Thursday, 22 November 2018

How to save money on Black Friday

The rush to get all your holiday shopping done is underway.
The kick-off to the biggest shopping event of the year is Black Friday. Years ago it was something we only experienced on the news. But now Black Friday sales are happening all over Canada too. Giving Canadians the opportunities to save money during this shopping extravaganza. So how can we navigate this opportunity to save money?

Shop at the big box stores.
Hit the department and big name stores first. They have the ability to offer the deepest discount. In many cases, you can return the item later, if you find a better deal.

Sign up for subscriptions

Subscriptions boxes for things like weekly grocery delivery or clothing are all on sale. If you have been thinking about getting these everyday items delivered to your door, check to see if the company you want to buy from is offering a one day sale. Also, this is a good time to renew your gym membership or negotiate your cable bill.

Hold off on Christmas décor
When it comes to buying a Christmas tree, this isn’t the time.
A report from the mobile payment company Square Up says the cheapest time to get a real tree is a week before Christmas.
At that time the average cost of a real tree is $34.
Go a step further and wait until December 23red when holiday décor is on the deepest discount.

Week-long event
Black Friday is not just one day, it’s a weeklong event. There is also cyber Monday where shoppers can take advantage of deals online. Don’t feel the urge to buy it all in one day.

Keep on track

Finally, make a budget, write up an exhaustive list of things you need. Not just presents for your family and friends, but food and drink for holiday parties, tickets for train and air travel. See if you can get any of those items cheaper during the next few days. Most importantly, stick to your plan to avoid those big credit card bills after the holidays and remember, it's not a deal unless you need it.

Monday, 12 November 2018

Dealing With Debt: The Avalanche vs Debt Snowball

Face it, when it comes to debt, no matter how big or small, it can be a major source of anxiety for Canadians. Paying debt off is a priority for most people but many worry how they will do it. According to the most recent MNP Consumer Debt Index, Canadians are increasingly worried about their ability to repay their debts. With interest rates rising many are finding themselves struggling financially. The MNP Consumer Debt Index finds, one-third of Canadians now say they are unable to cover their monthly bills and debt repayments. Even more concerning, 48 per cent say they are $200 or less from not being able to meet their monthly financial obligations.

If the debt is starting to feel unmanageable there are a few ways to tackle it to get it paid down as quickly as possible. One is called the debt snowball the other is the avalanche method. Both are highly effective if done right. But both have their own pros and cons.

The Debt Snowball

How it works?
The debt snowball works by paying the smallest loan off first and working up to the bigger loans. For example, if a person owns $100 on one credit card and $1000 on the other, they would pay the $100 first and make only minimum payments on their other debt. The idea is the momentum built from paying the smaller debt off quickly will carry us through to the ultimate goal of being debt free.

The snowball method was popularized by personal finance educator David Ramsay. On his website he gives these tips to get started:

Step 1: List your debts from smallest to largest.
Step 2: Make minimum payments on all your debts except the smallest.
Step 3: Pay as much as possible on your smallest debt.
Step 4: Repeat until each debt is paid in full.

According to an analysis done in the Journal of Consumer Research and published in the Harvard Business Review, the snowball method is more effective, because these small wins are a bigger motivator than just paying debt down from most expensive.

Who’s it for?
This debt reduction strategy is great for anyone who gets motivated when they see things getting done rapidly. For example, for someone that always makes a to-do list and feels accomplished when they cross everything off it by the end of the day, the debt snowball may work for them. It taps into the same emotion we feel finishing that to-do list. By crossing small loans off the list easily we continue to be motivated to pay all the debt down.

The major drawback in the debt snowball strategy is you end up making more interest payments than needed. But, according to Ramsay, the debt snowball works because it is about behaviour modification, not math. The debt snowball keeps you motivated to stay on task, because you see progress. There are other debt reduction strategies that will get you debt free sooner with the same amount of money. That’s because the overall interest payments are less.

The Avalanche Method

How it works?
The classic advice when paying debt down has been to start with the highest interest debt and work your way down while making minimum payments on all your other debt obligations. This is often referred to as the avalanche method, you tackle it all together and with veracity. How this method works is by listing debt from most expensive (highest interest rate) to the least expensive (lowest interest rate.) In most cases, this means credit card debt is paid first, then followed by a line of credit and then a mortgage. In some cases, there may be overdue utility bills that are costing the most. In that case, pay those first.

ProsThis is where the avalanche method is better because debt is coming down fast by tackling what costs the most, rather than how it makes us feel. The added benefits is, in most cases, your smallest debt is usually the most expensive, like credit card debt, and the largest debt is usually the cheapest, like a mortgage. So in many cases, it ends up that employing the avalanche method means reaping the benefits of the debt snowball too.

It can take longer to see results. Even though it’s costing less, it can seem like the same number of bills need to be paid, albeit with smaller balances. To stay on top of this, recommends getting organised with a spreadsheet that tracks all the debt, how much interest is being paid and what payments have already been made. This might help keep the momentum going as that one big number comes down quickly.

Keep in mind
Debt repayment for many is overwhelming and getting started can seem impossible. Pick a payment plan that works with you and your personality. When it comes to paying down debt the key is to be consistent and keep up the payments. Most importantly, do not wrack up any more new debt on the side while getting the old debt paid off.

Your money: Are you in control? Come meet me at the Ottawa Public Library to find out more

We are all a work in progress when it comes to our personal finances. 

Every one of us has the ability to save more, spend less, invest better, and make more money. So what are we doing about it? Personal finance journalist Rubina Ahmed-Haq will explain major roadblocks to saving money along with steps you can take today, no matter your financial situation, to be better with your money.

Rubina's website is Rubina is a business and finance columnist who has been covering money matters for more than 10 years. She weighs in on money and workplace matters on CBC Radio, CBC TV and CBC News Network as well as Global News. Her goal is to get Canadians to take control of their personal finances on their own.
Join Rubina during Financial Literacy Month. 

  • Doors open at 5:30 pm. 
  • Programs starts at 6:00 pm. 
  • Light refreshments will be served. 
  • Hosted by Ottawa Public Library at Bayview Yards.

Access: Buses stopping on the Transitway at Bayview or, closer, at Tom Brown Arena, are a short walk away. There is free parking in the evening in the gravelled parking lots on Bayview Road.

Get your FREE tickets here

Thursday, 8 November 2018

AG Sessions firing a warning for speculative investors

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions is out of a job after President Donald Trump reportedly forced his resignation after mid-term elections ended in the U.S.

The firing of Sessions comes as no surprise, as Trump had made it clear that he was not happy with how Sessions had handled his response to the Russia investigation. #Trump accused him of protecting the investigation that is looking to see if the President himself obstructed justice.

The President was also upset with Sessions with not taking a tougher approach to illegal immigrants.

In an undated letter to the president released after,  Sessions wrote:

"At your request, I am submitting my resignation."

He added.

"Since the day I was honored to be sworn in as Attorney General of the United States, I came to work at the Department of Justice every day determined to do my duty and serve my country," 

Sessions went on.  

"I have done so to the best of my ability, working to support the fundamental legal processes that are the foundation of justice."

President Trump was quick to announce Sessions departure on Twitter and his temporary replacement.

Trump adds. 

This move came as no surprise, but the reaction in the markets was.

Pot stocks immediate rallied after it was announced that Session was resigning. In particular, Tilray was up a whopping 30 per cent while Canopy Growth and Aurora Cannabis rose 8.1 per cent and 9 per cent respectively. Cronos Group added 8.4 per cent.

But today those same stocks closed lower as the excitement of the news wore off. Tilray, in particular, closed down almost 15 per cent.

Sessions was seen as regressive on pot policy.  In his short time as AG, he rolled back Obama era rules that would protect those using pot in states where it was legal. He also once said, "Good people don't smoke marijuana."

The news of session leaving is a lesson to all those invested in sensitive to breaking sectors like cannabis and marijuana. Where despite recreational use being legal in Canada there are still many unknowns as to how it will be received around the world.

Interested investors are already asking the obvious question.

Thursday, 18 October 2018


On November 4th and 5th I will have the great honour of emceeing the 2018 Canadian Personal Finance Conference. The conference is in its sixth year and will be presented for the first time at the gorgeous Design Exchange in downtown Toronto.

CPFC18 is a two-day conference aimed at personal finance bloggers, journalists, and anyone with a passion for learning more about finance. The theme for this year is, how we can all start pushing personal finance boundaries and rethinking our approach to money.

This is my third time attending the conference. Once as an attendee in the audience, then as a speaker on a panel about women and personal finance and this time as the emcee. To return to CPFC 2018 in this role is an honour. As a personal finance journalist and expert, this conference has become a must-attend each year.
As always the conference has an impressive lineup of speakers including:

Whether you’re an industry professional, blogger or even just looking to soak in financial insights and gain inspiration, CPFC 2018 has something for you.

Hope to see you soon!

Monday, 15 October 2018


When we think financial restart, it’s usually at the beginning of the year. Who can blame you, after the expensive holiday season it’s a natural New Year’s resolution ---to save more money. But the fact is summer is a more expensive time of year. The two-month long event is filled with expensive vacations and family BBQs.  All this fun can make a big dent in your financial progress. That’s why the Fall--- not Winter--- is the best time to do a financial check-up.

How much are we spending?
In its latest survey of summer spending, BMO said Canadians planned to spend an average of $5,605 during the summer.  As well a survey conducted by another bank -CIBC - revealed half of those surveyed will need to dip into their savings or use their credit cards to make the most of the warm summer months. As well, 40 per cent say they spend more money in summer than during any other season. No matter how you look at it the bills pile up more in the summer than any other time of year and that is why a financial checkup is so important in the Fall.

How to get started on your Fall Financial check up
The first step is tally up how much your summer fun costs you, then figure out how much of that is debt. This includes a line of credit loan, charges on your credit card or even a loan from a friend.  

It’s good to have have a clear picture of your personal finances.

Next list your debts in order of interest you are paying. Start with the most expensive and work your way down. Any debt held on a credit card and store cards will be first and lower on the list will be your line of credit debt or a loan from a friend.
Finally, check if there are any bills you forgot to pay. This could be a utility bill or mortgage payment. Anything that slipped your mind during the summer months.

Lay out a plan
Start your plan by finding out what your minimum payments are on each debt you owe. Now can you pay more than that? If you can put those extra payments towards your highest interest loans start there. 

Next, see what bills you can hold off on paying until October. This may seem like a bad move, but by paying a small late fee, you could free up enough cash to pay off your most expensive loans. This could result in more money to make payments on your other bills in October. Be sure to contact the companies you’re planning to make a late payment too to make sure it won’t affect your credit score.

Finally, this is a good time to check in on how much RRSP contributions you have done. Are you on track to save what you wanted for 2018. Also once your bills are paid start putting some money away for the Christmas holidays. Even $50 a week will add up to $450 in 9 weeks. Fall is the best time for a financial checkup. 

The best part is in January when everyone is scrambling to get their personal finances in order, you will be feeling completely in control of your money.