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family budget

Maximize your Rewards this Hallowe’en

Uncategorized By October 24, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , , , No Comments

Maximize RewardsAhh.  October.  Just when you’ve eaten your fill of turkey, forked over a ton of cash for organic pumpkin pie ingredients and filled your house with harvest décor, you realize that Hallowe’en is only two weeks away.  Or maybe one.  (Your calendar is still covered in gravy splatter.)  The turkey coma is replaced by the end-of-October panic attack.  You create a list.  Lists are fun!  Until you realize that you have not one thing checked off yet.

–       Costumes for the kids
–       Candy for the door
–       Extra candy for when you run out at the door
–       Baking for the Hallowe’en party at school
–       Decorations to make your home the spookiest on the block
–       Rake, lawnmower, yard bags and Mums to tidy up the yard
–       A costume for yourself so you can look like a rockstar parent in front of all of the other parents who come to the door (they won’t know you haven’t cut the kids’ nails in a few weeks)
–       And along that line of thinking, cleaning supplies to make your front foyer sparkle  (The rest of the house doesn’t matter)

US Open Swing AnalysisAnd now I’m slightly stressed.  But I do like to multitask and thankfully, was approached to try out the American Express AIR MILES Reserve Credit Card.  I’ve held different Amex Cards for over 15 years and have used a ton of the American Express customer service extras and benefits (Front Of The Line for theatre tickets being one of my favourites) so I jumped at the chance.  The company has been great to deal with.  Over the years I have been phoned to check on irregular purchases, had cards replaced immediately when I’ve (ahem) lost them, and just last month, used the Amex Members lounge at the US Open to charge my phone and have my swing analyzed.  So I’m a huge fan.

Currently, there is a promotion that if you enroll and spend $50 or more on you Amex AIR MILES Card from October 24 – 31, 2013 you can earn 100 Bonus AIR MILES reward miles.

All of the purchases I would be making anyway from my Hallowe’en list will earn me reward miles, and quite certainly also Bonus reward miles.  (Because we all know about my family travel obsession.)  Any flight or hotel that doesn’t dwindle the bank account makes me smile again and again.  I know there are tons of travel reward cards out there as I’ve used many of them.   The American Express AIR MILES Reserve Credit Card p is quite different than most.

1. You can use your reward miles to cover taxes and fees on flight redemptions, and no blackout dates or zone limits means I can control my own travel decisions.
2.  There are choices in the Card I choose based on my needs (and which I think will look chic in my wallet.)  No need to stretch the budget or change existing spending habits (apologies to my poor husband).

I chose the new Reserve Card for myself and feel the $299 annual fee is well worth the benefits.

Amex AirMilesThe Reserve Card:

1.  I earn reward miles twice when shopping at participating AIR MILES Sponsors across Canada using my new Credit Card combined with my AIR MILES Collector Card.
2.  AIR MILES has introduced FlexFly Redemptions, meaning with this card I can access additional airlines and destinations, departure times and seats not within the AIR MILES Flight Program.
3. Complimentary companion ticket for a short-haul flight once annually
4. Access to an AIR MILES concierge service (loving the sound of that)
5.. Four passes to Priority Pass airport lounges worldwide every year.  If you’re wondering about the benefits of this while flying with kids, we did an article on it.  [link] Of course.
6. Emergency Medical Insurance (Out of province/country), $100,000 Travel Accident Insurance, Car Rental Theft and Damage insurance, Lost or Stolen Baggage Insurance, Flight Delay Insurance, Baggage Delay Insurance, Hotel/Motel Burglary Insurance.  Because I know all of you moms pay really close attention to insurance policies.  (This can eliminate the stress of not reading stuff unless it’s about fashion).

  • How you Earn reward miles:
    • Earn 1 reward mile for every $10 in Card purchases at AIR MILES Sponsors
    • Earn 1 reward mile for every $10 in Card purchases at other eligible grocery stores, gas stations, and drugstores in Canada
    • Earn 1 reward mile for every $15 in Card purchases everywhere else

The other Amex AIR MILES Card options:

The American Express AIR MILES Platinum Credit Card:

1.  $65 annual fee waived for the first year
2. Reward miles are earn at the same rate as with the Reserve Card
3.  Car Rental Theft and Damage Insurance and $100,000 Travel Accident Insurance 

The American Express AIR MILES Credit Card:

1.  No Annual Fee
2.  Earn 1 reward mile for every $15 in Card purchases at AIR MILES Sponsors and 1 reward mile for every $20 in purchases you charge to the Card everywhere else
3.  $100,000 Travel Accident Insurance

Is your stress dwindling too?  Or already dreaming of your dream destination?  Psst.  You can take the extra Hallowe’en candy with you.  Wink.

Disclosure:  This article was generally sponsored by Amex AIR MILES.  As always our opinions are our own.

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10 Secret RESP Budget Tips

FAM, LIVE, rest, self By September 25, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , No Comments

10 Secret RESP Budget TipsJuly marked my tenth wedding anniversary this year.  All of our family members wanted to send a gift.  Do you know what we picked?  RESP contributions to our sons’ education funds. Want to know a few more Secret RESP Budget Tips?

Saving is hard.  Especially with groceries costing a fortune, kids wanting to enroll in activities and the odd shoe sale that gets our heart racing and credit card exercised.  While we all earn different incomes, have varying levels of expenses and manage finances differently, UrbanMommies has a few money-saving tips that will help you save sheckles (my Grandmother called them that) for the RESPs.  Because if you don’t save, you’ll be stressed, the kids may not get to attend the school of choice, they may graduate with debt, and (drumroll please) you will miss out on FREE money from the Canadian Government.  Yes, free money.  (The Canada Education Savings Grant will match up to 20% on the first $2,500 contributed annually. That could mean up to $500 a year, up to a lifetime maximum of $7,200.)  i.e. You would feel like a putz if you skipped free money.

10 Secret RESP Budget Tips:

  1. Make it a game.  Develop a budget and see how far under you can come each month.  Split the leftover between a fun jar and an RESP jar.
  2. Once or twice a year, empty bags, purses and make a few forts with cusions in order to find spare change.  (And undoubtedly a few missing lipsticks too).  Have kids of any age separate the coins into piles – by colour, beaver, loon or Bluenose, and use the time as a math game.  Roll the coins and take them to the bank as a family.  Think: pigeon scene at the London bank in Mary Poppins.
  3. Do you have a talent?  Though I’m awful at piano, I can get my head around notes and theory.  I’m planning on committing a year to teaching the little ones piano myself instead of paying for costly lessons.  Maybe a grandparent has karate or swimming skills…
  4. If your kids are young and you receive the $100 per month, funnel all government allowances into their RESP.
  5. I worked for a man in finance once who was on a company benefit plan.  He paid for prescriptions and dentist bills and when he was reimbursed by the insurance company, funnelled all checks into the kids’ RESP funds.  Sneaky.
  6. Coupons.  And not your Mom’s spend-6-hours-clipping coupons.  Buy grocery items on sale and stock up on what you can safely store.  Check resources like the P+G Brandsaver and Cardswap in order to save on what you really need.
  7. Try to clean your house once per month using inexpensive vinegar and baking soda instead of costly brand-name products.  It’s safer for kids too.
  8. We’re the beneficiaries of several cords of wood.  This winter we’re going to try and turn down the heat in favour of real fireplace warmth.  It cleans out the yard, and at the end of the winter we’ll put the difference between what we spent on fuel this year to last into the kids’ RESP.
  9. Craigslist, ebay and Kijiji.  If you have a hankering for an air popper, travel stroller, bedframe or stand mixer, check these sites first.  And then sell the stuff you don’t need.  (We got most of our baby equipment on Craigslist and I sold it after 7 years of kids.  It cost us almost nothing).
  10. The next time you’re in a bad mood, call your cable provider, cell phone company, credit cards, insurance people, etc. and threaten to leave unless they reduce your fees.  You will be surprised.  And even if you don’t save money you’ve probably gotten rid of the bad mood and improved your negotiation skills.
UrbanMommies also interviewed Sandra Hanna, founder of Smart Cookies, who shared other cool ideas.

In terms of the scary world of finance and RESP stuff, get advice.  (RBC who sponsored this post is a great option). It’s easy to start. No need to be overwhelmed. You have the flexibility to use the RESP for university, college, apprenticeship, non-credit courses etc., and if your child doesn’t use the funds, you can use your contributions and earnings to fund your RRSP!

You can find more great tips on saving for your child’s education here:

Rbc.com/education

www.rbcroyalbank.com/resp

www.rbcroyalbank.com/resp/resp-matic

Disclosure: I am part of the RBC RESP blogger program with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

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Cloth versus disposible diaper cost comparison

Cloth Versus Disposable Diaper Cost Comparison

baby, FAM By October 18, 2011 Tags: , , , , , , 11 Comments

Many people say that the diapers you begin with are the diapers you will use until toilet training.  We would have to concur.  Our hospital made us use cloth from day one (it’s easier to see signs of urination and make sure baby is getting enough to eat).  We could have done without the diaper pins (ouch!!), but now that we have cloth diapers with snaps and velcro, we feel pretty confident.  How many people do you know bought cloth and then returned them after using disposables at the hospital? Here is a Cloth and Disposable Diaper Cost Comparison sheet.

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Family Budgeting Basics

Family Budgeting Basics

grow, LIVE By December 12, 2009 Tags: , , , , 5 Comments

Adding a baby is expensive, and doing so while going through emotional and physical change can be even harder.  The stress that comes with managing your family finances shouldn’t take away from your memories and bliss.  We’re not going to preach about the percentage you should spend on housing or food, just give you a few ideas on how to be fiscally smart and learn some family budgeting basics.

1.  Take advantage of Canada’s Benefits. The Canada Child Tax Benefit is based on your family income, and all may apply. Whether you qualify for this or not, the Universal Child Care Benefit, which totals $100 per month, (per child under six) is available to everyone. It is a taxable benefit, but still more than worth the quick application.  If you are having a baby in BC, the hospital will provide you with forms upon discharge.

Canada Child Tax Benefit
Universal Child Care Benefit

2.  Set up an RESP if you can. Even if you can afford to only deposit their cash birthday and Christmas presents, it will have 18 years to grow, and especially in today’s market climate, by then surely the stock market will be on the upswing…  Go into your bank, set up an appointment with a banker, and choose the best options together.  The RESP is much more flexible than it used to be, so even if little Aidan chooses a community college over Queen’s University, your money isn’t lost.

3. List what is important to your lifestyle. Is missing date night going to kill your spirit and make you a grumpy parent?  Why not cut out the coffee shop and choose a more frugal date option to cover the cost of the sitter?

4.  Figure out your unnecessary spending.  Could you take a lunch to work?  Do your kids really need all of those paid activities?  Could you replace one dinner a week with a simple sandwich night?

5. Credit cards. Yikes.  If you pay a fee, is it worth it?  Do you know what benefits you get from your card and actively use them (or are you one of the people at the car rental counter who still gets the optional insurance because you’re just not sure…)?  Just like the gift cards that stores count on people losing, credit card companies know that most consumers won’t take advantage of the purchase protection on that new TV or the double warranty on your precious espresso machine.

6. Know your health benefits. If massage is covered, maybe that is just as good as treating yourself to a pedicure.  When traveling, many families will buy extra insurance although the company already covers it.

7.  Demand excellence.  If your sippy cup’s valve doesn’t work, or the zipper on your baby’s jacket gets stuck, let the company responsible know.  You are helping future consumers, and you may get a replacement.

8.  Reconsider your relationship to charity. Others always need us.  Instead of cutting your charities out of your life as the budget shrinks, why not donate your time?  You and your kids may just receive the reality check you’ve been waiting for.

9.  Shop smarter. We’re not exactly coupon clippers – who can find them in a full diaper bag? – but shopping at a well-priced store, and buying sales items while there can save you a bundle, plus help to create some variety in your diet.

10.   Pay your bills on time. OK.  Another one we’re not great on, but many companies offer debit directly out of your bank account or payment to your credit card.  Just make sure all of your payments come out or are due around the same day so you can stay organized.

11.  Think community. Finding a dentist, doctor and hairdresser in your neighbourhood could not only save time and stress, but also gas and greenhouse emissions.

12.  Think big. Don’t blow a gasket about the small stuff.  Paying too much for grapes or being a day late on the bills is nothing compared to not doing good research on buying a car, a house, or a new computer.  Investigate your options, and in today’s economy, a little negotiation could go far.  Getting a slightly better mortgage rate can save you thousands.

For great ways to save on spending, check out our Sample Sales.
Nanny Salaries: Salaries for Live-in Caregivers.

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Moonjar

GEAR, toys By November 12, 2009 Tags: , , , , No Comments

MoonjarSpend.  Save.  Share.  Wouldn’t it have been nice if all of the world’s fighters had been given a Moonjar when they were little?  A special piggybank, the Moonjar helps to teach children financial concepts, and encourages them to learn how to handle money.  We need to save.  We need to support charity, and spending a bit is never a bad thing either.  The three pieces of the Moonjar fit together, and it cannot be a unit without the other pieces.  Pretty clever.  I bet the kids who grew up with these are never late on their Visa payments.  www.moonjar.ca

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