The Book The Year of Less is a Must Read + Giveaway

A few years back a fellow personal finance blogger began a journey that I watched closely. I read her posts and updates and even had conversations with her as we would see each other on occasion at events throughout Toronto. It was quite the journey to watch. She documented much of it on her blog. She went on a spending fast, had rules and began to live a life well I was envious of in many ways. I still have a way to go on my own personal journey. So when I learned Cait Flanders was writing a book, I didn’t ask for a copy, I went to Indigo and bought one. That is right I paid for the book. Now, this post is sponsored as there is an upcoming Twitter party but I wanted to share that I have been a fan and follower of Cait’s for years now. Her book The Year of Less is a must read.

The Year of Less takes you on a journey. It’s the journey that Cait took. It’s the story of failure and success, the story of lessons learned and how her mindset changed along the way. Cait was typical of the average Canadian, in debt and shopping quite often. Does that sound like anyone you know? I know more than a few just like that.

Have you ever thought about being more mindful of what you buy? Have you ever thought of doing your own shopping ban? Cait wasn’t the first person I know who did a shopping ban. In the last ten years, I have been blogging I have seen more a number of friends take them on, some for a month, some for a few months and some truly adopted the minimalist lifestyle and worked into their lives. It can be done.

This Thursday night Cait Flanders, Blogger and Author have partnered up with Tangerine Bank for a Twitter Party that I think will be a great conversation about mindful spending, about how we shop and so much more.

Do join us for that great conversation and in the meantime here on my blog, I am giving away a copy of her book.

Entry is simple and is open to Canadian residents.

Leave a comment and let me know what do you think of mindful spending? Would you ever consider a shopping ban?

*Giveaway ends on Sunday, April 15th at 8 pm EST.

* I have been given a copy of her book to give away. I will also be participating in the #MindfulSpending Twitter Chat.

Ten Years of Common Sense Blogging

It’s hard to believe Common Cents Mom is ten!

I started this blog ten years ago. I wanted it to be an inspiration and a way for me to share the knowledge I was gaining.  It has been quite a rollercoaster ride and my community has shared it all with me!

 

So what are some of the highlights:

  • Over 1000 posts written ( that averages to 2 posts a week)
  • Started the first Personal Finance Chat in Canada even before the banks were talking about money online!
  • Wrote a tweet to Oprah that ended up in New York Times
  • Having this blog and one post featured on every news site in Toronto leading to the raising of thousands of dollars for fire victims.
  • Having Common Cents Mom featured on multiple lists as a blog to follow and read. I have been on the top lists more than 20 times.
  • Speaking at multiple Blogging Conferences and the University of Toronto as a Guest Speaker twice.
  • Being one of 4 bloggers invited by VIA Rail to take the Ocean train as part of its 110 birthday.
  • Having met many of my current friends via this blog.
  • Helping  2 apps that were created here in Ontario launch. One now has millions of downloads and the other was wanted by 4 Dragons on Dragons Den.
  • Over 5 billion social media impressions for brands that have partnered with Common Cents Mom
  • Over 200 Twitter Parties or Chats hosted or moderated for brands.

What surprises me every month is that new people visit and become followers and for each and every one of them I am grateful and blessed. I am floored that so many are now friends. I am thankful for conversations and how this community has grown together. I am thankful for the mentors who stepped in and taught me so much about personal finance and blogging. In the area of personal finance, I am thankful for Preet Banerjee who gave me my first paid writing gig. I wrote about my bankruptcy for his blog. I am thankful for Gail Vaz Oxlade who is the original Common Sense personal finance writer. These two I learned much from. In the area of authentic connection, I am thankful for names we who work in the world of Social Media know well.  I am grateful or Liz Strauss and Chris Brogan who along with Scott Stratten taught me much that I use every day. It is all about connecting in ways that matter, ways that help and make you think.

Eight years ago, my life changed when I became unemployed and ended up six days later being employed by Connected Multi-Media. Little did I know, all my paid work since has been in the world of social media. From blogging to a freelancer working alongside some great brands and agencies I have had so many great experiences. Dove Chocolates was my very first partner some 8 years ago and I have worked alongside over 100 brands and companies since.

As I look to the next 10 years, I look forward to Common Cents Mom being a resource for those that want to learn about money in ways that make sense, ways that save you time and money. I promise I will always be looking for ways and tools that will help my readers.

Here is living frugally so we can live well!

THANK YOU all for reading and visiting my blog. I appreciate every click and every moment you spend here.

 

Have a Side Hustle? Important Things to Remember Come Tax Time

Do you work full-time and have a gig on the side to earn a little extra money?  I do. In 2015, nearly one million Canadians filed taxes indicating that they worked a secondary job in addition to their full-time income – and that doesn’t include all the people who string together multiple part-time jobs to make ends meet or earn a little income on the side. If you have a side hustle, whether it’s driving an Uber, being part of a direct sales company, or even pet sitting for cash, I’ve got some great tips for you this tax season.

Earlier this year, I attended a TurboTax Self-Employed Breakfast Club and came away with a few important tips and tricks that can come in handy at tax time.

First of all – you must report all income – I put it in bold because it’s very important. You may think you’re not earning enough to have to file a tax return, but even if you don’t earn any income after your expenses are accounted for, you are still a business owner when it comes to tax time. That means when you are just starting out, you need to claim this income.

But here’s the good news – when you own your own business, there are a lot of deductions you can use that you can’t access as a regular employee.  If you’re not sure about your employment status, check your documents – if you receive a T4 you’re an employee, a T4A is for self-employed individuals or freelancers. If you drive to get to your clients you can deduct mileage, you can deduct some office supplies, insurance, mobile phone bills, and even some of your housing costs if your business operates out of your house.

Track all of your expenses. The best way to do so for me has been with the QuickBooks Self Employed app. It is really easy to use for things like mileage, expenses, HST tracking and even invoicing. Users find an average of $4,340 in tax savings each year. Every penny matters. It really does help you track and makes tax time so much easier.

It’s so important to save for taxes. One big thing to remember if you have a side hustle that you run yourself – any earnings from your side hustle have not been taxed yet. Especially if your day job is a regular 9-5, it’s easy to forget that you need to pay the same tax rate on your side hustle earnings as you do your regular income. You should plan ahead and avoid a nasty surprise at tax-time by putting a portion of each of your sales aside for tax purposes. If you don’t think you have the discipline to set aside money after every sale, you can use Form TD1 and have extra tax deducted from your regular job so that you don’t have the temptation not to save. I have seen far too many that owe come tax time.

Remember, any taxes owed are due on April 30th even if you don’t file until June 15th.

Ask for help when you need it. One of the new ways TurboTax helps us DIYers is by giving us easy access to the experts. You can have whatever level of support you need.  You can use the SmartLook feature to speak with and even share your screen with an expert to ensure you are maximizing your return.  You simply access the help panel and you can get online live product support or schedule a callback from a tax expert or product specialist. This way you can get help when it’s convenient for your schedule. The screen sharing capability of SmartLook allows the tax expert to circle boxes or numbers on your screen to guide you in entering your information. It can’t be easier than that.  You have whatever level of support you need.

Whether it’s driving for Uber, renting out your basement with Airbnb, re-selling items you get online or at thrift stores, selling cookies or cakes or things you make at a farmer’s market, selling items through a direct sales company, babysitting, pet sitting, or tutoring the neighbour’s kid, there are many options for earning some money on the side. With TurboTax solutions for Self-Employed , reporting that income at tax time has never been easier.

 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of TurboTax. The opinions and text are all mine.


 

How to Save on Book Purchases

Are you like me, an avid reader? Do you have a pile of books on your night table? I have something to admit: I read every day. I go to bed with a book in my hand and am transported to the most amazing worlds. From fiction to kids books to self-development and business books, I read them all. My daughter is an avid reader as well, so we have shelves of books in our home. Because we love the feel of books and love to own books, we are always looking for ways to save on books.

So how do we save on books?

  1. We will do book swaps with friends. It’s kind of like a clothing swap but for book lovers like me.

  2. We look for the best deals on books.

We shop online for books. Often times, we will check out books in person at a local bookstore, but then check online to find the best price.  Most often we end up buying from BookOutlet.ca.  Why?

We love that we can find books for 50-90% off the retail pricing. We also love that when you spend more than $45 your purchase is shipped for free. It’s best to stock up when you order.

What are some great current deals?

Anyone who knows me, knows I love Tony Robbins. I have read every book written by him. You can get his most current book, “Unshakeable” for 65% off retail. That is a great deal!

Recently, in the morning I have been reading personal development books as a way to start my day. One author and speaker a friend introduced me to this year was John C Maxwell. If you are into entrepreneurship, leadership and growth you want to read his books. You can find many of his titles for 60% or better.

I am also trying to get healthier so another of my recent reads is “The Mind Gut Connection.” Did you know the the mind and gut are connected? They are and you can read about it for 59% off retail.

At bedtime, I read more fiction. There are some great reads to be found on BookOutlet.ca no matter who you like. Do you love romance? Thrillers? You can find them all at a great discount.

There’s even plenty of books for young children and tweens. I love that the Book Outlet has so many classics like Alice in Wonderland, one of my daughter’s favourite books. They also have a great selection of Disney books for a great deal.

If you’re stocking up on books, have a look at the site and and save on purchases and shipping.

Let me know what you are reading this month.

 

Join Us at the Inspired to Action Conference this International Women’s Day

Have you ever experienced a moment, met a person, read a quote that propelled you out of a rut or dark space and made you see possibilities that you couldn’t previously conceive?  Ever sat in a room of like-minded women and think yes, I can do this and my idea will work. Inspiration is a very powerful thing. It often leads to action. I have been so blessed in my life that as I thought of launching different projects and ideas inspiration has come just when I have needed it most.  Do you have an idea germinating in your head? Have you ever thought of taking a huge leap and leaving the corporate world to do something that means something to you? This International Women’s Day take the day for yourself. Gather with like-minded women and let’s get inspired together at the Inspired to Action Conference at Joey in downtown Toronto. 

Inspired to Action

Inspiration is the seed that is planted in our hearts and souls and we need it to fuel the fire under our butts when we hesitate to take a chance or make a change.  Ever needed that slight push, that encouraging word? I know I have. When I have needed in inspiration that can lead to action I surround myself with a tribe that will get me there. I go and seek inspiration.

In early February I attended such an event. I was able to not only get inspiration but practical advice. I came away with a network of new friends who can help me along the path.  This is what happens when you take the first step and attend events like Inspired to Action.

This March 8th, I would love for you to join me at Inspired to Action.  You can purchase your ticket and get a 20% discount code to attend, which includes access to the entire event and buffet lunch. Simply use the code HollieVIP.

Want to attend the event with me for free? I am giving away one ticket. Leave a comment on this post. I will pick a winner next Friday at 6 pm EST.  Not only will you attend the event for free but I have a special little something for you as well. Just let me know why you want to attend in the comments.

For more information on the conference be sure to check out these social profiles:

Instagram Handle: https://www.instagram.com/i2aconference/

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/I2AConference/

Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1124244907678231/

 

Are You Using Essential Oils in Your Self-Care Routines?

One of the things I have been doing lately is taking care of myself better. For years, I really didn’t focus on me ever at all. Everyone else came first. Self-care was low on my priority list? Ever been there? Slowly over the last couple of years, I have started using essential oils more and more. I feel in love with aromatherapy quickly but did you know essential oils can help you in so many ways. As I am learning to take care of myself better, in this month of love I wanted to share some great self-care recipes. Essential oils are now an important part of my self-care routines.

What kind of stress do you live with?

I know I placed the needs of family first and it seemed we always had something to juggle. What household is not busy these days?

With it being the week we celebrate love there are many ways to start taking care of you.

It’s time to take care of you. It’s time to show yourself some love.

Aromatherapy

One of the simplest ways to trigger relaxation is with scent. Aromatherapy triggers relaxation. It’s a great way to stop stress in a moment.

There are many ways you can use aromatherapy.

  1. With a diffuser. Simply add a few drops of your favourite oil to water to help you relax. My favourite oil to use is Lavender.
  2.  In your bath. Add a couple of drops of essential oil to a tablespoon of a carrier oil, then add this to your bath water. (Never add just oil to the water- water and oil do not mix.)
  3.  Massage.  Use it in a carrier oil to give a massage.

Scrubs

Some of my other favourite ways to use my essential oils is by making scrubs. Here are just a few great scrub recipes you may want to try:

 

There are so many ways to use essential oils to help better your self-care routines. Check out my Pinterest board to see more recipes and tips that may help you.

If you are intersted in learning more about essential oils and selfcare, I have a free e-book for you.  Just fill out the this form and I will send it to you.

Let’s Not Forget About Our Kids and Their Mental Health #BellLetsTalk #KidsCantWait

Dear Kathleen Wynne and Those Running for Office,

This post is an open letter from a concerned mom.

I am not sure you are aware of the crisis facing our kids. If you are you, you have done too little. Kids especially our youth wait far too long for help when they are in crisis. When a child is in crisis they wait for help when it comes to their mental health.

My own daughter languished on a high priority wait list for months waiting for a program that would assess her needs and get her a proper diagnosis. While she waited we had daily phone calls from a triage nurse and during this time period her school put her on a do not admit. She would not attend school for 5 months. No education was offered during this time.  Can you imagine that happening to a child you know? a child you care about? Children are languishing because the people that could change things do nothing.

My daughter waited over 2 years for help. Would you wait two years for treatment of an illness that is having a serious impact on your life? one that would almost take your life? The average child waits over 18 months in the province of Ontario for help. Most in the GTA wait longer.

Here is a scary honest stat. Four in 10 children do not get the help they need. We are failing our children. My own daughter was referred to community help after a hospital stay. The programs and treatment recommended for her NEVER came.  As a parent, I could not wait for my community. I was forced to take action on my own. I had to navigate a broken system. I had to pay out of pocket for therapy. It was a daily nightmare for about two years.

Here is the reality most adults who suffer from mental illness showed signs in childhood. By age 40 almost half of all of those who live in Ontario will have struggled with a mental health issue. What if we helped people sooner? Think of the long-term cost savings? Children’s Mental Health Ontario is calling on the Government of Ontario to make child and youth mental health a priority in its next budget. Will you answer their request with real action?

Let this mom know, I will be voting on this one issue.

Thank you,

Regards,

Hollie Pollard

Mom of One

My dear friends the stats are scary and I would encourage you to reach out to our premier and let her know your concerns.

Here are some stats that scare the heck out of me. They are fact, not fiction.

 

  • Mental illness impacts us all. We know that 70% of adult mental illnesses begin in childhood and by the age of 40, half of all Ontarians will have struggled with a mental health problem.
  • In Ontario, an alarming 36% of parents report seeking mental health services for their children.
  • Half of the parents who sought help said they faced challenges in getting the services they needed. The primary reason cited was long wait times (65% of those who sought help).
  • Four in 10 youth have sought help for mental health issues but nearly half of them were not able to get the help they needed.
  • $120M additional funds annually are needed to meet the increasing demand and shortage of mental health and addiction services for both children and youth. Children’s Mental Health Ontario is calling on the Government of Ontario to make child and youth mental health a priority in its next budget. Join us and urge the Ontario government to act now at kidsmentalhealthcantwait.ca
  • When children receive treatment in hospitals, they are stabilized, kept for a few days, and are discharged only to wait in long lines for treatment at child and youth mental health centres.
  • Nearly half of all youth in Ontario (46%) report having missed school as a result of their anxiety, and one-quarter of all kids with mental health issues experience substantially lower achievement at school.
  • With nowhere to turn because of long wait lists or a shortage of services near where they live, many children and youth are forced in desperation and crisis to seek mental health treatment at hospital emergency rooms. Since 2006-07, there has been a 63% increase in emergency department visits and a 67% increase in hospitalizations for Ontario children and youth with mental health issues. ( my daughter had to be one of these).

Here is what should be happening. Can you help advocate for it?

Children’s Mental Health Ontario urges the government to make crucial investments to:

  • Ensure that no child or youth wait more than 30 days for mental health and addictions treatment
  • Expand specialized youth mental health and addictions centres to ensure that children and youth get the treatment they need
  • Hire and retain the highest skilled staff caring for our most vulnerable children
  • Develop quality standards to deliver the best mental health and addictions services

Today you can make a difference with one simple action.

That is why for Bell Let’s Talk Day we are asking you to raise your voice for children’s mental health. Click here to send Premier Kathleen Wynne a message and let her know that our #kidscantwait for mental healthcare. http://kidsmentalhealthcantwait.ca/

**This is not a sponsored post I am simply a mom who has had to navigate a very broken system.

 

Join the #RRSPandTSFAReady Twitter Party

It’s hard to believe the RRSP deadline is quickly approaching. Are you ready for March 1st, 2018?

Over the years I often wondered was an RRSP really necessary for every Canadian? The RRSP has been around since before I was born yet the TFSA is still a fairly new savings plan. Which is best? I have learned it all depends on your individual situation.

An RRSP or registered retirement savings plan is meant for long-term savings. You can read more about the plan on the government website here. A retirement savings plan is registered with the federal government and you contribute to it.  Any income earned in the RRSP normally exempt from taxes as long as the funds are in the plan. You pay taxes when you take money out.

A TFSA is a tax-free savings account. It allows those over 18 ( and have a social insurance number) to set money aside tax free throughout their lives. Contributions to a TFSA are not taxed deductible. Amounts earned inside the account is generally tax-free even when it is withdrawn.  Read more about them here.

On Thursday, Feb 1st, 2018 you can join my friends from @TangerineBank for the #RRSPandTFSAReady Twitter Party to learn more.

Details for the Twitter Party:

Twitter Party Date: Thursday. February 1. 2018

Time: 7:00pm ET to 8:00pm ET

Twitter Party Hashtag: #RRSPandTFSAReady

Host@TangerineBank

Guest: Joe Synder @JoePSnyder 

RSVP: not required

Prizing: $300 in Gift Cards

 

In the meantime, let me share four things you should know about TFSA’s:

Want to know more about the special guest for the Twitter party?

Joe Snyder

Joe Snyder will be on hand to answer your questions. Joe Snyder is part of the Investments Product Management team at Tangerine. Joe is passionate about investor education and holds the Chartered Investment Manager (CIM®) designation. You can read Joe’s blog posts on the Tangerine website. Click here to view his posts.

*this post is sponsored by the Tangerine Bank. All opinions are my own.

How to Survive Cold and Flu Season on a Budget

No one likes getting sick. This year, in the past week it seemed like a large number of my friends were battling cold and flu bugs. At our house, we were as well. It was no fun. No one likes waking up at 2 am in a coughing fit and no one likes taking their little one to the hospital for a brief stay. Both happened in our house last week.  So how can you survive cold and flu season on a budget?

With the reality being most of us take unpaid time off to battle the flu or cold, each bout will affect the pocketbook. So how can we best be ready? Prevention matters but when it happens it is best to listen to your body.

The Flu Shot

Flu shots have been proven to lessen symptoms or even help you get through the season flu-free. This year though there are several strains that are resistant to the shot so what is a family to do?

Rest

Do yourself and your work/school mates a favour and take the time to heal. Rest. One of the best things you can try to do is sleep. Sleep helps you to build your immunity system and helps fight germs. Sleep is a free way to help your body get better.

Wash Your Hands

Handwashing frequently especially in this season matters. Handwashing helps prevent illness but it also helps it from running through the family as well.

Drink Water

Water is good for you. It helps to flush out impurities. I have been drinking at least 2 litres a day of water. For me I have added a few drops of lemon essential oils to help flush toxins away. Even adding fresh lemon will help.

Eat Well

There are many foods that help fight food and colds.  Mushrooms, green tea, sweet potato and chicken soup are on the list. We keep cans of chicken noodle soup stocked just for sick days.

Stock Your Medicine Chest

There is nothing worse than having to do a run to the pharmacy when you feel terrible. I do quarterly checks on our basic meds and stock the cabinet when things are on sale. We buy just enough and I do check the expiry dates.   We keep Advil, Neo Citran, Vicks Vapour Rub, Gravol, and a few other medications on hand. Did you know you can often find these for sale? Remember to check your flyer apps like Flipp for sales and rebates. Other apps you may want to check include CheckOut 51 and Caddle.

We also buy Kleenex when it is on sale. Even after using about 3 boxes in our house last week I think I have a few left in my stash.

What are your favourite ways to save and battle a cold or the flu?

 

The Start of the New Year: 5 Birthdays to Celebrate

It is that time of the year, everyone is celebrating Christmas and the New Year. In our house there are 6 birthdays all within 2 weeks. I live in a house with 3 families and each one of us celebrate 2 birthdays. It’s a busy time of the year. If I extend that just a wee bit, then there is also the birthday of my niece and 3 dear friends. We are a bunch of Capricorns. So let me share with you how we celebrated.

New Year’s Eve and the Bringing in of the New Year

My daughter and I did not want to brave the frigid temperatures that hit Toronto that night so we stayed in. I made up a cheese platter, grabbed some pizzas and we played board games and watched Moana ( We are huge fans of Disney Animation).  As it got later we turned on The Rockin New Year’s Eve and rang in the year cuddled up on the Sofa. It was a pretty sweet way to bring in the New Year.

Celebrating My Daughter’s Birthday

 


My daughter celebrated her birthday on Tuesday. Since she has a love of everything Japanese we headed out for Ramen for lunch and then headed to Uncle Tetsu’s for dessert.  She loved it. I surprised her with the birthday plate. Yes, it was $7.00 extra but work every penny to see her face as they brought her out Matcha cheesecake singing her Happy Birthday. She even got her photo with the girl serving us. She already is planning her next visit. We will continue her birthday celebrations by having some friends over later this month.

A Hospital Visit

Two of the little ones who had birthdays both got very sick over the holidays and the youngest was hospitalized at Sick Kids for a few days. Birthday celebrations for that family have been delayed as we work to get them better.

 

A Saturday of 2 Celebrations

A dear friend of mine and the little one of the family upstairs both had celebrations on Saturday. Yes, even in the frigid weather that hit Toronto we headed out. First there was a Frozen birthday party for the little princess. Then in the evening I headed to the Jerusalem Restaurant Buffet in North York to help celebrate a friend’s 60th.  It was my first time at the restaurant and I enjoyed the food especially the lamb, it was so tender. I was also enthralled with the belly dancing. It was a great night out.

With all the celebrating done though guess who has gotten sick? My daughter caught the bug late on Friday and this morning I woke up not feeling the best. We have been using essential oils to help us feel better. In fact, as I type this there are oils in the diffuser and I put some on my feet as well. Hopefully, we will recover quickly. Tell me, how was your first week of 2018?