sharp teeth and claws. 
Sponge Balls - Of all the cat toys we've tried over the years, these balls are a favourite. And that's great because they're so cheap and last forever (unless a dog gets ahold of them). Our only problem is that they are small enough to fit under furniture so more often than not they end up under the couch. 
Cat Tree - As much as I wish that cat tree's last forever they just don't. We usually have to replace ours annually, so we buy smallish ones for as cheap as possible. This was the last one we bought, and it's holding its own for now. The cats like the various places to sleep on this one but the top bed is quite small (it works for our cats, but they are pretty tiny). 

Freeze-Dried Liver Treats - We buy these by the bulk bag, and it usually lasts about 3 months. Our dogs don't get a lot of treats at home, but we pack these into our pockets to take on walks to encourage good behaviour. These are easy to break into small chunks that are perfect for training, and they aren't packed with additives found in other treats.

Cleaning Products
Nature's Miracle - If you already own pets you likely already know that this odour destroyer is essential. We've had our fair share of pet messes in the house, and a cat who's been known to pee, and this stuff works as promised. 

Bissell Little Green Machine - Not an essential by any means, but this carpet cleaner has come to our rescue numerous times. It's compact but powers out stains quickly and easily. Maybe add it to your Christmas list (I think the real sign of being an adult is asking for boring gifts like this). 

If you are considering adding a fur creature to your family, make sure you check out your local SPCA or rescue group instead of going the breeder group. You might think you won't be able to get a rescue puppy, but that's just not true (all of Bree's puppies were adopted out from the rescue we got her from). And rescue mutts really are special...they also tend to be healthier and hardier than many purebred dogs. Promise you'll try? #AdoptDon'tShop

Cost of Pet Ownership