Financial Fitness is pleased to announce that Mike Bergeron has passed the first half of his AFCPE certification. Congratulations Mike. Mike has earned two of the three certifcations he needs to become a fully certified OACCS Credit Counsellor. Mike acheived his BIA certification in December, he holds a certificate for completing CTI coach training, and has completed his certification exam in counselling standards from the Association for Financial Counselling and Planning Education.(AFCPE). He is now on the final leg of his certification. 'Atta boy Mike!
This is a particularly challenging time of year for me. It’s cold outside and sunshine is as rare a commodity as a savings plan. The holidays are over, the bills are arriving and I just got my T4 slip which means I will have to file my income tax return soon. I feel like staying in my jammies, pulling a blanket around me as I curl up in my big comfy chair and not coming out ‘till spring.
A month ago I had all this energy and enthusiasm for a new year. I was all set to eat better, get more exercise and explore my spiritual side through meditation. Yup, I was gonna work on mind, body, spirit balance.
Most people would look at their progress so far and see a decided lack thereof, and throw in the towel. But not me, oh…no. Call me idealistic –it’s the Sagittarius in me- but I am not one to quit. Not at this stage of the game. It’s one of my motto’s, “never give up”.
I prefer to see my progress as just that, progress. On balance I ate healthier, exercised more and meditated some, which is more than I would have done if I had not bothered at all.
I just think that sometimes, I am so busy looking at what I haven’t accomplished, that I fail to realize what I have accomplished.
I’ve decided to stop beating myself up if I don’t do something perfectly. I am choosing to celebrate even the smallest of achievements and having made that choice, I now feel the motivation to set the bar a little higher for next month.
Of course February only has 28 days……
So, something truly exciting happened to me on Saturday morning… I had breakfast with the Premier of Ontario! I know I was completely shocked and frankly had a hard time believing it all day.
I had a conversation with a colleague a few days ago that gave me the inspiration for this post.
Like every other industry, the financial counselling and debt recovery industry is viewed by some as a lucrative market. It is also largely unregulated which means that anyone can hang up a shingle and call themselves a credit counsellor. With all the debt relief companies out there vying for business, it’s hard to know who to trust. It pays to be informed.
The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has a great website that provides objective advice to consumers about how to choose the right product and service for their needs. It’s a great place to visit to get unbiased information. The tip sheets are easy to read and understand and may help you sift through the confusion when deciding who to trust with your money issues. Check out the tip sheet on Dealing with Credit Counselling Agencies, especially the part on finding a reputable credit counselling agency.
Make your New Year's resolution work for you!
Financial Fitness is pleased to announce that Randa Roberts has passed the first half of her AFCPE certification. Congratulations Randa. Randa now has earned two of the three certifcations she needs to become a fully certified OACCS Credit Counsellor. Randa has acheived her BIA certification, she holds a certificate for completing CTI coach training, and has completed her certification exam in personal finance from the Association for Financial Counselling and Planning Education.(AFCPE). She is now on the final leg of her certification. Way to go Randa!
Let’s make 2011 “The Year of the Loonie”. Lot’s of ‘em!
Have you made finances your priority in 2011?
Tip#1 - Create a plan:
Tip # 2- Consolidate to a lower interest product:
Tip 3#: Pay off any high interest debt:
One is to make the minimum payments to all but the one with the smallest balance. Put as much money as you can toward the smallest debt. Once this is paid off, you can direct the money you have been paying to the smallest balance and direct it to the card with the next smallest balance. That way you have the early gratification of seeing your debts being paid off.
The second is to make the minimum payments to all but the card with the highest interest. Put all your extra money toward the card charging the highest interest rate. Once this debt has been paid off, direct what you have been paying to the card with the next highest interest rate. If the interest rates are the same on two or more cards, choose the card with the highest balance. While you do not get the immediate gratification of seeing your small debts paid first, this method ensures you pay the least amount of interest possible on your debt.
Tip #4 - Consult a professional:
Denied Credit? Let’s face it, if a financial institution whose purpose is to make money by lending you money, tells you they will not lend to you, LISTEN to them. Treat that as a warning flag that your finances are in poor shape. Don’t let your desperation drive you to make a decision that ultimately leaves you worse off than before. Consult with a professional counsellor who can outline the options available to you and help you make an informed decision.
Have you ever wondered about why we make New Year’s resolutions or where the tradition began? The date is so arbitrary, why on January 1st, why not on your birthday? Yeah, birthday resolutions would work. As we embrace the prospect of being another year older, we could use the maturity and wisdom we’ve gained over the past year to make changes in our life. Hmmm….that sounds suspiciously like “growing up”.
Perhaps we could invent another holiday, a National “Get Your Act Together” day. A day we could spend in contemplation of our lives so far, at the end of which, we could make resolutions to improve upon the areas we are unhappy about.
The problem with resolutions is that we don’t stick to them. Perhaps it’s because making a resolution is so contrived. We do it because – well, it’s the thing to do on January 1st. Maybe it’s because making a New Year’s resolution implies that there is something that needs fixing in our life; that somehow we have failed at life- or at least some aspect of it- in comparison with what we think we “should” be or do.
In coaching you learn that the word “should” is the work of your saboteur. I “should” do this or I “should” be more like that… as if you somehow aren’t good enough just the way you are.
Countdown to Christmas - less than one week
Countdown to Christmas
Wendy Dupuis and Pauline Laforet have achieved Certification as Educators in Personal Finance from the Institute of Financial Literacy and Education's Center for Financial CertificationsTM.
Certified Educators in Personal Finance are trained to effectively communicate with students to teach National Standards in Financial Literacy and Education.
Wendy and Pauline are accomplished instructors and have years of experience in personal finance instruction.
They have recently co-authored a series of educational modules based on the National Standards in Financial Education for Adults to be released in the New Year.
3 weeks remaining
December is most definitely one of those times of the year when you really realize just how challenging money planning actually is!!
For me, and I know I am not alone; the last three months of the year are the most costly. It seems that all I have done is dish out money! It started with preparing my 7 year old van for winter (a good habit to get into) and ends with covering all the Christmas- related costs and festivities that we all expect.
There were expenses I knew I would have to pay, like the oil change, the coolant and radiator flush and putting the snow tires on. Then there were the expenses I didn’t bank on like the snow tire that had to be replaced because it had a giant hole in it. Cha –Ching!
Not to mention, the regular household expenses that never ever go away!! In fact we are entering into the winter season where these costs are at the highest they will be all year!
And why is it that the time frames between billing periods seem to come so fast yet pay days DON’T ? Doesn’t make sense, or does it?
Without planning ahead and forecasting for these periodic expenses these situations can be downright STRESSFUL. Without a doubt! This is exactly what we teach.
So why is it such a challenge for me?
Well I pondered this question and have come up with an answer:
So, as I pay my December expenses…. expenses I have known are coming for the last eleven months - I will practice a refreshed attitude, one where I realize I have planned – and the reason I’ve planned is because of the reality of my financial life.
What is your reality?
Countdown to Christmas: 4 weeks to go.
Gifts: Begin shopping for gifts using your list. Be sure to stick to the limits you set for everyone and stay on track with your budget.
Communicate: If you are in a partnership, setting a budget and a spending limit goes a long way to soothing any worries your spouse or you may have about overspending. Be sure to keep updating each other regularly on the financials. Keeping secrets about spending can cause a lot of unnecessary stress and conflict around the holidays. Be open and stick to any agreements the two of you have made.
Groceries: It’s a good idea to spread the grocery shopping over a few weeks so you can avoid having a huge bill the week before Christmas. Begin by purchasing the non perishable goods you will need for baking and dinner parties.
Decorating: Start decorating the house inside and out. Go through your decorations from last year and see what will need to be updated or replaced. Make a list of what you will need to replace and be sure stay within your spending limits for décor. Have a swap meet with your friends & family for decorations.
Household chores: Relax. Don’t worry so much about having an über clean environment. Too many people stress themselves out by doing heavy housework this time of year. Don’t bother. Spot clean the heavily soiled areas and then just give the public rooms a good sprucing up. De-clutter by all means but don’t bother with cleaning carpets or walls. If you are hosting any kind of gathering where there are kids or food – food will get spilled, mud will be tracked in, greasy little fingerprints will abound. Your newly cleaned carpets, walls and furniture will need cleaning again after they leave. If you are not hosting a gathering, then who cares? Clean after the holidays, when you have more time. As for painting or other extreme measures: fuggetaboutit!
Baked goods: if you are into baking for the holidays begin now. Most cookies freeze beautifully, with no one the wiser. You can save tons of time by baking ahead.
Christmas Greetings and care packages: If you are one of the few who still send Christmas cards, it’s time to make your list, buy or make the cards and get them in the mail. The same is true for any care packages you want to send to family or friends far away.
Make time for friends and family: Check your community calendar for events that you can attend. Plan some non - shopping time with your family. If you still like a real tree, plan your family expedition to cut or choose your tree. Try outdoor skating at a local rink, or a walk along a trail, park or conservation area. Volunteer with your family at any one of the many charitable toy or food drives or food banks in the city. There are several light displays set up or just go on a tour of your neighbourhood to view all the Christmas lights. You want your kids to remember having fun together, not how stressed out and frazzled you were every holiday.
Delegate. Don’t be a martyr. Make a honey do list and delegate chores and tasks to those members of your family who can help out. Remember to relax your standards and expectations. People may not attach the same importance to getting things perfect as you do. Someone who is impossible to please is unlikely to get help.
When you feel overwhelmed make "thankfulness list".There are lots of things we can be thankful for. What are some things you are grateful for this season?
Our experts have put together a check list to help you organize your finances and devise strategies to help you stay on target with your Christmas budget. Studies show that being organized and planning ahead will help curb emotional shopping.
5 weeks before:
Calculate how much money you have available for holiday spending. (Ideally, you have been putting money aside through regular weekly transfers or perhaps a Canada Savings Bond.)
Make a list of those people you will buy gifts for. Using the amount you have set aside for gifts in your budget, determine how much you spend for each person on your list.
It’s begun; the Christmas machine, that juggernaut of retail insanity that overtakes a good portion of the population between the middle of November to December 26th.
As I was sitting in the car I thought about what I remembered from my Christmas holidays, I tried to think of any of the gifts I received as a child and could not even think of one! But two distinct memories and traditions stood out like beacons in my mind encompassing my values surrounding Christmas.
The first is of my father. Every Christmas morning my brother and I would race down the stairs to see what Santa left us, but before we opened any gifts we would sit down as a family and have breakfast together in the kitchen. My dad would make Peameal Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwiches, serve them on a huge plate and we would share… together. We enjoyed each others company and looked forward to the day. Continuing the tradition my parents now come to my house on Christmas morning and we have PLT sandwiches together.
The other is of my grandmother. She LOVED to bake. Every Christmas she would come over to my parents and we would sit for hours making cookies. She would bake, I would decorate. It became a tradition. When I was five she was diagnosed with breast cancer, It was so far gone there was nothing they could do. The last time I saw her, I was sitting on her hospital bed with my mother and we were talking about Christmas cookies. We laughed, we cried and she made us promise that every year we would make Christmas cookies together and share that time with her as a way of remembering her and the special bond we had.
My hope is that in keeping these traditions and making our holidays focus on each other as gifts, rather than things as gifts; my children are learning to value the ones they love, focus on family and to give of themselves to others, their time, their love and their heart.
5 years ago I got married, with our new found wedding money we promptly went out and bought a vacuum cleaner. It was a pretty good vacuum… until 3 months ago. It finally broke down to the point of no return. I have a cat, 2 children and wall to wall carpeting. It’s almost impossible for me to get away with no vacuum cleaner. My brother just recently got married and they went out and bought a new vacuum cleaner, a Dyson Ball. I love this vacuum, it can literally suck paint off the walls, and your carpets are a different colour after using it… I digress. They offered to give me their old vacuum, which was my mother’s old vacuum. This vacuum is the bane of my domestic existence. It’s a drag along canister that gets stuck on ALL of the corners in my house, one of the wheels is missing so it constantly turns to the left and it just looks old and beaten up. After using it the other day I screamed at my husband that “I hate this vacuum!! I NEED a Dyson!!!” We’ve been saving our money since the last one broke but we’re nowhere close to having enough to get this glorious appliance. My husband, frantically trying to calm me down suggested we put it on our Home Depot card. I thought “sounds good!” but I was going to give myself 24 hours to cool off before we got it. I figured there was no way I would be talked out of it and that we would go pick it up the next day.
Slowly as the evening went on, something happened, I was surprised but I finally started to realize this vacuum cleaner I wanted so badly was not a NEED but a WANT. I didn’t actually NEED a new vacuum cleaner, the old one works perfectly fine, I just don’t’ LIKE the old vacuum cleaner. I was difficult for me to justify putting it on credit for the sake of my temper tantrum. We will be able to afford the new vacuum in about 6 month, but the extra interest I would be charged would extend my payments to 9 months. Those 3 months of cost consequences were not enough value for me to buy now pay later. So the moral of the story, we are all 3 year olds at heart, we want what we want when we want it RIGHT NOW! Give yourself a time out before you buy.
Tis the Season... find the money lose the stress
‘Tis the season…find the money, lose the stress.Ever notice how the holiday season seems to get earlier and earlier every year? Driving in to work yesterday, I saw one of my neighbours has a fully decorated tree in his picture window.
10. Gift the most precious gift of all…. your time. While it costs nothing, it’s value is priceless.
I like plans. While I can be spontaneous, especially when it comes to spending, I am by nature a planner. Maybe it’s the control freak in me.
Car breaks down- got a plan for that, dog gets sick-got a plan for that. House needs TLC-got a plan for that. Vacation to Alaska-got a plan for that.
But sometimes, things don’t go as planned. (See my earlier post about my big expensive renovation).
I happened to bemoan the latest hiccup in my plans to one of my work colleagues here at the agency. My wise colleague offered some comforting advice. He observed that despite the best of plans, sometimes you just cannot tell what will happen.
Hmm… he’s right you know. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we just cannot plan well enough. Stuff happens. It’s not that I failed to plan or that I planned to fail. I just didn’t see it coming.
So what do you do when the unexpected happens?
First, accept that it’s happened. It sucks, but there’s nothing you can do but deal with it the best you can. Then, to use military terminology, withdraw, regroup and re-emerge with a new plan that addresses your new reality.
A plan puts me back in control of the situation. I like that.
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