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Archive for the ‘Budgeting: Family’ Category

Get Control of Your Kid Stuff with Consignment Stores

Your kids can be expensive. Especially with clothing because they grow up too darn fast. Thankfully, has a handy article with some tips to keep kid costs down.

As a Mom of six kids, I rely on hand-me downs to stretch my budget. But sometimes an item doesnʼt get “worn out” enough by the time the last child has outgrown it.  And what about the oldest — where can I get hand-me-downs for her?  The solution: childrenʼs consignment stores!

Consignment stores are gold mines for the de-cluttering Mom.  Buy and sell all types of childrenʼs gear: clothing, toys, footwear, swings, strollers, high chairs, books, tapes — in other words, the works. They are an fantastic place to get barely used childrenʼs clothes, often with the tags still on, for a fraction of the price.

Consignment stores work by selling gently used items for you, and keeping a portion of the price (usually around half.) Unlike thrift stores, they pre-screen and organize all the merchandise into a shopper friendly format, making them a super go-to resource for the frugal parent.

Here are some tips to make your consignment shopping and selling, something youʼll be doing again and again.

Research your Store’s Policies

Before you bring your items in, either phone or drop by to see what your local storeʼs policies are. For some stores you need an appointment, and others are drop in. Find out if they pay you up front for the items they take, or after they sell. Most stores have a limit on the amount you can bring in at one time, and the type of items they will take, so check ahead to avoid aggravation and a wasted trip. (more…)

8 Steps For Managing Parents’ Finances


Aging parents with money troubles can be a worry for some. Thankfully, Teri Cettina wrote this very detailed and helpful peice to help you help your parents in their later years. Its long, but well worth the read. Nothing is more important than family.

So, the event you’ve worried about much of your adult life has finally happened: You need to take over Mom’s or Dad’s financial affairs.

In addition to the stress and sadness over what’s happened, you immediately have to deal with practical matters: Will Mom be able to live in her  home again? Can she afford a nursing home? Will insurance cover all of Dad’s  medical bills?

And speaking of bills, you’ve got to start paying them – everything from utilities to credit cards.

Even if you’re not at this point with your parents yet, this  list can help you decide what to do now – before anything happens.


5 Money Questions You Should Ask Before Tying The Knot


About to tie the knot? Mary Schwager of wrote a great piece to help give you some advice on how to manage your money.

You know this one: Struggles, arguments and disagreements about finances are among the most common reasons couples break up. If you are a saver and your love is a not-so-better half when it comes to spending money, that can be a recipe for relationship disaster.

How do you know what you’re getting into before you say “I do”? Money expert and financial adviser Margie Baldock, author of The Mother Lode Manifesto, says when it comes to your financial health, selecting the right partner is the most important decision you can make. “The wrong partner, financially speaking, can mean a life of stress, struggle and strain. It is no wonder, then, that 80 percent of divorce is believed to be based upon money disputes.”

Baldock recommends you not walk down that aisle until you’ve asked, discussed and are satisfied with how your partner answers these very important five money questions:


5 Great Blogs That Will Help You Save Money

Our blog is great. We know that and you know that! But thanks to Canadian Living for finding 5 other awesome blogs that want to help you save money!

Pinching pennies is easy with great advice from these top Canadian money-saving blogs.

Bored with the celebrity blogs I normally read, one morning I had an idea that put dollar signs in my eyes. I would wean myself from these online temples of celebrity worship, and use the time to read money-saving blogs instead. One week later, I didn’t get rich, but I had a few hot leads on the best sales in my city, and some ideas under my hat that will help me cut expenses down the road. Cha-ching!

So what makes for a good money-saving blog? I asked the creator of one of my favourites, Bargainista, for her take on what makes her blog so popular. “My blog is about smart shopping and value,” says Toronto-based Eden Spodek. “Readers trust what my guest bloggers and I have to say,” she adds.

As someone who loves to read blogs, I’ll venture that regular, preferably daily posts and an entertaining or authoritative voice help make for a successful one, also. Without further delay, here are some great Canadian blogs to help you save money.

5 great money-saving blogs
Save on: Electronics, clothes, DVDs, groceries and sales tax. Plus you’ll find links to coupons, freebies and online bargains.
Bookmark it: This comprehensive blog features flyers from across Canada highlighting the biggest steals, not to mention myriad posts on in-store and online sales. In between these posts you’ll find funny asides, like Dear manufacturers of the world – Quit using these stupid paper stickers! – a pointed jab at the impossible-to-get-off stickers plastered over new goods like appliances. Other money-minded bloggers love this site, “I read this one regularly to find good deals,” says Spodek, who links to it on her blog.


Bringing up Kids on a Budget – Advice for Canadian Families

Here’s another great article from our friends at on raising kids on a budget.

Five Money-Smart Tips for Raising Kids on a Budget
Originally posted on on Aug 6, 2013

From diapers to driving lessons, raising kids costs a lot. To help manage your family finances, consider these simple ideas.

Cute as they are, kids are costly.

The total bill for raising a child in Canada from birth to age 18 is, on average, about $244,000 — that’s around $13,500 a year — according to some comprehensive number-crunching by MoneySense in 2011. (And that doesn’t include the cost of post-secondary education.)

From clothing and school supplies to childcare and extracurricular activities, spending on your kids can skyrocket quickly if you’re not careful.

Just ask Josée Pharand. The Ottawa mother of two ran a website, Frugal Fun Ottawa, for three years as a way to help other families with their finances by highlighting free family activities in the city. Pharand says it’s simply a question of smart money management.

“With kids, you never know how it’s going to go. You could go to the latest, greatest show and spend $100 in one afternoon by the time you pay for the tickets, food and drink, the merchandise and maybe parking,” she says. “Then you get there and maybe your kids are having a bad day — they’re tired or not feeling well. In that situation, they’re just not going to enjoy it. And personally, I hate feeling like I’ve wasted money.”

If you want to become a money-smart parent, consider these five simple ideas:

1. Hunt for frugal fun

All parents want to provide for their children as well as possible, but overloading their schedules with expensive extracurricular activities doesn’t guarantee success.

Pharand says her young daughter and son don’t run around doing 100 things each season. Instead, they’re each allowed to pick one or two. And Pharand often looks to city-run programs for a better deal than private set-ups.

“My daughter loves to dance, but she’s not a prima ballerina, and the private dance schools can be quite expensive. If that changes in the future, sure, we’ll splurge. But for now, she just likes going to the city-run ballet class and having a good time.”

Pharand also suggests cost-conscious parents check out local malls, community centres and libraries for other great programs. For example, many hardware stores run do-it-yourself workshops for children a couple of times a month.

In fact, frugal fun doesn’t have to cost a thing if you think creatively and keep it simple.

“My kids’ favourite activity is feeding the ducks. It’s totally free, totally easy and they’re always entertained,” says Pharand. “You don’t have to spend a single penny if you’re smart.”

2. Partner with friends

Chances are you know at least one other family looking to infuse a little thrift into their own lives. Why not partner up and share on the savings?

By co-ordinating your schedule with a friend, relative or neighbour, you can cut down on the cost of childcare by splitting after-school sitting. And if your kids are of similar ages, you’ll get the added benefit of having them make a friend or two. You can also offer to take a friend’s child for one night a month if your friend does the same for you. And arranging car-pooling for after-school or weekend activities will save something even more valuable than money: time and stress.

Since we each have our own talents and hobbies, why not put that diversity to good use by gathering a group of parents or friends to organize some kid-friendly workshops on a rotating schedule? Are you a kitchen queen? Teach a cooking class. Speak another language? Give a mini-lesson of basic words and phrases. Love to dance? Learn a new step on YouTube and boogie in the basement. Doing these activities in a small group will give the workshops a summer-camp feel.

3. Swap clothes

An eco-friendly and economical option, clothing swaps have grown in popularity in recent years. Trading unwanted clothing within a small group works especially well for children’s clothes, since kids often outgrow their clothes before they wear them out. To arrange a swap, give your friends a couple of weeks’ notice to clean out their closets, so they can assess both what they’ll be bringing and what they’ll be looking for.

Consignment and second-hand stores also often have a wealth of new or gently used kids’ clothing. Many of these shops will split the profits or pay you outright for your things, including toys — which will bring in money to buy new things as your child grows.

Online sites, like Kijiji and Freecycle, are another source for low-cost clothing, as many sellers offer clothing by the bag. Exactly what you get tends to be luck of the draw. “Even if you spend $10 for the whole bag, if you can pull four items, it’s still worth it,” says Pharand.

4. Shop smart

Smart money management is more than just budgeting; it’s also about making certain you stick to that budget.

Before you head out to make any big purchases, whether you’re back-to-school shopping or buying groceries for the week, make a list to avoid impulse-buying. It’s also a good idea to avoid towing along tired, cranky kids, since you could spend more than you bargained for by buying them unnecessary treats just to quiet them down.

Finally, think about buying in bulk wherever it makes sense, whether that means stocking up on essentials like socks or underwear, or grabbing the bigger bags of pasta if that’s a staple food for your family. And scouring the aisles for non-perishable sale items you’ll always use — such as toothpaste — is another way to stretch your dollars over the long term.

5. Teach your kids the value of money

Educating your children early about the value of money will help prepare them for the future, but it can also work in your favour if you’re trying to save money.

If you make it a daily habit to talk to your kids about money, you can teach them the difference between needs and wants. Setting your children up with allowances and savings accounts is an easy first step. You’ll get them thinking about the future and they’ll be less likely to complain about chores.

When Pharand started her daughter on an allowance at age five, she soon noticed that requests for special treats were less frequent. She realized how much things cost, Pharand says. She began to learn the value of money, and became suddenly much pickier about her wants.

Working together with your kids on a family budget that allows you to save for the things that really matter will help ensure your family stays on track for a sound financial future.


Costs of Raising a Baby

Although written south of the border, this article from’s Deborah Pike Olsen, provides a great deal of insight into the costs of raising a baby.

The real cost of raising a baby

You’ll spend almost $10,000 on your baby’s first year, according to the thousands of moms who took BabyCenter’s exclusive survey.

No wonder 70 percent of new mothers told us they’re more anxious about money since having a child. “The financial stress is the hardest thing in my life,” says mom Sarah Carley, who has three young children. “You don’t realize how much you need for your child – and how tempting it is to buy things.”

Forty percent of moms said that having a baby costs a lot more than they expected. And many told us that it’s the surprise bills that hurt the most. Even if you’re prepared to shell out for diapers, food, gear, clothes, toys, childcare, and healthcare, unexpected or “hidden” extras may bust your budget.

Calculate the cost of your baby’s first year, including gear, diapers, childcare, and more.   “It’s the $20 co-pays that add up quickly when you have a child with chronic ear infections. It’s the $150 co-pay for emergency room visits,” says one mom. “It’s when you plan on breastfeeding, but it doesn’t work out and you end up buying formula.”

The good news: When you have a real sense of which costs will rear their ugly head during your baby’s first year, you’ll be better prepared to handle them. Plus, you’ll be able to worry less about your budget and spend more time enjoying your bundle of joy. Here are the most common unexpected costs associated with raising a baby – gleaned from our survey – plus how to keep them in check.

Making room for your baby

It’s amazing how cramped things can feel once your baby arrives. Your little one may weigh less than 10 pounds, but his gear and furniture could fill several rooms. And you’ll need a quiet place for him to sleep away from your family’s hustle and bustle.

Sarah Carley and her husband moved to make room for their growing family. (She’s not alone – 35 percent of moms in our survey have moved or plan to.) Now the Carleys are feeling the strain on their bank accounts. “We only put 5 percent down,” she says. “And we have no money left at the end of each month. Sometimes I can’t buy anything but groceries and gas for three to four weeks, and I hardly ever have cash in my purse.”

Other moms remodel instead of changing addresses – 10 percent are renovating or plan to, our survey says.

But whether you move or stay put, you’ll probably face a home-related issue that few parents expect: skyrocketing baby-related utility bills. “Our bills probably doubled, from about $150 to $300,” says Laura Dowden, a mom of three. “You’d never think of it. But we’re spending more on heating and air conditioning now that someone is always home during the day, and we’re doing laundry and running the dishwasher much more frequently.”

Dowden’s surprise expenses didn’t end with her utility bill – like 52 percent of moms in our survey, she found herself needing a larger vehicle. “When I was pregnant with our third child, we realized we couldn’t fit three car seats in our station wagon, so we bought an SUV,” she says. “Now we’re spending about $500 more a month than when we owned two sedans.”

What you can do

“People are too quick to say, ‘We’ve got a baby, so we have to move,'” says Jeff D. Opdyke, author of The Wall Street Journal Complete Personal Finance Guidebook. “But if you think you’ll need to move eventually, set aside money every month for a bigger place.”

Rather than buying an additional car, trade yours in for a family-friendly model, suggests Opdyke. Don’t be afraid to haggle over the price of a new car or buy used. But avoid leasing, even if monthly lease payments are lower than they are for an auto loan. “There are all sorts of back-end catches that can increase the cost of the vehicle,” Opdyke says. “It’s a very expensive way to own cars.”

Budget-busting medical bills

If you have health insurance, you probably expect it to cover basics like your delivery and vaccines for your baby. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. As a new mom, you may face unexpected bills for care that’s only partially covered by insurance – or not covered at all.

“Two years ago, we paid nothing when my daughter was born,” says Regina Walsh, mom of two. “But our insurance changed, and we had to pay $1,500 after I had my son in February.” In our survey, 39 percent of moms paid $1,000 or more for medical bills related to childbirth, and 9 percent of those were on the hook for $5,000 or more.

One mom from our survey was hit with a $4,800 bill for her epidural. “We were surprised to learn that only 25 percent of it was covered by our insurance,” she says.

After the delivery, the costs associated with your baby’s medical care can be a shock. First there’s the cost of your child’s health insurance. Walsh says she’s spending an additional $200 a month now that her husband and two children are included in her policy.

Then there are co-pays, which can add up even if they seem reasonable. “When my baby goes to daycare, she gets sick almost every week,” says one mom. “The co-pay is $20, parking is $30, and the prescription co-pay is $35. It can be $100 or more for each doctor visit.”

Finally, you could be stuck with bills for vaccines that some insurers don’t cover — like those for chicken pox, rotavirus, and hepatitis A. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 14 percent of children were “underinsured” for vaccines in 2000 – meaning their parents had to pay out of pocket for some vaccines or skip them.

“I didn’t realize that some of the routine childhood immunizations wouldn’t be covered by our health insurance,” says one mom. “Some aren’t considered ‘necessary’ by insurers, especially if they’re not required by schools. And they can be expensive – up to $200 a shot.”

What you can do

Ask your insurance company about your maternity and well-child benefits to avoid surprises. Then, save for medical expenses before they arise. “We put away a certain amount each month for six to seven months before my expected delivery,” says one mom.

If you don’t have health insurance through your employer, check with your state to see if it offers a low-cost insurance plan. The income cutoffs aren’t as low as you’d think, says Amelia Warren Tyagi, coauthor of The Two-Income Trap and All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan. Also, consider a high-deductible health plan, which can significantly lower your monthly premiums.

If your employer offers flexible spending accounts, consider signing up. Another option is to set up a health savings account (HSA) at your bank or credit union. An HSA allows subscribers of high-deductible health plans to set aside money for medical expenses on a tax-free basis.

If you receive a medical bill that seems inaccurate, don’t be afraid to confront your insurer. “Insurance companies make a lot of mistakes – you have to fight for yourself,” says Warren Tyagi. This paid off for mom Caeli Cusumano, who disputed her $6,000 delivery bill and ended up paying $4,500 instead.

Your doctor may offer different payment options, so talk to her if your insurance won’t cover something, like your child’s vaccines. “You may be able to get a discount for paying cash,” says Warren Tyagi.

Losing a second income

Paid maternity leave and paternity leave are rare in the United States, so most new parents end up using a combination of short-term disability (STD), sick leave, vacation, personal days, and unpaid family leave to take time off from work to care for their newborn.

This means less pay than usual – or no pay at all. “We’re concerned with having enough money in our savings to pay our mortgage while I’m on maternity leave,” says one mom. “That’s what will determine how much time I’m able to spend at home once the baby is born.”

And if Mom or Dad decides to quit a job to become a full-time parent, it can put the family budget in dire straits. “We had my graduate school debt, my husband’s debt from undergrad, plus a new baby,” says stay-at-home mom Rebecca Reale. “My husband said that if the car needed to be repaired, we wouldn’t be able to pay the mortgage.”

Some moms find ways to make money from home to supplement the family income. “When I quit my job, we started dipping into our savings a lot, and it was a huge financial strain,” recalls mom Jenn Shaw, a former teacher. “So I got three part-time jobs. I tutor and work at the library twice a month, and I’m an area coordinator for an au pair organization. I work mostly from home, when my children are napping. We live paycheck to paycheck, but we have no debt.”

What you can do

Talk to your employer (or to your human resources contact, if there is one) about benefits for new parents – they should be able to explain what you have coming from your employer and tell you about any state benefits.

Consider meeting with a “fee-only” financial planner, says financial journalist Jeff D. Opdyke. These professionals, who charge an hourly rate for their services, can help you get your money in order before your baby arrives.

Start saving ahead of time. “My husband and I are trying to put away at least three months of my salary to offset my not bringing home a paycheck when our baby arrives,” says one mom-to-be. Keep in mind that while being home has hidden costs (higher electricity and gas bills, for example), you’ll save on work-related expenses like commuting, lunches out, nice clothes, and dry cleaning.

Set money aside each month for emergencies. Then you’ll be ready when your car breaks down, your cat needs to go to the vet, or another surprise expense pops up. “With a slush fund you’ve been contributing to every month, suddenly these unexpected costs are manageable,” says Opdyke.

If you’ve decided to be a full-time parent, figure out how to make it less of a financial strain.

Feeding a larger family

Babies have tiny stomachs – and a surprising way of boosting your food bills.

Though you probably won’t be going out to eat as much with a new baby at home, as exhausted new parents you may find yourselves relying on pricey takeout food and prepackaged supermarket meals. “There was no food in the house except for milk and bread,” recalls mom Dorrie Gagnon of the early days caring for her twins. “We spent about $30 to $40 a night on takeout.”

Plus, you have a new mouth to feed — your baby’s. Formula and jarred baby food can be surprisingly expensive. And even breastfeeding – which many moms assume will cost nothing – can tax your wallet. Working moms usually require a top-end electric breast pump, which runs $250 to $350. And then there are the less-expected nursing purchases.

“I had no idea I’d have to buy nursing clothes,” says mom Laura Dowden, who spent about $500 on bras, nursing shirts, dresses, and other items for multiple seasons. Since she works full time, Dowden also purchased sealable bags for storing breast milk, plus ice packs and a thermal container for storing it while she’s away.

What you can do

Instead of relying on takeout, ask friends who want to help to pitch in with homemade lasagna and casseroles. “Be honest about what’s helpful to you,” says financial expert Amelia Warren Tyagi. “People are glad to bring over a pot of stew.”

There are tons of ways to save at the supermarket – see our 14 favorites.

Hold off on purchasing nursing paraphernalia. Many women discover they don’t need special nursing clothes, and you can find nursing bras at discount stores. And costs associated with nursing and pumping still pale in comparison to what you’d be spending on formula (an estimated $1,260 a year, according to our survey).

Because of possible contamination, the FDA and breastfeeding experts say it’s not safe to borrow a friend’s breast pump or buy one used. But if you’re not ready to commit to buying an expensive top-of-the-line electric pump, or you need one for a relatively short time, try renting a pump designed for multiple users.

Keeping your child happy and safe

We new parents are a marketer’s dream: We want the best for our little ones and are desperate for anything that will make our lives more manageable.

Lately this means shelling out hundreds – even thousands – of dollars on the latest and greatest baby products and development-boosting classes.

Tuition costs for a session of Mommy and Me or Gymboree may remind you of college. “The classes cost a ton of money,” recalls MJ Boensch, a mom of two. “My daughter and I took Music Together, which was $190 for 8 weeks; and Baby Power, which was $200 for about two months.”

With so many products promising to help babies nurse, sleep, and learn, it’s no wonder that 82 percent of moms-to-be told us that having “the right” baby stuff will make life easier. But it’s impossible to know ahead of time which product, if any, will be the magic charm – and that can lead to unexpected, expensive purchases.

Mom Dorrie Gagnon spent a surprise $450 to cope with colic and help her babies sleep. “I bought a crib vibrator to help calm one twin down so I could deal with the other one,” says Gagnon. “And I bought four bouncy seats – two upright and two that reclined.” She also purchased special swaddling blankets, a noise machine, and a whole lot of batteries to keep those bouncy seats vibrating.

Basic safety can also be expensive: Many moms are shocked at by the cost of babyproofing. “I had no clue about this,” recalls mom Laura Dowden. “You go to the store to buy doorknob covers because you think they’ll be useful, and you walk away having spent $200 on other items. Then, two months later, you have to childproof other areas of the house, and you go back to the store again. I’ve probably spent over $750 on babyproofing, and I couldn’t tell you what all the stuff is for.”

What you can do

You may be splurging on your baby – but you’re probably spending less on yourself. “Suddenly, having a manicure once a week or getting your hair highlighted just isn’t as important,” says one mom. In our survey, 86 percent of moms say they’re saving money by not going out as much, 79 percent spend less on clothing for themselves, and more than half are cutting back on makeup, haircuts, manicures, and gym memberships.

Consider enrolling in just one baby class. “I took a Gymboree class with my first child and met other moms,” recalls mom Rebecca Reale. “After that, we organized our own playgroup and I didn’t take any other baby classes.” Or check out less expensive options like classes at the local YMCA or a church or synagogue. Some moms manage to negotiate prices. Mom Sarah Carley couldn’t afford a $250 music class, so she called and asked about financial aid. She ended up paying $100.

Some baby products are true sanity savers. Still, it’s a good idea to do your homework before buying. “I remember hearing about all kinds of gadgets in my childbirth classes,” recalls mom Sandy Mason. “But if my sister didn’t use the products or my friends didn’t mention them, I didn’t buy them.”

You don’t want to scrimp on childproofing, but the safest solutions don’t always require pricey products. “We rearranged our house so there was nothing dangerous around,” says Carley. “We attached dressers to the wall and bought gates from Ikea.”

Some moms are able to keep costs low by using hand-me-downs and limiting their purchases. Says mom Jenn Shaw, “We used some gates from a friend who was moving, and we bought a few outlet covers and cabinet latches for the kitchen. We also bolted furniture to the wall. But we didn’t spend much money.”

Hold on to baby products and childproofing items for your next child – or sell them to other moms on eBay or Craigslist.

Precious — but pricey — memories

No one wants to miss once-in-a-lifetime baby moments – or miss out on sharing them with friends and relatives. In our survey, 40 percent of moms purchased a new camera and 13 percent bought a new photo printer. You may also be paying to have professional family photos taken, make and send birth announcements, and create scrapbooks and baby books.

Elaborate first birthday parties and religious celebrations are other fun but potentially expensive parts of your baby’s first year. “We had my daughter’s first birthday party at our house,” says mom Jenn Shaw. “It cost between $100 and $200 for the cake, food, streamers, and plates. It was a stretch, but we wanted to do it.”

Finally, many parents are surprised by the increased costs of visiting far-flung relatives and taking vacations with a baby in tow. Airfare (if you buy a seat for your baby) and rental car fees (for a car big enough to hold the car seat and baby gear) can be budget busters.

“We spent an extra $300 on plane tickets for the twins,” recalls mom Dorrie Gagnon. “And we spent $800 on a rental car, because we couldn’t use a small one.”

For mom Sarah Carley, vacations are on the back burner. “We’ve given up on them, unless it’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip or we’re visiting family,” she says. She’s not alone: 60 percent of moms in our survey say they take fewer vacations and travel less often since having their baby.

What you can do

When it comes to electronics, save money buying last year’s versions of the products you want, advises financial journalist Jeff D. Opdyke. “Take a look at the model that the new stuff is replacing – it’s usually just as good as the latest version, but because it’s not cutting-edge technology you’ll get it for substantially cheaper,” he says. You can also look for deals on eBay or Craigslist.

Get into the habit of uploading pictures to a photo website such as Kodak Gallery, Snapfish, or Shutterfly. The service is free (or, on some you can pay a nominal yearly fee for extra storage and other benefits). This way, you can easily share your photos online with friends and relatives. They can pick out and pay for their own prints, and you can do the same. Save money by being choosy about what you have printed.

Save on birth announcements and holiday cards by making them yourself with photos that you upload. If you’re set on fancier announcements or cards, you may want to limit the number you purchase: “We had already sent emails and photos to a lot of people, so it didn’t seem necessary to send a birth announcement, too,” says mom Sandy Mason.

Your baby won’t remember celebrations, so it’s okay to keep them low-key. And you don’t have to break the bank to throw a great party – see our tips for saving on shindigs.

There are tons of ways to save on family travel – see our ten favorites.

The costs of planning ahead

When you’re focused on the day-to-day care of your baby, it’s easy to put off things like buying life insurance, making a will, and starting a college savings fund for your child.

And of course, taking these steps will also affect your budget. A typical insurance premium for $250,000 coverage is usually a few hundred dollars a year, and having a will drawn up can cost from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. If your finances are complicated, the costs can rise exponentially: Mom Dorrie Gagnon says that she and her husband are spending about $5,000 to alter their wills and trusts to include their five children.

Other moms are feeling the pinch when it comes to building savings. Mom Regina Walsh, for one, tries to put $50 in each of her two children’s savings accounts every month. But when money is tight, saving isn’t easy. In our survey, a whopping 72 percent of moms say they’ve started saving for their child’s future – but 55 percent feel like they aren’t saving enough.

What you can do

Open a savings account for your child at birth – or beforehand. Just having one gives you the incentive to save, and it’s a convenient way to handle financial gifts from friends and family.

The best way to save for your child’s college education is to open a 529 college savings plan, says financial journalist Jeff D. Opdyke. Be sure to sign up for an age-appropriate asset allocation, meaning your money will be put into an aggressive fund initially and will become more conservative as your child ages.

Consider signing up for a credit card that helps you save for college, like the Upromise Card or the Fidelity Investments 529 College Rewards American Express Card, says Opdyke. Every time you spend money, a small percentage will be rolled into your 529 plan (until you reach an annual maximum). “You won’t build up a gazillion dollars, but it will be enough to mean something 18 years from now,” he adds.

You may be able to save money by writing up your will yourself, but be sure you do it legally. See our article on why every parent needs a will to find out how.

Be sure to cover a stay-at-home parent in your life insurance policy. Figure out what it would cost to do that parent’s job – childcare, grocery shopping, chores – and annualize that amount over 18 years.

Make sure that at least one parent’s life insurance policy is for a large amount – enough to pay for your child’s college education and your mortgage, for example. (These are huge expenses that one parent probably couldn’t afford alone.) Finally, go for term life insurance instead of whole life insurance, says financial expert Amelia Warren Tyagi. “It’s more cost-effective.”

Finally, some good news: Having a child may allow you to save money on your tax bill.

[end of article]


Budget Advice for Cash-Strapped Canadian Families

This article comes from, originally posted August 15, 2013 and provides a great deal of insight related to budgeting for low-income families.

Budgets Do Not Discriminate

The low-income budget question caught my eye as it’s not the first time I’ve been asked so here I am sharing my thoughts with all of you. It has been a while since I went into my mail bag and a few days ago one fans question touched me to have her reach out to me the way she has. Many people are in the same position as this reader so I hope I can shed a bit of light on the topic of budgeting and low-income families for those that are reading today.

This is one of those touchy topics so please bear with me as I realize many people are struggling through tough times. Debt is debt, money is money, a budget is a budget. I know all of you have unique situations just like we do. I don’t claim to be a budget hero, just a guy who wants to listen and share what we do with our budget. Nothing is easy, we fail, we get right back up again.

“”Dear Mr. CBB

I’ve read your blog for a while now as I was searching for some family budget information and a sample family budget so I can start to budget for our family. We come from a low-income Canadian family which we feel is at the poverty level in Ontario. I grew up living in poverty but poverty today seems much more difficult as an adult than when I was a child living with my family.

We rent an apartment since we can’t afford to own a home as our credit is not good enough and we don’t have the money for a down-payment. We have a low-income for a family of 3 which includes our son who is 6 years old. I work part-time as I struggle to find work as I need more skills and my husband works full-time in a retail capacity. He also has no further education after grade 12. We take the bus to work since we can’t afford vehicles and walk everywhere else we need to go.

My question is what is a typical family budget and how do I start to budget with a low-income in Canada when we make just enough to cover the bills?

Thanks for any tips.



The current unemployment rate in Canada as of July 2013 is 7.2% and when people aren’t employed that’s a high enough number when they have to exhaust all means and then rely on employment insurance which we graciously pay into and the social assistance/welfare system just to survive.

When I moved to Canada from the UK finding a job was just as tough back home as it is here in Canada for many including myself at the time. Everywhere you looked people were graduating with degrees but weren’t finding jobs so they ended up working in factories or anywhere they could make money to pay the bills. It’s no different in Canada but I believe we have more opportunities here than back home.

Low-income families and education when it comes to budgets is very important and not just for people on a low-income because a budget does not discriminate. A budget is a tool for everyone to educate themselves about how they are spending and saving the money they earn. According to Stats Canada as of 2011 8.8% of the population of Canada was sitting in a low-income status after tax.

What is minimum wage in Ontario?

Minimum wage is the lowest wage rate an employer can pay an employee. Most employees are eligible for minimum wage, whether they are full-time, part-time, casual employees, or are paid an hourly rate, commission, piece rate, flat rate or salary.

Minimum wage in Ontario for 2013 is $10.25 an hour which means that if you worked 40 hours a week after taxes you would net $410 a week or approximately $21,320.00 per year (based on 8 hours a day and a 260 work days for the year) according to Canada Minimum Wage although keep in mind this not net and taxes still need to be deducted.

What is a typical budget?

To answer this question is difficult as I believe everyone has their own way of setting up a budget according to their income and debts but typical does include some basics. The basics include fixed expenses which are expenses that are virtually the same every time you need to pay them (ie. rent). There is also variable expenses which you can expect to fluctuate month after month or when the bill is due (clothing, water bill, gas, cell phone, etc).

Every month on Canadian Budget Binder I post our actual budget for 2 people which is more than a sample it’s all our actual figures which you can look at to see how we manage our money. One thing I like to point out from the start is that if you are married or in a relationship you must learn to budget as a couple. It doesn’t matter who does the work but you both need to be on the same page, or it will fail.

You also need to know what you want money for? Why are you both going to work hard at budgeting your finances for the family? So what are your goals and objectives? I’ve also designed an excel budget spreadsheet which you can use if you like, that is if you feel it is what would work for your family. I often suggest to fans that want to start budgeting to read my budgeting series since that is how it all started for us. There are free budgets all over the internet you just need to find one that suits your needs or you can create your own using a pencil and paper or like we use, the spreadsheet.

In October 2012 I participated in The Welfare Food Challenge where I had $26 to spend for the week on groceries. Although it was tough, I made it through and I did budget my grocery shop for that week. I often think that starting with the grocery budget is a great way to get your feet wet in the budgeting world since food is a necessity in our lives and the budget. Some families spend more on food each month than they do on their rent or mortgage. One fan went from spending $1100 a month to $600 a month in a short period just by using tips found here at Canadian Budget Binder and other popular websites. If you surf my website you will find all sorts of frugal money-saving tips and some amazing blogs that I follow and I hope you can visit to learn more about money management.

A budget for families no matter what your income level can give you the peace of mind knowing that you are paying your bills on time, you know how much money you have to designate to the budget categories and potentially less stress because you know the money is there to pay the bills.

If you aren’t making enough money to cover your debt and basic living needs then you need to make some decisions. If getting a second job will help, then so be it, Alternatively you could always learn some part-time courses if you can save the money to go back to school or manage to get an OSAP loan. Going to school might mean you can find a higher paying job down the road. When it comes to a budget for families the final numbers are going to be up to you although not everyone has the luxury to go out and earn extra money especially if health issues are a set back. Life is funny that way but we have to make the best of what we are given because someone, somewhere does in fact have it worse than us. Be positive for all that we have.

How to budget if you are on low-income?

Well, if you are not making lots of money or enough to cover the bills then you have to ask yourself if any of your variable expenses you can let go of or cut back on? That means no more eating out, no cell phone or try pay as you go, no cable or a cheaper package (negotiate with your provider), no holidays or maybe enjoy a stay-cation or limit to surrounding area etc. The hardest part about being on a budget is living through the budget itself. You can’t keep making excuses every time you make a purchase because the budget will not be kind to you nor will the bill collectors who want their money. We tend to put all of our purchases on credit card as we know our budget inside out and pay the bill at the end off the month.

If you don’t own a credit card or you are not confident in paying one in full, use cash/debit only. You can put together a cash envelope budgeting system that works for you. No guessing, no monthly credit card bills just plain old cash. Just because someone is low-income doesn’t mean they can’t use a credit card or they are irresponsible with money, it has nothing to do with that. Consumer debt, is another story.

Budget percentages

Our breakdown of budget expenses below gives you a general idea what percentage of our budget we put our money into. So you start with 100% and parts of your budget categories will fit nicely into each of these sections except for projected expenses unless you save for them which I believe everyone should who budgets. The money has to come from somewhere for those bills that come every so often. We call these projected expenses in our budget and is step 10 in my budgeting series. If you tell me you can’t budget in the projected expenses that means you are spending too much then. If you use projected expenses you need to decide what percentage value you will give to that category. The bill may not be here yet, but it will be so it’s not invisible.

If you don’t save a portion of that bill every month you WILL have to find the money to pay for it when it comes in. If you find that your percentages are higher than what is suggested below you should make changes to your budget as you may be spending more than you earn. The numbers will give you your answers once you track your expenses for a few months.

No budget will EVER work if you spend more than you earn. I’ve had fans who only make $3000 a month net yet they set up a budget with potential expenses of $4000. Sadly, it doesn’t work that way. It has to balance or you spend less, full-stop. There’s no magic that will make it go away unless you make more money or spend less.


The grocery budget

The grocery budget besides rent or mortgage is always another huge expense so I would suggest that you join us here at The Grocery Game Challenge and post your grocery shops for a few months so you get an idea of what you are spending your money on and how much you are spending. It’s not until you actually see it, that you believe it. From there you can start to cut back, and in the mean time you can start meal planning, using flyers, coupons if you can any way you can cut back without compromising your health and well-being.

I’ve got a free recipe index of delicious frugal recipes and treats (yes we like to splurge on treats) that you have full access to so check it out and try some of the recipes. If you are on a restricted diet then search the web as there are millions of blogs and lots of information for you at your fingertips. My wife is on a low-gi diet so we’ve had to modify our budget for this reason but it hasn’t affected it too much. If you want to print out meal plans, shopping lists, pantry inventory lists, and so much more take advantages of the free money-saving tools I’ve put together for you as well.

No one says you have to eat all convenience type food, I didn’t when I did the one week challenge so if you really want this, you can do it. If you are not sure how much your grocery budget should be the easiest way is to fill out the budget spreadsheet once you know your net income and have all the bills and debts you owe in front of you then transferred to the budget. The numbers should all fall into place and you will clearly see where you need to make changes.

Making extra money

I know making extra money for some people is simply not an option but if you do have some spare time then don’t waste it watching tv all night, make some cash if you can. The lovely Katrina who writes for me here at CBB, she’s a single mom on a mission. She has been doing whatever it takes to look after herself and her 2 children as a single parent. She earns extra money using her landscape and gardening skills which helps her immensely and she’s a proud mom. Another fan turned her life around after drugs, alcohol, divorce and debt and now she makes jewellery on the side for extra cash. Don’t give up, don’t think negatively, push, push until you have no more go in you, but if you give up then you have only yourself to answer to.

How to make extra money

Some ways you can make extra money may be working over-time, working part-time at a second job, baby sitting, cutting lawns, shovelling or using skills that you may have in a trade mechanic, hair dresser, plumber etc. If your kids are old enough teach them money lessons by starting a paper route. Let them be responsible for earning their own spending money. It was my first job growing up and what really got me interested in money in the first place.

There should be help for low-income families in your community if you just ask and if you find there is not then surf the web read books from the library and network with others who may be in the same situation. Do whatever it takes to get yourself back on track working towards a safe place that you want to be in financially.

I’m sure many of the fans who read this post and your question will have plenty more to add and I hope they do. If we open our hearts and give back by helping others we make the world a better place one step at a time. Be part of that movement because with movement it brings peace if only your own inner peace, like it brings to me. I want to hear what everyone has to say and I hope we can give you a bit of motivation to jump on board the budget bandwagon today. Most of all, never give up hope.


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