Thursday, 28 July 2016

Canada Child Benefit

This was the month the new Canada Child Benefit came into effect and a whole bunch of parents got to go on a shopping spree ;) Jokes! The Liberal budget (I talk a bit about that here) introduced this revamped program to incorporate the existing child tax benefits that the Conservatives introduced. This new program is extensive and will cost about $22.4 billion over the next five years. The real difference between this new program and the previous Conservative initiatives is that it is based on family income; the less your family earns the higher your monthly payment will be. Makes sense right? Well, let's talk about that. 

First let's talk about how much money you could potentially be getting. The income threshold to get the maximum payment is currently set at $30,000 for a family. That maximum payment will be $533/month or $6,400/year for children under the age of 6 and children aged 6 to 17 it will be $450/month or $5,400/year. One very important fact is that this is TAX FREE money so when I say $533/month you will actually get $533/month. These maximum amounts will decrease as your family income increases and if you've got a family income of over about $150,000 the amounts you'll be receiving will be quite small. The actual cut-off levels depend on how many children you have and their ages. For example, if you have 4 children all under 6 (yikes!) your family income would need to be over $249,000 to be completely cutoff but if you only have one child between the ages of 6 and 17 that cutoff goes all the way down to $157,000. 

If you have children and want to figure out how much money is coming your way now and potentially in the future you can play around with this calculator. 

In theory I like the new program better than the old one. Families with such high incomes don't really need the extra $160/month they had been receiving but for families with incomes under $30,000 the increased amounts can significantly impact their lifestyle. When I really start to think about things there are a few concerns that come to mind though. 
  • What happens when your child turns 6? Sure, if your kids have been in daycare as young children and are now in full-time school those costs would have decreased but this wont be the case if there was a stay at home parents. All of a sudden you are going to see a drop in your monthly income just because your child had a birthday and how many people will actually be prepared for this? For the under $30,000 income level this would be a drop of $83/month of $996/year and that's not nothing. 
  • What about the next election? Governments are on a four year timeline and if the Liberals don't get in when the next election happens in 2019 there's a pretty darn good chance the new governing party will want to put their stamp on the Canada Child Benefit program and this could mean cuts to the monthly payments you are receiving or even removal of the program entirely. 
  • Now this one gets a little judgey but hear me out. Do we really want this extra (and potentially temporary) money impacting someone's decision to have a child (or have more children)? If your family income is under that $30,000 threshold and you have four children aged 1, 3, 5, and 7 you will now be getting $2,049/month or $24,588 from the CCB. That's quite a bit of money and would almost double that families annual income. Certainly makes a case for maybe adding another 1 or 2 babies to the family. This is just my opinion but having 5 or 6 children is scary to me! 
It's obvious that one of the goals for the program is to encourage people to have children. The fertility rate in Canada was 1.59 for 2015 and has been hovering around that level for the last few years and this means that we are below the replacement level of 2.1 births per woman. Basically, without immigration, our population would be shrinking. 

With that in mind, does it really make sense to only provide the benefit to children born to lower income families? As a social program, yes it makes sense to aid those who need the money most but as a program to encourage population growth, not so much. 

What do you guys think about the new Canada Child Benefit? Supporters? Haters?

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

July Loves

Rose Quartz Necklace
I talked last week about my essentials for summer work wear and I should have added this necklace to the list. I like to keep things simple for the summer and don't wear a lot of jewelry but this necklace is so light and pretty with the rose coloured stone that I've been reaching for it again and again.  I have a few pieces from Cloud & Lolly and really like them. You get good quality, locally made and the prices are super reasonable. Check them out if you're looking to upgrade your jewelry box. 

Under Armour Underwear

I bought a couple of pairs of these last year for working out and have just about converted my whole underwear selection to them and wear them just about everyday. So worth it! There's two versions available, the one on this link and then the original version. Definitely go with the ones on this link, the fabric is much softer and stretchier. The original pairs I bought have been worn a lot and gone through the was a lot and are still in really good shape so it makes me feel better about spending a few extra bucks. 

Essie nail polish is hardly a new phenomenon but I just recently tried out their 'Good to Go' top coat and it is AMAZING! I've tried a bunch of different brands but I always have issues with the polish bubbling underneath or they just don't stop chips. This Essie one dries your polish really fast, has never caused bubbles, stays shiny for days and makes my polish last a full week (and I am hard on my nails). 

It's pretty rare that you find me in a bathing suit in Edmonton, we just never really go swimming and aren't exactly blessed with the greatest lakes but I have been eyeing up this pretty suit. We do have a wedding in Mexico next Spring so maybe I'll pick it up for that. I'm loving the high-waisted trend in bathing suits that has taken over the last little bit. You still show enough skin to avoid looking frumpy but the high-waist looks so classy and flattering. I also really like the corset-style lacing on this one and the top looks cute but also supportive enough. The link above is for the top and you can find the high-waisted bottoms here

Nothing says summer more than not having to turn on your stove and increase the heat in your already smoking house! These summer rolls are easy to make (once you get the hang of rolling them up) and there's actual cooking involved. Just some prep work with chopping up the filling and mixing up the yummy peanut sauce. I've also added shrimp to the recipe for a little extra protein and it worked really well. The recipe makes a batch of 8 but I like to make a few extra as they also make a great lunch the next day. If I don't have leftovers for lunch I am pretty much useless at making something else which means eating out. 

Tarte Amazonian Clay Blush
I received a sample of this blush from Sephora and became an instant convert. As soon as the sample ran out I was at the store buying the full size version. The shade I have is 'Captivating' and its a gorgeous peachy colour that works really well with my medium skin tone. The blush goes on really smoothly and is perfectly blendable but I also find that it really does last throughout the day. Blush always has a tendency to disappear on me by about lunch time and I can still tell I'm wearing this when I get home from work. 

Back Massager
Upon a recommendation from a friend I ordered this back massager thing from Amazon and am kind of hooked on it. There's four plastic balls that rotate inside and it really gets into any notes you have in your back in that 'hurt so good' kind of way. They also heat up so it's like a heating pack and massager in one, although you can turn off the heat if you prefer. The link is from which is where I bought it, and even though you have to pay shipping and US dollars I still think it's worth it. There is one available on the Canadian side of the site but it's insane expensive right now ($92!!) so go this route. 

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Money for Memories

You might have read my rant last week about the less than stellar service I had received from AMA Travel but they've redeemed themselves and we are officially booked to go to Barcelona in November. Hooray!!! We'll be spending 8 nights (7 full days) taking in all the sights, food and sangria that Barcelona has to offer. If any of you have any tips on what to do or where to eat while we're there feel free to let me know in the comments, I'm always looking for good tips! 

Now this trip is a result of a super awesome 30th birthday present I got from my parents earlier this year and I think I'm taking full advantage. Barcelona feels like a real trip, one that I'll always remember. Before taking the plunge we had talked about just holding onto the gift card and using it for the odd trip to the mountains and whatever other small trips came up over the next few years but that got vetoed for one big adventure. Feels like the right way to celebrate my big 3-0. 

This also got me thinking of the importance of spending money on experiences instead of things. I like buying new clothes and splurging at Sephora every so often but when I think of all the stuff I've bought only to throw out years later after just a handle of uses it makes me a a bit crazy. That never really happens when you spend your money (your carefully saved vacation fund!) on trips, concerts, festivals, or whatever other "experience" type splurges you can think of. The memories you create from such activities will stick with you longer than that new dress you've been eyeing. This is proven science!  Leaf Van Boven and Thomas Gilovich wrote a paper on this very subject and basically discovered that although buying material things starts out bringing you about the same amount of happiness as buying an experience that level of happiness doesn't stick around. After some time the memory of that experience will bring you more happiness than the physical object (even if you still have it). 

All this means that I am making a concerted effort to stop buying material things and save my pennies for experiences that will create long-lasting memories. I think I'm off to a pretty good start, we've got a long list of plans for the summer that include concerts, festivals, and local hiking trips. 

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Summer Work Wear

I don't know about you guys but my motivation for getting dressed up for work takes a nose dive when the hot weather hits and it becomes way more of a challenge to put together professional looking outfits. Here's a few of my favourite items in my summer wardrobe that get a lot of wear and keep things easy. 

Relaxed but Polished Sleeveless Blouse
These portofino shirts from Express are a go to for me, both the sleeveless and the long sleeved. They fit really well and come in a ton of colours, I really like this rich blue sleeveless option for the summer. I like to size up in the sleeveless version for a more relaxed fit. Pairs perfectly with the Express ankle pant further down the list, either tucked or not. 

Summer Dress that will take you into Fall
Dresses are an absolute must for me during the summer months! There is nothing better than a sleeveless, airy dress on a hot day and this one fits the bill. I love the neutral colours and belted waist, looks professional but will still keep you cool. If you act quick it's even on sale at The Bay. 

Neutral Patterned Tank
Even though it's summer I still like to stick to neutrals for the most part (as you can see from my picks) but I do like to change things up with a pattern. This tank is really cute and looks great paired with a black pencil skirt for work or jeans on the weekend. 

Essential Cardigan
Anyone who works in an office knows the struggle of having to dress for hot temps outside and overly air conditioned offices! I always keep a cardigan (or two) at the office to prevent freezing and this is a cheap option that gives you a bunch of colour options. 

Simple Stud Earrings
My lack of inspiration in the summer months is especially fatal when it comes to wearing jewelry so I tend to keep things simple. There nothing worse than wearing a stack of bangles only to have them make you gross and sweaty. Tiny stud earrings are my go to and I have been wearing these little triangles non-stop. They come in a set of 10 pairs from Forever 21 for less than $8 so you can stock up and not worry about losing a pair! 

Fun and Flowy Midi Skirt
How cute is this skirt? I love skirts in the summer for the same reason I love dresses, air flow! The only downfall is that you also have to figure out a shirt to wear and some days that's a deal breaker. Keeping it simple with a basic black or white tee will make things easy enough with this skirt and its got enough going on to carry the workload. I much prefer flowy skirts in the hot weather and this floral print is perfect. 

Fancy Flats that feel like Flip Flops
Once you go Poppy Barley you will never go back, they are a splurge but oh so worth it. I could not love these flats more! They are so, so comfortable that it will feel like you are wearing flip flops, but since flip flops are an absolute no-go at the office you should wear these. Comfy, cute and exceptional much good! 

Cropped Blouse
I've (somewhat) jumped on the cropped shirt trend that's everywhere right now, but nothing too cropped and only with high waists. This blouse has been on constant rotation in my wardrobe for the last few months because it's short enough that it works well with high waisted skirts but is still long enough to wear with jeans without having a bunch of extra fabric to tuck in. 

Ankle Length Dress Pants
I own four pairs of these pants in various shades and patterns...pretty much enough said! I love Express dress pants and these are the best for summer. They have a perfect mid-rise and the fabric has just enough weight to hang nicely without being overly warm. I wear these with flats all the time (I'm a flats person) but they look great (probably even better) with a pair of pointed-toe pumps.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Combining Finances

If you’ve been in a committed relationship for long enough (married or not) you’ve almost certainly considered combining (how's that for alliteration) your finances. I’ve been with the bf for over 10 years now and we’ve never taken the jump to a joint account and there’s not really a good reason why not. Obviously we’ve been together for a long time and have a lot of joint expenses so what’s stopping us from just combining everything 100%. Our mortgage is in both our names but other than that we split most of the bills and keep bank accounts, investments and credit cards separate. I think for us it’s just been easier to keep things status quo and we’ve never wanted to spend the time to get set-up with new accounts and change over all our automated payments but there’s also a part of me that kind of likes being able to spend my money on what I want, no questions asked (the bf is pretty easy going but there may be a slight Sephora addiction I’d be answering for…)

Obviously there’s good and bad when it comes to combining your finances so we’re going to talk a little about that today and you can see where you stand.

The Good
-Simplicity: This has got to be the biggie! One account where all your paycheques go into and all your bills come out of, no transferring money back and forth between accounts to make sure everything is as even as possible.
-Cheaper: If you’re not using no-fee bank accounts (you should be, I’ve talked more about that here) you could potentially cut your fees in half by sharing accounts and there’s a chance that combining your assets could get you a better interest rate on your savings.
-Improved communication over your finances and budget. 

The Bad
-If you’re incomes aren’t in the same range the higher earner may feel like they are taking on more of the burden for paying bills and the lower earner might feel guilty spending money they didn’t bring in. I am certainly not above this, we’ve been back and forth enough that I think we’re on even terms but there for sure have been times I’ve been the money maker and have felt a little cranky when the bf buys something I don’t consider necessary. It’s really hard to set-aside your feelings when it comes to money, hence why it’s one of the biggest stressers in relationships.
-Balancing the chequebook can be more of a challenge when you’re tracking two people’s spending
-Less privacy: Sure we should feel like we can be open with our partners but sometimes you don’t want them knowing where every penny goes and it can make surprise gift-giving a challenge. Although, this might help you better stick to your budget to avoid scrutiny.
-When finances are managed jointly there’s usually one person who takes the lead and if something happens to that person the other half could be stuck trying to figure things out at an already tough time. If you do go joint make sure both of you check-in and are in the loop. Another thing is to make sure you are both listed on any bills you pay (utilities, cable, etc.), the last thing you want is for a company to refuse you information if your spouse passed away. 

The Ugly
-Credit impact: if one of the joint account holders gets into credit trouble this can impact both people as 50% of the assets in a joint account may be seized to cover outstanding bills. 
-If the relationship ends one person could potentially clean out all the assets in the account, leaving you without access to funds and with a potential court battle.

One thing to know about setting up a joint account is that you have a couple of options available to you in regards to how the money will be treated after death. The first way is to choose ‘Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship’. This basically means that if one of the account holders dies all assets in the account will be passed directly to the other holder and you can skip having the assets go through their estate. The other choice is ‘Tenancy in Common’. This means that each person owns a specific portion of the account so if there is a death you would only get your portion and the deceased's portion would go through their estate. Either way works but it is something to think about if you’re taking the plunge towards joint finances.

How do you guys feel about combining finances; do you prefer to keep things separate or like the simplicity of a joint account?