Offering helpful financial and lifestyle advice for everyday Canadians

Work-Smarter-Not-Harder

Here is a great post from Hillary Chybinski about how she improved her work life. Enjoy!

My One Little Word for this year is Journey. One of the journeys I am taking is making smarter work decisions. I’m a WAHM these days – splitting my time between blogging, writing and online content creation and independent marketing/social media consulting. Anyone that works from home knows that there are special challenges and obstacles to overcome. In hopes of getting a better foothold on that elusive work-life balance, I have vowed to find ways to work smarter.

To kick off the new year, I have implemented a few new strategies, and after three weeks, they are working well. Let me share my strategies with you:

Strategy 1: I’m using a MomAgenda as a combination Editorial Calendar/To-Do-list. It has enough space to track my schedule, my kids’ schedules and work I have due for clients. It also provides a canvas for me to plan my blog’s editorial calendar, so both organic and sponsored content get scheduled. Bonus with this system? There’s a Weekly Dinner Menu space for my meal plans! Here’s what I have learned about myself and my work habits – I need to write things down with a pencil and paper.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Being Healthy on a Budget

healthy-living

Eating healthy and living on a budget are two things that generally don’t go together. But that is why I’m here. IvyHealthHub has some advice on how to slim down on your waist while on a slim budget.

Welcome to the New Year!!! 2014 is your year!! So, I want to try and make it just a little bit easier for you; let’s try eating healthier on a budget.

Who doesn’t like to save a dollar here or there, but now you can do it in a healthy way! With the right adjustments it is possible to enjoy healthy food for cheap!  Here are some tips to help you on your way:

Plan your meals ahead of time

Take a couple minutes to sit down on the weekend and plan out your meals for the next seven to fourteen days. Also, be sure to write out your shopping list and stick to it. This way, when you are at the store you won’t stray from your list and will help keep you on budget.

Try to cook and buy in bulk

Cooking in bulk help keeps the week easy-flowing. You can either cook a meal early in the week or freeze the other half for another week. You also can separate leftovers from Monday night’s dinner to have for lunch Wednesday and Friday. In addition, you can use leftover proteins or broths for another meal. You can put left over protein over a salad, or in with a bag of frozen vegetables and make a nice higher- protein food to make a healthier stir-fry. However, you may need to be creative with your spices. You may be surprised how many foods with different flavors go well together. Read the rest of this entry »

caring-for-aging-parents

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

filing taxes

Hey everyone, tax season is right around the corner. Why not get that stress out of the way early? While this article is for readers in the US, the principles still apply for us up in Canada!

5 Reasons to File Your Taxes Early

If you like to file your taxes early and then chuckle at all the procrastinators who wait until April 15 nears, your day of reckoning is getting close. The earliest day the IRS will begin processing 2013 individual tax returns is Jan. 31, 2014, a date slightly later than usual due to the government shutdown last fall.

What are the advantages of filing early? Here’s a list of good arguments from tax preparers.

Get your money now. This is the most obvious reason a taxpayer might want to file as early as possible. But try not to fall into the trap of thinking you need the refund before the IRS can get it to you. Some tax preparation services offer refund anticipation loans, which have steep fees that eat into that refund.

You’ll also likely get your money in a shorter amount of time if you file earlier than the person who files a month or two after you, according to Elaine Phelan, a professor of accounting at Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y. Early filers may only have to wait for their refund for 21 days – the average time taxpayers have had to wait in recent years, and sometimes less, according to the Internal Revenue Service – whereas a later filer may have to wait longer, say, 31 days.

“If you work with a paid preparer, they are excited to jump into the new year and will enthusiastically get your taxes done quickly,” Phelan says. “If you are expecting refunds, the IRS processing centers are less busy and will process your claim faster, so you might even get that refund sooner.”

And, of course, if you file electronically versus putting your form in a mailbox, you should get your money even faster.

It may help with financial aid. “Taxpayers with college-age children need to get their tax information early to get the maximum amount of financial aid,” says Lawrence Pon, a tax specialist who owns an accounting firm, Pon & Associates, in San Francisco. He says there is a direct link between the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form and the IRS, so your tax information is sent directly to the financial aid form without you having to provide it yourself.

It may help if you and your ex-spouse are feuding. Hopefully you don’t fall into this category, and it’s better for each party if you can keep the IRS out of your marital strife, but Pon says that “sometimes divorced people do not agree on who claims the children as a dependent, even though there may be a court order and an agreement. Whoever files first will claim the child, and the other ex-spouse may be out of luck.”

You’ll lessen your odds of becoming a victim of identity theft. “The sooner you file your return, the less opportunity someone else has to file a return in your name,” says Joe Reynolds, identity fraud product manager at Travelers, headquartered in New York.

He points out that some criminals have been known to break into a home or car, steal identification and then file taxes in that person’s name, scoring a refund that doesn’t belong to them. The odds are slim that that will happen to you, of course, but it is another reason to file earlier rather than later.

Reynolds also advises getting your refund via direct deposit “so criminals can’t have it redirected to their address or steal it from your mailbox.”

There’s more time to catch potential mistakes. If you wade into your taxes now and discover there’s paperwork you need that you don’t have, or it’s simply going to be a more complicated tax year than you anticipated, you may not end up filing early, but now you have more time to spend on your taxes.

Not that there aren’t smart reasons to file close to or on April 15, of course. If you owe the IRS money, there’s really no financial advantage for you to give it to them any earlier than April 15.

Still, by preparing your taxes early, you’ll know earlier how much you owe and will have more time to drum up the money to pay.

If you have a really complicated tax form – in which case you probably have a tax consultant or accountant advising you every step of the way – “many filing issues are resolved as the [tax] season goes on for the IRS,” says Tim Gagnon, an assistant academic specialist of accounting at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University in Boston.

It’s possible that if you file too early, Gagnon says, you “may need to amend filing if the IRS changes forms, instructions or interpretations.”

Still, for most taxpayers who have refunds coming, filing early rather than later is the smarter decision. It is also psychologically better for many people, Pon says.

“Get the darn task out of the way” is the reason most of his clients opt for early filing, he says. He adds that it’s always “nice to get something checked off your to-do list early instead of letting it fester.”

Source: http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2014/01/02/5-reasons-to-file-your-taxes-early

house white picket fence

Houses are freaking expensive. Probably the most expensive thing you’re going to buy. And they can be a pain to pay for if the banks don’t like your credit. But Fox Business has a couple good tips to help you out.

How to Buy a House With Flawed Finances

The housing market is showing signs of recovery after the housing crash, but many of the homeowners who were foreclosed upon during that time or forced to short sell have found their credit and finances heavily damaged.

Some of those people may never want to own again, but for those who want to give it another shot, there are a few things to keep in mind this time around. The answer to whether you can buy a home with flawed finances is simple. Yes, you can buy a home. But there are some steps you can take to give yourself the best chance at keeping your home for the long run.

Build a Solid Emergency Fund

This is by no means a requirement for buying a house, but it’s one of the smartest things you can do before the homebuying process even starts. Potential homeowners should save up at least three months’ worth of expenses (including mortgage) in order to weather a job loss, family illness or other financial emergencies.

And there’s a reason it’s called an emergency fund: that money should not be touched unless there’s a true emergency. A lot of homeowners were living paycheck to paycheck during the last housing bubble, and when they lost their jobs, they soon also lost their houses since they couldn’t make the monthly payments.

Work on Your Credit

If you have a spotty credit history, then your best option might be to just wait it out. While you are waiting to buy another home, you should work on improving your credit score. There are plenty of things you can do to work on your credit right now.

  • Pay your balances in full every month. Lenders like to see a low utilization rate and debt-to-income ratio.
  • Don’t apply for any other lines of credit. Too many inquiries is a red flag for lenders, since they don’t want to lend money to people desperate for credit.
  • If you’re going to close cards, don’t close any of your oldest ones. Since average age of accounts is a large aspect of your score, you could hurt your score by closing longstanding accounts.

Talk to Your Lender

A lender will be able to give you the best idea of why you can’t get a loan. If you’re constantly getting denied, even after taking all these steps, you might want to check with another lender. Some lenders will still loan to people with low credit scores, but they will charge a higher interest rate in order to account for the risk.

One alternative to traditional financing is to see what your government has available. Many governments have cheaper down payments options but they come with some sort of monthly mortgage insurance payment.

Source: http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2014/01/16/how-to-buy-house-with-flawed-finances/

11082011_Marriage_Money_article

Now money mistakes happen. Have you committed one of the big three?

http://ca.finance.yahoo.com/video/top-3-money-mistakes-couples-212620429.html

Update: The embedded video kept breaking so I replaced it with a link.

Thanks to Yahoo Finance and their #MoneyMinute, even though its actually 3 minutes.

Source: http://ca.finance.yahoo.com/video/top-3-money-mistakes-couples-212620429.html

blog-ad-PP

Tomorrow is Friday. But not just any old regular Friday.  Its a Valentines Day Friday! So before you take your special someone out for dinner, Yahoo Finance has a few great tips on how to save yourself a few bucks!

How to Dine Out Without Breaking the Bank

Eating in restaurants can be expensive. It’s estimated that each American spends on average $2,620 a year eating out. Roughly 93% of consumers enjoy eating out and the restaurant industry holds 47% of the share of food dollar expenditures. Instead of spending thousands of dollars eating out at restaurants each year, try these tips that will not only allow you to dine out at restaurants, but will save you money as well.

1. Time of Day If you are looking to try out the newest restaurant in town, try going for lunch instead of dinner. Dining in off-peak hours can save you money while still allowing you to try fabulous new dishes. There are even apps for your mobile device, such as “Savored,” that advertise the discounts restaurants are offering during off-peak hours. Another time to look at going to restaurants is during happy hour. Not only do some restaurants offer buy-one-get-one-free deals on beverages, they also typically have specials on appetizers. Read the rest of this entry »

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