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

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

All the Finance Ladies ♪

Female personal finance bloggers

When you guys are reading this I'm going to be road tripping across Alberta and BC, and enjoying all the grape inspired beverages that the Okanagan has to offer. You can follow along with my adventure on Twitter or Instagram if you'd like. Instead of a regular post, I thought I would take the opportunity to share a round-up of some of my favourite bloggers. Go check out a few of their posts and catch me right back here next week when I'll be talking about everyone's favourite topic (or maybe just mine)...pets!

A common complaint about the world of finance is that it is dominated by old dudes (especially in the more traditional sense of banks and brokerage houses). This lack of perspective can make us younger, female investors feel left out and awkward about getting serious about our money. There are however some super awesome ladies in the personal finance blog-o-sphere who are full of good advice and inspiration, and who won't talk down to you! Today I'm taking a minute to give a few of my favourite female finance bloggers a shout-out.  

'All the finance ladies, all the finance put your hands up!' 

1. Bridget Casey - Money After Graduation
Bridget has been blogging about money since 2010, which means she's obviously doing something right. Her archives are packed with valuable information for just about any money topic that you might have questions on. Bridget also recently announced that she's having a baby, and I'm sure we'll be getting a glimpse into motherhood and money in the future.
Check out: Your Mental Health & Money

2. Desirae Odjick - Half Banked
Des is a total pro at breaking down complicated topics, so you actually get it, and throwing in some real life stories that will make you laugh (with her, not at her). Plus, she's a BIG dog lover, and that makes her A+ in my book.
Check out: The Real Truth About How I Save Half My Income

3. Alyssa - Mixed Up Money
Do you need a money bff? If so (and who doesn't), Alyssa is your gal. She's hysterical, and the queen of GIFs, so you know that you'll be entertained while still getting a financial reality check. Her YouTube videos are also amazing so don't miss those.
Check out: What If One Dollar Was Worth One Use?

4. Miss Mazuma
Miss Mazuma is a flight attendant by day and a personal finance blogger by night, who happens to live in Chicago, one of my favourite cities. Financial independence by November 2022 is Miss Mazuma's goal, so follow her along on the journey and get inspired.
Check out: What Does the Word RETIRE Mean To You And When Will It Happen?

5. Piggy & Kitty - Bitches Get Riches
These two bitches have taken the personal finance world by storm lately with their no holds barred posts. If you're overly sensitive, you might need to give Piggy & Kitty a pass, but for everyone else, jump over to their site and get lost in their posts.
Check out: The Pink Tax, Or: How I Learned to Love Smelling Like "Bearglove"

6. Penny - She Picks Up Pennies
Penny's blog focuses on living frugally to pay off debt and save money. She's a teacher by trade and that really comes through in her posts, and let me say, she's exactly the kind of person I would want teaching my kids.
Check out: No, We're Not Doing It All Wrong

7. Ms Montana - Montana Money Adventures
Ms Montana and her hubby started married life with $50,000 of debt. Since then they have been seriously turned around their finances and have travelled extensively and even paid cash for their first home. Her posts are inspiring and will make you think twice about heading down the wrong financial path. 
Check out: Don't Buy Everything You Can Afford

8. Courtney - Your Average Dough
A finance blog for the average joe; get it? Funny right! Courtney is an accountant who previously worked as a financial analyst, so advice is on point. She's a newbie on the blogging scene but I've been loving the posts she's been putting out and can't wait for more. 
Check out: 4 Investing Tips for Beginners

Who are your favourite bloggers? Do you have any other finance ladies I should add to the list? 

Female personal finance bloggers

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

What to do with Windfall Income

Dealing with Unexpected Income

You're going along, living your life, and then all of sudden something happens, and you find yourself with extra income you weren't prepared for. This can occur for a variety of reasons, some great (bonus from work) some horrible (a loved one passing away). Whatever it is though, you should take the time to plan your best course of action and know any tax consequences that might be coming your way.

Let's get the hardest one out of the way first. If you are getting an inheritance it means that someone close to you has passed away, so not only are you dealing with grief but now you need to figure out what to do with this money. In Canada, there is no inheritance tax. This means that if you are a beneficiary of an estate, you won't have to pay tax on the amount you receive. The estate actually settles up the tax bill before disbursements are made to the beneficiaries.

There are certain exemptions when it comes to how an estate is taxed. Usually, assets are deemed to have been sold at fair market value on the date of death. Non-registered assets are taxed as capital gains (only 50% of the gain is taxable), and registered assets (i.e.,. RRSP's) are taxed as income. Registered assets can, however, be passed on to an eligible beneficiary (spouse or common-law partner, underage child or grandchild, or financially dependent mentally or physically disabled child or grandchild). In this case, the tax would be deferred until that beneficiary begins making withdrawals from the registered account.

While not exactly an inheritance, a life insurance payout is also something that often goes hand in hand. One of the big perks about life insurance is that the payouts aren't taxable, and it is kept separate from the estate. An important factor to note is that there can be tax consequences for certain types of life insurance. Term insurance is the most common and won't cause you any problems pay your premiums, and then your beneficiary gets a payout if you die within the term. Permanent insurance (whole or universal life) has an investment component and also gives you an option to cash out your insurance early (aka. before death). If you do that, the tax can become an issue as you will be taxed on the growth. Not such an issue as a beneficiary, but something to keep in mind before cashing out a policy.

Lottery Winnings
Onto happier windfalls and living the dream! First off, let's just write off any sort of expectation that you are going to win the lottery; it's not going to happen and you should 100% not bank on that to fund your retirement. I'm such a downer hey? Somebody has to win though, so in the unlikely chance it's you, here's what you need to know. Unlike in most states in the US, you don't have to pay tax on lottery winnings in Canada. Go ahead and bask in the lotto glory ;)

The no-tax rule doesn't only apply to cold hard cash winnings, it extends to material prizes such as houses or cars. There is one small caveat to this though. If you hold onto the prize for a bit and it increases in value then you will have to capital gains tax on 50% of that growth. There's no rule that you need to live in the dream home for a fixed period before you can sell it to avoid tax.

Work Bonus
If you get a bonus from your employer, it will be taxed as employment income. Makes sense, but it's not always that simple. Depending on the type of bonus and how your employer handles it, there may or may not be tax taken off before you get the cheque. If there's no tax taken off, then you might be in for a rude surprise when you file your taxes the following year.

This exact situation happened to me this year. I got a Christmas bonus that wasn't taxed (not unusual), but it was, of course, included on my T4. My taxes were super simple this year (just a T4 and RRSP contributions), and I could not figure out why I was owing instead of getting a refund. Oh right...Christmas bonus! Keep this in mind if you get a sizable (untaxed) bonus from work and maybe set some aside to cover your tax bill.

Investment Returns
Maybe you hit the investment jackpot and had a huge return on a stock pick. Now you're thinking you should cash out and lock down the win before you lose anything. Certainly not a bad idea, but keep the taxes in mind. If the investment is sitting in an RRSP or TFSA, then you're in the clear and won't have to pay tax at all (TFSA) or until you withdraw the funds (RRSP). However, if you're dealing with a non-registered account, then you will be looking at a capital gains tax on 50% of the growth.

An example:
Initial Investment: $1,000
Value at Time of Sale: $10,000
Growth: $9,000
Tax Bill (assuming 30% marginal tax rate): $1,350
Your Net Profit: $7,650

You're still up $7,650, but it's amazing how often people forget about that when tax season comes around and they owe $1,350 to CRA. 

Home Sale
The only time you are going to get a big tax bill if you sell a property is if it's not your principal residence. Selling the home that you have lived in for the entire time you owned it means you are exempt from paying tax on it. Notice the keyword 'entire' in that last sentence? If you bought a home, lived in it, then moved and rented it out for a bit, then went back to living in are technically responsible for paying tax on any gain in the value of the house that occurred when it wasn't your principal residence. Complicated, I know! Some people think they can bypass this rule by moving into the property for a period of time to get the exemption, but the government has been cracking down on this and have put new reporting rules in place. 

A less complicated situation is if you own a property (rental property, cabin, etc.) that has never been your principal residence. When you sell this type of property you are responsible for paying capital gains tax on 50% of the growth (just like with your investments). 

Retiring Allowance / Severance
You may receive a payout from your company if you retire or if you are let go from your position. That payment is taxable and will be taxed by your employer based on how much it is. You can potentially have the tax waived by transferring all or a portion of your payout to your RRSP account. To be eligible for this sheltering one of the following two options need to apply:

  • $2,000 can be transferred for each year or part of the year you worked for that employer before 1996 (or $1,500 per year if before 1989). 
  • You have RRSP contribution room available. 
If one or both applies then the payout will be transferred to your RRSP with no tax taken off, but you won't get the claim it as a contribution the following year. Any amount that does not fit into one of those exemptions will be taxed. 

Cash Gifts
Canada has no gifting tax so if you receive cold hard cash from a very generous relative for your birthday or as a wedding present you don't have to claim it as income. One thing you can't do is give money to your spouse who is in a lower tax bracket for preferential tax treatment. Obviously, this is out of the scope of the 'gifting' I'm talking about, but it's amazing what people will do to not pay taxes. For those who are interested, you can lend money to your spouse, but it does need to be done as a loan and interest needs to be charged (and paid) annually. The government currently has this 'prescribed interest rate' set at 1%.

Dealing with Unexpected Income

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Small Changes, Big Gains? The Avocado Blame Game

The Avocado Blame Game

If you've been on the internet at all in the last week you've likely heard the debate over millennials, home-ownership and avocado toast. Small sidenote, you know it's a thing when you can so easily find a free stock photo ;) Australian millionaire, Tim Gurner, did an interview with 60 minutes and spewed some advice and threw avocados under the bus as the reason millennials can't afford houses. (Ahem, millennial homeowner over here) He was quoted as saying: 
“I have seen young people order smashed avocado with crumbled feta on five-grain toasted bread at $22 a pop and more. I can afford to eat this for lunch because I am middle aged and have raised my family. But how can young people afford to eat like this? Shouldn’t they be economising by eating at home? How often are they eating out? Twenty-two dollars several times a week could go towards a deposit on a house.” -Tim Gurner
Opinions are as varied as can be about what Mr Gurner said and I'm going to throw my two cents into the debate today. 

First off, who the hell actually spends $22 on avocado toast?! I am not above the trend (I love me some avocados, and just about anything is better on bread) but seriously, $22! Maybe we have significantly cheaper avocados here in Canada than they do it Australia but even at the fanciest brunch restaurant I can think of you wouldn't have to pay that ridiculous sum. So yes, if you are in fact a millennial who is spending 22 bucks a pop for avocado toast then there might be some issues we need to deal with. 

Let's take a look at the actual math of the issue. To keep things fair, I'm going to pretend you really truly are spending that amount. The average house price in Canada is currently (as of April 2017) $559,317, but that number is skewed because of the crazy markets in Toronto and Vancouver, so I'm instead going to focus on my hometown of Edmonton which clocks in with an average house price of $377,774. A 20% down-payment on such a purchase price is going to cost you $75,555 or a whopping 3434 avocado toasts. Even if you ate a $22 avocado toast EVERY SINGLE DAY, it would still take you over 9 years to eat away your down-payment. So no, cutting this out is not magically going to make you a homeowner...sorry guys. 

Do you really need to be a homeowner?
Sentiments are changing a bit, and it's no longer everyone's top priority to buy a home. Millennials aren't always following the graduate college, get married, purchase a home, and have a couple of kids path that guided our parents. It's much more common to delay marriage, travel the world, switch jobs a bunch of times, and not have kids at all. And some of these things are much easier to accomplish when you're not tied to real estate. You're much more likely to drop everything and take a job in a new city if you don't have to worry about selling your home first. All I'm trying to say is that you shouldn't feel bad if you'd rather keep renting...having a good grasp of your money is important, but it doesn't necessarily go hand in hand with owning property. 

But what if you do want to buy a home?
We've clarified that cutting avocado toast out of your diet isn't going to get you a down-payment, but what will? Honestly, hard work and time. Unless you have a rich relative who's willing to front you the money (small dig at how millionaire dude got $34,000 from Gramps to start his first business), you're going to have to do it the old fashioned savings way. For just a second, I'm going to give Mr Gurner the benefit of the doubt and assume his avocado statement was meant to touch on the bigger picture. If you are the type of person who is willing to drop $22 on breakfast, it's fair to say that you are also likely to drop that sort of money in other areas of your life. Avocado toast isn't going to crush your home-ownership dreams, but excessive spending very well could. 

If we look back on that example from above, you're going to need to save up $75,555 for a down-payment. If your goal is to buy a home in five years that means you need to save $15,111 per year or $1,260 per month (or $41 per day if you really want to break it down). So yes, if you're spending that much eating out every day and can cut that out cold turkey then you're all set. I'm going to go ahead and assume that if you're worried about buying a home, then you're likely not the type to be throwing money away like that ;) 

There are two ways you can save money...

1. Earn More
Not what you thought I was going to start with was it? Most people believe that the best way to save money is by cutting spending, but that's wrong. Bringing in more money will almost always have a bigger impact on your savings rate than decreasing how much you spend. There are a few ways you can make this happen: ask for a raise, sell stuff (excess items around your house or a hobby you can market), get a second job, or start a side hustle (tutoring, AirBnB, blogging, etc.) Whatever extra income you make should be immediately put away into a house-saving fund, so you aren't tempted to spend it. 

2. Cut Spending
The most important thing you can do for your finances is to create a detailed budget, so you know where your money is going. Start out by tracking your spending for a few months and then take a long hard look at the numbers to see what areas can be decreased (or even eliminated). Once you know where your money goes, you can determine how much you need for living expenses and how much you can sock away in your house fund. If you're serious about buying a house in 'X' years, this might be a bit of a reality check, but you can pull it off. I can preach about healthy money habits until I run out of words (as if that will ever happen), but you'll only 'get' it when you do it for yourself. Eliminating avocado toast may not get you your dream home, but a bunch of small changes will get you there a heck of a lot faster. One tip, don't be too brutal when slashing your budget. We all have our vices (expensive coffee, baked goods, books, whatever), so don't eliminate everything you love. You'll find yourself miserable and not be able to stick to your budget. So live...a little! 

In conclusion, take the millionaire's advice (and your avocado) with a grain of salt. Becoming a homeowner takes more than cutting out fancy brunches, but excessive spending isn't going to get you anywhere fast.  

The Avocado Blame Game

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

20 Frugal Ideas for Summer Dates

Cheap Summer Date Ideas

It might not officially be summer yet but the weather has been beautiful here in Edmonton, and it has me wanting to spend ALL the time outside in the sunshine! This is a problem for's so easy to hibernate during the winter, but as soon as the weather warms up I can't stay cooped up. I've talked before on the blog about how this relates to a big increase in my spending (The Busted Summer Budget). To combat that I've taken the initiative to set money aside during the winter so that I can afford to do the things I want without breaking the bank.

Another good way to keep your budget in check is to keep yourself busy with activities that are more cost effective. That way you will still feel like you've had a full summer but bypass the impending doom of calculating how much you've spent. To aid you on the mission I've rounded up twenty ideas to get you out of the house that aren't going to cost you your first born. You'll be able to do most of the suggestions no matter where you live, but I have included Edmonton-specific details for my local followers (and for me to refer back to when I need to make some plans!)

1. Go for a Hike
The perfect (and free) activity and pretty much my favourite way to exercise during the summer. Unless you are going on an advanced hike in the mountains, you won't need to invest in an expensive pair of hiking boots, and there are plenty of trails that won't cost you anything to trek on.
  • Local: Edmonton has an incredible network of trails throughout the river valley, but if you'd prefer to get out of the city then you should check out Cooking Lake/Blackfoot Recreation Area. It's my favourite spot and is only about 45 minutes East of downtown. It's a provincial park that is free to get into and has almost 85 km's of well-maintained, not crowded trails. Cooking Lake/Blackfoot is also directly South of Elk Island National Park, so you could also take advantage of your free park pass this year. 

2. Berry Picking
We do this every year, and it always makes for a fun day. Check your local area for U-Pick farms and head out to stock up your fridge, freezer and stomach with delicious fresh berries. 
  • Local: Our annual berry picking tour starts with Strawberries at Prairie Gardens, and then we head East to Horse Hill Berry Farm to stock up on raspberries. As long as we get an early start, we are usually done by lunchtime, and so we head to The Downtown Diner in Fort Saskatchewan for a bite. 
3. Backyard Campfire
Honestly, having a fire isn't exactly my favourite thing to do, but I know a lot of people love it. The only thing that wins me over about it is the smores. Yum. If you don't already have a fire pit in your yard then maybe you can hit up a friend who does, or sometimes local parks will have ones you can use at no cost. 

4. Gallery Tour
Take a stroll around town and visit your local art galleries for the perfect mix of outdoor heat and indoor air conditioning. Many large galleries also offer free admission days so keep an eye out for those.
  • Local: The Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA) is now offering free admission every Tuesday and Wednesday night from 5 pm to 8 pm. There are also many art galleries along 124 Street (full listing here) so you can plan your own walk, or there are organized walks every so often. 
5. Horse Races
A night out at the races is always a good time, and if you avoid eating or drinking (too much) at the track, it can also be a cheap night out as you don't have to pay to get in. Plus, maybe you'll even be a pro horse picker and will come home with some winnings. 
  • Local: Northlands Park is the place to go for racing in Edmonton (at least for now), so check the schedule and plan a visit. 
6. Picnic in the Park
Inject a little romance into your relationship and pack up a picnic. This is a cheaper option than going to a restaurant, and you get to soak up the warm weather. 
  • Local: Hit up the Italian Centre for a fantastic selection of deli meats, cheeses, and dips that will impress just about anyone. 
7. Brewery Tour
Another option to get you out of the blazing hot sun is to check out a local brewery and go on a tour of the facility. Plus, beer...enough said! 
8. Sporting Event
What's better than spending an afternoon at the ballpark (or field) to watch the game and drink a cold one (beer is a common theme here). To keep your costs low, you should look into local amateur sports teams and keep an eye out on special promotions that happen throughout the season. 
  • Local: We made it out to a few Edmonton Prospects baseball games last year, and it was always fun. The best seats in the house are only $20 ($10 for kids), or you can go on 'Toonie Tuesday' and buy one full price ticket and get the second for $2. Pro tip: get the perogy hot dog, it's delicious! Maybe soccer is more up your alley; FC Edmonton also has promo tickets for $20 and that includes a hot dog and pop. 

9. Go for a Bike Ride
Remember when you were a kid and you could ride your bike for hours and hours without a care in the world? Get back that feeling by hauling out your bike and hitting the trails. 

10. Browse a Farmer's Market
Farmer's markets are a great way to spend a morning, and you don't need to spend a lot of money. Take advantage of all the fresh produce and local food and get inspired to cook something for dinner from scratch. Even if you splurge a little on supplies, you'll still save money by cooking at home instead of heading to a restaurant. 
  • Local: There are lots of farmer's markets all across the city, you can find a listing of all of them here. My favourite is the downtown City Market, it's has a good variety but isn't too huge and Saturday mornings always seem to be the best time for us. 
11. Day Trip
Escape the city for a bit and hit the highway. Day trips feel like a mini vacation but don't have all the added costs of having to stay in a hotel. Head to a nearby beach, visit a historic site, or just explore a small town you've never visited before. 
  • Local: Alberta has this weird thing where we like to build random big structures, it's strange but can set you up for a pretty unique road trip. Head to Vegreville and check out the giant Ukrainian Easter Egg and then head to the giant Ukrainian Sausage in Mundare. 
12. Board Game Cafe
Board game cafes have been popping up all over the place, and it's a fun way to spend an evening. Most places will charge you a flat fee to play as many games and for as long as you want. 
  • Local: Board n' Brew in a new addition to Edmonton's board game cafe scene. They have a huge selection of games, tasty food, and local brews on tap. 

13. Backyard Movie
Set-up your TV or laptop up outside, pop some popcorn and curl up on a blanket under the stars to watch a movie. Much cheaper than going to the theatre, and romantic ;) 

14. Improv Show
Comedy shows are a perfect date night out, but they can get really expensive depending on who you are going to see. Instead, look for a local improv troupe. Their tickets prices will likely be much more affordable, and you'll still get a good laugh. 
  • Local: If you're in Edmonton you should go see a Rapid Fire Theatre show. Tickets to their Theatresports start at only $12. 
15. Small Town County Fair or Rodeo
Big ticket events come with high ticket prices (I'm looking at you K-Days and the Calgary Stampede), but if you go off the beaten track, you can find cheaper alternatives. 
  • Local: For a couple of options that are in Edmonton's vicinity you can look for the Ponoka Stampede or the Vegreville County Fair. Admission is free to the Ponoka Stampede, but you do have to buy tickets to the rodeo events, and it's $8 to get into the Vegreville County Fair. 
16. Tackle a DIY Project
We all have lists of chores we need to get done around the house, but maybe there's a project you can team up with your partner to get completed. Two summers ago we rebuilt our front porch, and aside from a few disagreements and a tetanus shot, it was a success. Getting through the job can be a challenge, but you'll feel accomplished when it's over. 

17. Free Festival
Summer is the time when the events schedule for a city really picks up, and there are often free activities you can attend. 
  • Local: Edmonton is known for all of its festivals, so there's no shortage to choose from. The Heritage Festival, K-Days Parade, Canada Day Fireworks, and the Works Art & Design Festival are all free to attend, as long as you can resist the temptation to sample all the food options.
18. Jigsaw Puzzle
There's always a few days in the summer that are rainy, and you're stuck inside. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself and watching endless hours of TV, why not get a jigsaw puzzle and give your brain some activity. I love puzzles but they are a hard pass for the bf, so I'm usually left solo, but if you are both puzzle lovers then it's fun. 

19. Local Music
Just like how local comedy shows are cheaper than big names, local musicians also have much better ticket prices (sometimes even free). And maybe you'll get to watch an intimate performance by someone who ends up super famous! Someone out there got to see Taylor Swift play in a dive bar before she was a superstar. 
  • Local: If you live in Edmonton (or are visiting), check out The Needle Vinyl Tavern. It's a fantastic live music venue right downtown.
20. Wander around Ikea
This sounds super lame, but there always seems to be a time every summer when we make the long drive out to Ikea and just wander the displays. Usually, we have a couple of small things we want to pick up, but it's so easy to kill a few hours just looking at things. This is a good one to save for one of those days where your house is a sauna, and you can't stand it for another second. Plus, grab dinner at their's so cheap and those Swedish meatballs are delicious in the grossest possible way. 

There you have it, 20 ways to fill up your summer with date nights (or days) that aren't going to break the bank. What are you going to try first? Or maybe you have more ideas to add to the list? 

Cheap Summer Date Ideas