helping-food-bank

Teach Your Kids to Give Back This Holiday Season

helping-food-bank

Chances are, your family has participated in countless fundraising events through school, church, and other groups. Your kids probably even have a few ideas of their own about how they can help out in their community.

The key to nurturing a passion for giving back is for your kids to feel a connection to their cause and the ability to make it meaningful.

Here are 5 great ways your child can learn to give back this holiday season:

1. Visit a retirement home to read books to the residents. Seniors at assisted living homes are often lonely. Their families don’t visit them often enough. They love having kids around to fill the air with laughter. Encourage your child to spend some time playing games or reading books to residents. Your child will enjoy making a new friend too.

2. Help out your local food pantry. Encourage your kids to start a food drive in your neighborhood. Or, let them volunteer at the local food bank. They can help stock shelves and pack meals. They can also volunteer at a local soup kitchen feeding the homeless.

4. For my friends in the US, send cards to members of the military. Through the American Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes program, kids can write and send cards to active service members and veterans. The Red Cross plans community events for making and addressing cards to members of the community. Get in touch with your local chapter for more information about participating. Here in Canada, we have a similar program but the deadline for sending cards in in October.

4. Create a special “pay it forward” day. Make it “Pay It Forward Sunday” and tell your child that they have to find a way to give back in their community or to someone who could use a little help every Sunday. This way they can choose for themselves what their good deed should be. And it will encourage them to keep thinking of new ideas.

5. Put together a care package for someone who is alone or sick. Is there someone in your neighborhood who could use some special attention? Possibly an elderly person who is sick or alone? Have your child put together a care package for them and hand deliver it. You can include small gifts like hot chocolate or tea, homemade goodies and magazines or a good book. Your child can even color a picture to add to the box.

Giving back can also mean giving their time or sharing a portion of their allowance for the causes they believe in. What others ideas can you and your child come up with to give back this holiday season?

talking-to-teens-about-credit

How to Talk to Teens About Building Credit

talking-to-teens-about-building-creditI remember well what it was like to be a teen starting out financially. I made some mistakes. I do not want my own teen to follow my footsteps.  The reality is I would not want that for any teen. By twenty-one, I had maxed out my credit cards and was figuring out what to do next. As a young person attending university, credit was thrown my way and I never understood interest, credit, or the long term ramifications. For this generation, for my daughter I want them to know how to build a great credit score, how to check it and the ramifications.  It’s important to teach our kids to be smart about money. So how do you talk to your teens about building credit?

Tip #1 – Take the time to explain what credit is, and how it’s used

A credit score is a number between 300 and 900, and indicates to providers who will loan you money or offer you credit, how responsible or “credit worthy” you are.
This number is decided based on secret algorithms by Canada’s credit bureaus – Equifax or TransUnion – based on a few factors:
  • Payment History — making payments on time
  • Amount owed — the amount of available credit you actually use impacts your score
  • Credit history — accounts you’ve had open for longer periods of time reflects better on your score
  • Types of credit — Having too few credit products may lower your score, a good mix (credit card, loan, mortgage) helps build good credit
  • New credit requests — applying for too many credit products in a short period of time is a red flag. Leave time between applications

 

Tip #2 – Tell them how it might impact them now, and in the future

In addition to having importance when they’re older and they might want to apply for a mortgage, it’s becoming more common to be asked to provide a score when applying for an apartment rental, or when being considered for employment. It’s becoming part of the full picture of responsibility.
Quick fact – You don’t have a credit profile before the age of 18
Quick fact – It takes six months to build a file after you’ve taken on your first credit product

 Tip #3 – Talk to your older teen about student credit cards

Student credit cards are easier to qualify for and can help younger Canadians start building a good credit profile – when managed properly –  making it easier to apply for more mature products later in life. Student cards are often low (or no) fee and can come with amazing perks like rewards or cash-back that are an added bonus for students managing a limited budget. If you want to check out some of the better student credit cards check this page on RateHub.
As well, once they start building credit they will want to check their credit score. Anyone can check their score for free here with RateHub: ratehub.ca/free-credit-score
img_3882

RESP Rules: Everything You Need to Know

img_3882

A Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) is a great way for your family to start planning for your child’s future. As tuition fees across Canada continues to rise, it’s a good idea for your family start preparing for the day when your child is ready for university or college. RESPs are not just valid at universities, all accredited post-secondary institutions (college, technical school, certificate program, etc.) are eligible.

As parents we should evaluate our expectations – how much do you want your child to pay towards their education? Do you want them to have a part-time job or work in the summer? There is no right answer, but consider your personal beliefs when setting an education savings goal.

It is important to note that money is increasingly becoming a barrier for students wanting to attend school. Over half a million Canadians have student-loans with the average degree holder incurring around $20,000. Student loan debt is a burden on young adults trying to start their lives, and prevents them from reaching life’s milestones such as owning a house and getting married.

If you feel that you want to ease the burden for your children you should consider a RESP – it’s one of the best ways to save for post-secondary education. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about RESPs.

How much can I contribute?

As of 2007 there is no limit to how much you can contribute on an annual basis. There is a $50,000 contribution limit for the lifetime of the RESP. In most cases, if you are financially able to, or if you feel like your child will need more resources, it pays off to still invest up to the $50,000 limit. There are tax implications for contributions over this amount. You should check with your RESP provider to see if they have a deposit minimum or a minimum month contribution amount.

How do I qualify for grants?

There are two main grants available for Canadians who start RESPs: The Canada Education Savings Grants (CESG) and the Canada Learning Board (CLB). The CESG matches your annual contribution by 20 per cent up to $2,500. CESG grants caps out at a total lifetime maximum of $7,200 per child. The CLB works differently and is available to each child who qualified for the National Child Benefit Supplement (NCBS). The CLB will provide $500 immediately when you start your RESP and $100 a year until your child turns 15 if you qualify. There are also provincial grants available to residents in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Quebec.

What if my child does not go to school?

Let’s break down the answer based on the three ‘pots’ of money in an RESP. First off, your contributions can be withdrawn with no penalty, and remain non-taxable. Each RESP provider will have different rules regarding the withdrawal of contributions, so it’s important to ask.

If your child does not go to school, you have the option to change beneficiary and transfer the grant money. Should you choose to close the RESPS, the grant money is returned to the government. Any money received from the CLB must be returned and cannot be transferred.

Any investment income remaining in the plan can be withdrawn as an Accumulated Income Payment or transferred to your RRSP, provided you have contribution room. It’s important to know that AIPs will be taxed at your current nominal tax rate plus an additional 20 per cent penalty.

Setting up an RESP does not have to be difficult but it’s always a good idea to speak with a professional at Knowledge First Financial who specializes in RESPs and can help get you started.

air-miles-logo1

Breaking News AIRMILES No Longer Expiring

air-miles-logo1

Back in February, I shared that AIRMILES older than five years would expire. As of today, that is no longer the case.

Loyalty One that is the company that ownsAir Miles has decided to cancel its plan to allow reward miles five years or older to expire amid blog posts like mine, lots of consumer complaints and new legislation that is in the works.

“There is uncertainty with provincial governments proposing or considering legislation across Canada, so we have decided to cancel the expiry policy so that all Collectors, regardless of location, can be confident that their balances will be protected,” said Bryan Pearson, President, and CEO, LoyaltyOne in a statement.

The change is effective immediately; this means if you collect AIRMILES you no longer have to worry about them expiring, and that is good news!

Had you cashed in your reward miles already or were you scrambling?

Personally, I am glad a brand listened to its consumers. I am also glad there is pending legislation that will protect consumers.

 

piggy-bank

One in Five Canadians Would Be Broke in a Week if They Lost a Job

piggy-bank

Ever wondered how long you would last without a job? What if you lost your biggest client if you are a freelancer? What would you do? Could you make it till you got your first EI cheque? Would you have to dip into emergency savings or do you even have savings?

The Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC) recently did a study, and they found that four in 10 Canadians say they would run out of money in less than a month if they lost their job or main source of income.

I know first-hand how hard it can get. This summer I lost my biggest contract as a freelancer and then in September my ad network went bankrupt. It was a double whammy! Talk about tightening the belt! I was thankful I was smart and had a wee bit of savings, which helped me weather the storm. Did you know that one in five Canadians would last less than a week? A week. That is a scary fact.

These findings also concluded that more than two-thirds of Canadians believe the economy – and their own financial situation – has either stagnated or worsened over the past five years. Has yours? The survey also revealed that two out of every five Canadians worry about money at least once a day and about one in four say they worry “almost constantly.” How often do you worry about money? I have found by having a plan, a road map, I worry a bit less.

Less than half (41 percent) of Canadians feel they make more good financial decisions than bad ones. Have you ever thought of working with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional? When you work with a qualified financial planner, you don’t have to do things on your own. You also get some sound advice. One of the best ways to worry less and reduce the stress is to work with a financial planning professional. I like to think of them as a financial coach. They help develop a great game plan and advise you on the steps you need to make to get that home run. You do not want to strike out when it comes to your money.

Personal finance expert and author Kelley Keehn has said: “Thanks to online tools like FPSC’s FindYourPlanner.ca website, it’s never been easier to find a CFP®professional who can help create a personalized strategy tailored to your individual needs and life goals – and help ease your money worries.” Kelley also suggests you ask a potential financial planner these 10 specific questions. You can find lots more information and advice to get a handle on your finances at FinancialPlanningForCanadians.ca.

Have you made your own road map? Your game plan? Let me know where you are at: are you worried about your finances? Scared they won’t last or do you have a game plan?

*This post is sponsored by the Financial Planning Standards Council, however, as always my opinions are always my own.

red hatters

Are You Worried About Making Your Retirement Funds Stretch?

Many retirees are just like my mom; she has been retired for over a decade and is worried about making her retirement funds last. Yes, she has lots of fun and has a great life. She is an active member of a Red Hat Society group, has joined a couple local seniors clubs, she travels, and she has a large extended family that she gets to spend time with.  I would say she is the typical Canadian senior. She is doing the best she can with the income she has but she worries about the future, maybe even saying no to some of the things she loves because she is worried about what the financial future might bring. Some might say she is underliving like many Canadian seniors today.

According to a recent Investors Group Survey, 59 per cent of Canadian retirees are worried about making their funds stretch. In that same survey, 4 out of 5 Canadian retirees said that retirement is living up to their expectations. I know for my mom, retirement is living up to her expectations, but many Canadian seniors are underliving and foregoing activities as they worry about their financial future.

red hatters

When I think of retirement, I think of the things I want to enjoy, the plans to travel and volunteer. The plans to read lots and spend time doing the things I love. I am not that far from retiring. Fifteen years is not a long time.  There are many things to think about when it comes to retiring and I am learning what to expect from watching my mom in her retirement.

The study also shows that a vast majority of recent retirees are enjoying their retirement, with 80 per cent stating that it meets their expectations.

  • An overwhelming majority of retirees (90 per cent) are spending more time with friends and loved ones.
  • 84 per cent are able to spend more time on the hobbies they enjoy.

2016-11-08_0846_001

Have you started thinking about your retirement? I know I am starting to plan now, because it’s not that far away!  One of the most important things I am learning is to be reasonable in my expectations. I already know that as a late saver I am behind the eight ball.

Many Canadian retirees are like my mom. They are worried about making their funds last. Sometimes she has even avoided doing some of the things I know she loves out of a fear of spending too much money. Debbie Ammeter, Vice President, Advanced Financial Planning at Investors Group puts it this way: “You might give up on truly meaningful experiences out of the fear of overspending. But this is a risk, too – the risk of underliving.”

“While a smart retirement plan requires prioritization and some tough trade-offs, it shouldn’t be an exercise in self-sacrifice.

  • 64 per cent of retirees find it hard to strike a balance between enjoying retirement and making money last.
  • More than half (59 per cent) are worried about making their retirement fund stretch for their remaining years.
  • If retirees came into an unexpected sum of money, more than one third (33 per cent) say they would pay off debt and 16 per cent would invest it, suggesting that money is an overriding concern.”

One of the interesting findings of the Investors Group survey was that those Canadian seniors who planned with a financial advisor worried less about money. “Making plans based on professional advice can help you avoid overspending or underliving,” says Ammeter. “An advisor will support you in making decisions based on fact, not fear and ensure you have access to all the strategies you need to live an enjoyable and rewarding life in retirement.”

Are you using a financial advisor as you plan for retirement? Or as you enjoy retirement?

Remember, we want to be able to enjoy retirement without too many worries about our finances. We want to be able to do those things we dreamed of while we are still healthy and able to enjoy them. Perhaps, it is time to include a financial advisor in your retirement planning. Pre-retirement life is rich and varied and retirement should be the same.

For more information follow @Investors_Group on Twitter or connect on FacebookLinkedIn and check out the YouTube channel. You can also visit Investors Group on their website.

 

img_1322

5 Tips to Help New Moms Cope #ChurchandDwight

Do you remember what being a new mom was like? Life was a bit overwhelming. I can remember when I brought my child home, there was much to learn. Between trying to bond, trying to get my child to take to the breast I was a mom simply trying to cope.  During this time of learning, growing, bonding and coping there are some simple things you can do.  There are also great products that will ease this time of transition. Here are five tips along with their products that will help you cope.

img_1322

Stop Worrying About Messes

Spills, stains and messes are status quo with a little one on your hands. The hardest part of tackling the laundry is finding a detergent that’s right for baby’s clothes.

The makers of OxiClean™ stain removers have developed a 100 per cent dye and chlorine-free Multi-Purpose Baby Stain Remover Powder and Spray to be gentle on your baby’s washables while being tough on your messiest baby stains. You can pre-treat stains with the Spray and use Powder in every load to make your baby’s cloth diapers, bedding, clothes and accessories cleaner, whiter and brighter.

Schedule Some Down Time

Every day, do your best to carve out some time that’s just for you. Between feeding, changing diapers and lulling your baby to sleep, you may find yourself emotionally and physically exhausted. When your baby is sleeping or enjoying time in the swing or bouncy seat, give yourself a face mask, read a magazine or paint your nails. Even just 10 minutes for yourself will make a huge difference.  I found that even 3 minutes for myself; but more often throughout the day, really helped.  I would take my 3 minutes (when my baby was safe), I’d close my eyes, and breathe.

Gassy Tummy? No Problem!

If your baby is fussy for no apparent reason, it may be a gassy tummy. It’s widely accepted that keeping a baby upright for feedings, burping them often or massaging their belly may help to relieve gas pains. When your child has an uncomfortable gas pain that you cannot seem to soothe, try giving them infant gas relief drops like Ovol® Drops. They provide gentle and fast relief of colic, bloating or gas by helping to break up gas bubbles to relieve discomfort caused by trapped gas – making it easier for a baby to pass gas and burp at feeding time. The pleasant mint-flavoured drops make them easy for parents to administer.

Get Plenty of Rest

A shift in your sleeping pattern, or overall lack of sleep, can be one of the hardest parts of being a new mom. If your baby likes to nap in the morning, nap with them! House chores will always be there so stop using this time to try and get ahead. Even if you’re not actually sleeping, the downtime will give you a boost.  Before you know it you’ll have gone through this initial stage … cherish every moment (good and bad) because one day you’ll miss it.

Soothe Teething Gums

Crying, drooling and tears can make teething quite the ordeal for both moms and babies. Gently rubbing your baby’s gums can help to ease your baby’s discomfort as does a chilled washcloth or teething ring. If your baby is especially cranky, try using an homeopathic remedy like Baby Orajel™ Naturals Nighttime Teething Gel. With the soothing power of Chamomilla (commonly known as Chamomile) and passion flower, this product helps to relieve teething pain and discomfort and calm the restlessness that comes from teething so that your baby can get a good night’s rest.

Help Combat Dryness

Many women experience vaginal dryness after childbirth which can make intercourse uncomfortable for them. To help provide relief from vaginal dryness, try using Trojan™ H2O Water-Based Liquid Lubricants. These two water-based lubricants are made with hyaluronic moisturizer (which locks in up to 1000x more moisture and hydration), allowing you to enjoy comfortable intimate moments with your partner.

Some bonus tips:

To help make the transition easier, try:

  • enlisting helpers (friends, family) that can help around the house, go shopping, or even watch the baby while you nap
  • if you know your due date, perhaps make several crockpots of a variety of meals and freeze them so you can use during the first few weeks after bringing baby home
  • read, read, read …. read up on everything and anything you don’t know about baby
  • locate a new mother’s group to potentially attend … it’s the perfect way to keep social

 

img_2120

How to Find a Good Dentist in Toronto

I am going to admit something here until recently I had not been to a dentist in years. As I age, I realized my mouth needed care. I had put dental care for too long. I started to look for a dentist back in December after a conversation with friends.  It was time to find a good dentist here in Toronto.  So how do you find a good dentist in Toronto? How do you know when you have found one? I had several concerns. There were things I was looking for.

I made a list of my must haves and started researching dentists my area. My search ended with me finding a great dentist in Dr Natile Archer D.D.S. at the Runnymede Dental Centre which is part of Archer Dental Runnymede.  It is located inside the Runnymede Health Centre at 625 Runnymede Rd.How did I choose Dr. Archer?

img_2110

I had wanted a dentist and staff that were patient and answered every question I had. I also wanted clear explanations and options for treatment. I wanted a dentist that was affordable, and I wanted a local dentist with a great reputation. I found that at the Archer Dental.

So how can you find a great dentist in the city?

  • Get referrals from friends; this is exactly what I did
  • Read online reviews
  • Ask questions
  • Use the Ontario Dental Association Find a Dentist Service to find a dentist near where you live. Type in your postal code and they give you five local dentists. Archer Dental is close to home for me.

img_2120

After my first visit to Dr. Archer’s office, I knew I had found the right dentist for me. Archer Dental have two offices here in Toronto, one at Bloor and Sherbourne in Rosedale called Archer Dental Rosedale and the other inside the Runnymede Healthcare Centre on Runnymede. I love that we have such a great dentist office right here in the Junction. I walk to my Dr. Archer’s office.

2016-10-11_1029

How do you know you found a great dentist? Look for quality care. When I visited Archer Dental for the first time, I was warmly greeted by staff that showed they cared. While I was in the chair,  my dental hygienist Krista saw my nerves and was amazing with me. I have never met a dental staff so ready to answer questions in an environment that calms you.

2016-10-11_1030

Because I put off dental care for way too long, I now need multiple appointments to get the work done that is needed. Never put off dental care if you can help it! The one good thing I have found a great dentist and the staff at the office are amazing as well.  I have a compacted mouth so even cleaning my teeth is a chore which is why I am thankful I have Krista getting that job done. I will then need a few appointments with Dr. Archer for a couple of issues! I know I am in good hands.  I love how my mouth is changing, and starting to look better. I will be sharing my dental transformation in the weeks ahead here on my blog and on my social channels.

Now if you live in Rosedale or the Junction, I highly recommend a visit to Archer Dental. I can’t wait for my next appointment later in the week at the Runnymede location in the Junction.

img_2204

Decorating For Fall with Hallmark

It is another beautiful day here in Toronto. I am so thankful that we have been blessed with some warm days as Thanksgiving. It has given me the incentive to get ready for Thanksgiving. One of my traditions is changing out the decor accents every season. Do you do this? Thanks to thrifting and my love of Hallmark, I have items stored for every season. I decorate for Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Spring, Canada Day, and Summer. I may be a bit of a nut that way, but I can remember my mother doing the same. It made things seem ready for the season right at home.

Fall is my favourite season and it is so nice to bring in some of those fall colours. It is amazing to have the oranges, golds and reds in the house! With Thanksgiving happening this weekend I also love what Hallmark Canada sent the team this year to help us celebrate the holiday.  Just take a peek at a few of these quality items that I will be able to use year after year. That is the great thing about Hallmark!

hallmark-thanksgiving

My daughters favourite piece is this large fabric pumpkin. Don’t you just love the herringbone fabric! Mine was this Medium Candle holder. Did you notice Hallmark’s wax-like votive candles. They are flameless, no flames to worry about.  I love it next to my fireplace.

img_2204

We were also sent a beautiful autumn oven mitt and these adorable  Thanksgiving inspired tea towels. I can not wait to use them for our Thanksgiving meal! Tell me do you change up the decor at your house.

hallmark tea towels

Here is how I change up the decor.

  1. I check out what I have stored away in the store room; I have fake flowers and decor for every season. I pull out my favourites.
  2. I add a piece or two each season that way it does not break the bank.

For us, doing these two things allow us to enjoy the beautiful decor of the season. Do change things up in your home each season? Let me know in the comments if you do. These little changes in our home are one of the things I am thankful for. What are you thankful right now?

 

 

 

thanksgiving

How to do Thanksgiving Dinner for Under $40

thanksgiving

For the last few years, I have been hosting Thanksgiving dinner here at home, and I love when there are lots of leftovers. It means I don’t have to cook for a few days. One of the things that have always concerned me is how much we spend on a holiday meal. Did you know you can do a nice Thanksgiving dinner for under $40.00 The meal can serve 4-6 people.

Here is how to do Thanksgiving dinner for under $40.00:

Check out your local flyers, your favorite recipe sites, and look at what coupons you may have on hand. I always check for coupons and deals on my Flipp app. If you are a regular reader of mine, I am sure this app is on your phone.

Decide on your menu and make your shopping list. I love that I can make my list right on my Flipp app. It allows me to carry my shopping list with me wherever I go so there are no mistakes made.

img_2128

Here is what I will be serving this Thanksgiving:

  • Roast turkey ( yes I do a whole Turkey). Did you know you can get a great price on turkey at Walmart Canada right now? Because of the price of the turkey there I decided I would do all my shopping there.
  • Honey Glazed Carrots. ( we love these)
  • Sweet potatoes and marshmallows
  • garden salad
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Stuffing ( I add a bit of cranberries to my Stove Top)
  • Pickles
  • Rolls
  • Apple Pie with Cool Whip
  • Apple Cider
  • Gravy

This allowed me to use coupons and price match as well check out any deals that Walmart had. One of the things I do, before I shop, is make my shopping list and checked it twice. I always check my cupboards before I leave the house, so I am not purchasing duplicates. This year there was no need to purchase things like flour, eggs, butter, spices, or pickles because I have them in the house. I also have salad fixings in the house always.

 Went to my local Walmart store with my list on my app and my clippings ready. There were several price matches I thought I might need but the majority of the time the price at Walmart was just right. I did manage to do a few price matches, though.

img_2129

When you make a menu with your favourite recipes, make a list and check it twice, then use my favourite shopping tool Flipp you can do even a holiday meal on a budget. No need for a huge expense on the pocket book. Check out everything I got for $36.00. The only thing missing is my apple cider.

img_2123

Now if you are a huge fan of Flipp like I am you will want to check out their Facebook page and Twitter account this week during the day. They are giving away some great prizes as they celebrate #FlippGivesThanks