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5 tips for financial success in 2020

If you, like many Canadians, have a New Year’s resolution related to improving your personal finances, you’re in luck.

The beginning of the year (and decade!) is the perfect opportunity to get yourself set up for long-term financial success, and we’ve got some easy tips to help you do it.

1. Wanna move forward? You gotta look back.

Having goals keeps you motivated and gives you something specific to work towards throughout the year. But before you set those goals, take a look back on 2019. 

Figure out where you currently stand financially: 

  • How much do you currently have saved? 
  • Are you still carrying any debt? 
  • How much do you owe?
  • How much income do you have coming in?
  • How much money did you spend every month?
  • What did you spend it on?

Having this information will help you develop your game plan and will put you on track for major 2020 success.

PROTIP: Set goals that are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Framed.Wanna move forward? You gotta look back.Want control of your spending? Create a budget. 

2. Want control of your spending? Create a budget.

We know, we know. Creating a budget doesn’t sound like much fun, but when it comes to money, ignorance isn’t bliss. 

The good news is that a budget is just a plan for your money and can be as simple or as complicated as you want. Check out this article for a quick 3-step budget. 

Of course, telling your money where to go is one thing. It’s also important to keep an eye on where it actually goes. Regularly tracking your spending will show you your financial habits, areas where you can cut back, and will help you stay on budget.

PROTIP: Download an app like Mint, YNAB, or Wally to do the work for you.

3. Don’t wanna miss a thing? Set calendar reminders. 

Time to get organized. Make sure you don’t miss important financial dates by putting them into your calendar now. 

This includes major dates like tax deadlines (April 30, 2020), RRSP contribution cutoffs (March 2, 2020) and car registration renewals. But don’t forget to put in when your car insurance is set to renew, or when service contracts (like phone or internet), subscriptions and memberships end. Knowing when things are coming up gives you time to research and shop around if necessary. 

PROTIP: Don’t forget to set reminders for any credit card payments to ensure you don’t negatively affect your credit score.

4. Want an easy win? Start small. 

At Moka, we’re big believers that the little things really add up. So if the other tips seem a bit overwhelming, don’t worry. Just find one small thing you can do now that’ll have a positive impact on your finances.

Maybe it’s cancelling that online subscription you never use, or downloading a personal finance podcast, or even just installing a handy money saving extension or app like Honey.

You might even find that this gives you the motivation you need to tackle the bigger tasks!

PROTIP: Check out this list of the best money-saving apps and websites in Canada.

5. Want an easy, stress-free solution? Automate everything.

You can create automatic payments for everything these days, from your rent or mortgage payments to credit card and debt repayments. If you’d rather not worry about finances for the rest of the year, just set it and forget it.

You can also automatically pay yourself first by setting up a recurring deposit from your main account into a savings or investment account on the day you get paid.

PROTIP: Want to reach your financial goals even faster? In addition to automatic weekly deposits, you can also automatically round up your purchases and invest the spare change with Moka.

Achieving your financial goals isn’t always easy, but by following these five tips, you’ll be starting the year off in the best position possible.

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How to save money when you’re single

These days, more and more Canadians are falling in love with the idea of flying solo. And why not?

Despite what rom-coms would have you believe, there are a lot of benefits to being single. The independence. The extra time. The freedom! Want pizza for dinner? Go for it. Want to binge watch the new season of Queer Eye on Netflix? You do you. Want to hog an entire queen-size bed? You’re in luck. 

When it comes to finances though, going it alone can seem a little scary. Single life also means single income—there’s no one to share the financial burden. Sure, you get the entire bed, but you also get the entire utility bill. And not to mention, dating is expensive. According to the 2018 Cost of Love study from RateSupermarket.ca, a year of dating can cost over $12,000. 

But being single doesn’t have to suck financially. Here are five tips to help you save money while living your best single life.

Find your “Friends with Financial Benefits”

One of the perks of being in a relationship is always having someone to split things with. Rent, groceries, vacation costs, even the Uber home—it all gets halved. Good news: You don’t need a significant other to significantly reduce your expenses.

The biggest thing that would help is, of course, getting a roommate. Or roommates. You can also split more than just the rent and utilities. Consider taking a communal approach to things like basic groceries (particularly perishable items), cleaning supplies, toilet paper, and even entertainment subscriptions. Splitting responsibilities can have financial benefits as well, since having help with tasks reduces the likelihood of you simply outsourcing them. That cleaning service won’t seem quite as necessary with a few pairs of hands pitching in. 

Don’t forget to think outside the house! There’s no reason you can’t bulk-buy groceries with a friend with a similar diet. Know someone with the same fashion sense and clothing size? Share or swap clothing to double your closet. Found a great two-for-one Groupon restaurant voucher? Invite a friend. Or just need someone to help you stay on track financially? You guessed it. Find a friend. 

Learn to love your budget

You’re young, single, free… and probably spending a lot of money. 

As previously mentioned, dating is expensive. You also tend to spend more money on social activities when you’re single, like meeting up with friends for dinner, grabbing drinks, or catching a movie on the weekend. And while you’re probably having the time of your life, these things don’t come cheap. 

Don’t worry, we’re definitely not suggesting you stop having fun! You do you, remember? But moderation is key, and a budget will help you keep an eye on your spending and know when to rein it in. Need help setting up a budget? Here’s a great monthly expenses template, or make use of an app like Mint.

Pick up a side hustle

Being single means lots of free time. Luckily, time is money. Take advantage of the lack of weekend obligations, and the fact that there isn’t anyone waiting impatiently at home, to earn a little extra income. Join the freelance community on Fiverr, offer up your services through Handy, sell your creations on Etsy, or put your car to good use with Uber.

Say hello to an emergency fund

Research shows that only about a quarter of Canadians have an emergency fund. But the unfortunate reality is that sooner or later, we all face financial hardships and emergencies. Not having a partner to help shoulder the burden can make things even more difficult, and increases the chances of you having to take out a loan or use your credit card. 

So why not make sure you’re ready for anything by setting up an emergency fund? Here’s something to help you get started. Tip: You can also automate the process by putting a little aside each week with Moka. Soon enough, you won’t just be independent, but financially independent as well. 

Embrace your independence 

Let’s talk a little more about this ‘independence’ thing. It’s got to be one of the best things, if not the best thing, about being a single adult.

When you’re on your own, you only need to worry about your own preferences and priorities. And you’re in total control of all your own money. Spend it, save it, or even give it away. It’s entirely up to you.

Which is why your single years are the best time to be working towards any financial goals. Every Mylo user creates a financial goal to invest spare change towards, but if you’re ready to save even more, we suggest paying yourself first by automatically putting away 10 to 20% of your income (you can set this up as a weekly deposit in your Mylo account).

Because as we’ve already established, when you’re single, the most important person is you!

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7 ways to save money on car insurance

Buying a car?  You’ll also need to purchase car insurance. Third-party liability insurance is legally required across Canada, and each province and territory has specific auto insurance requirements you should know. While car insurance isn’t optional, it doesn’t have to break the bank. 

Here are some easy ways to save money while securing the coverage you need.

Drive safely

Keeping a clean driving record is one of the smartest things you can do to save money on car insurance. Safe driving saves everyone. When you apply for insurance, your broker will ask about your experience as a driver, including your ticket history for the last three years and your claims history for the last six years. They’ll also want to know about the other people in your household, even if you say they are never ever going to drive your car. That’s why it pays to drive safely and encourage safe driving habits among the people you love, too.

Compare models

If you’re planning to buy a new ride, get insurance quotes while you’re car shopping. The car you buy will have an impact on your insurance premium; some cars cost more to insure. If you are deciding between a few options, you may want to take the price of insurance into consideration. While the model matters, the colour doesn’t. Your insurance provider won’t ask for the colour of your car, so despite the rumours, red isn’t risky.

Talk to the dealership

Ask what protection the car dealership can offer you. Some dealership packages include roadside assistance coverage or a depreciation waiver, which waives the price of repairing or replacing your vehicle due to standard wear and tear. Just be sure to carefully review the dealership package to make sure you understand what coverages you’re receiving. This way, you can avoid paying for the same coverage when you speak with a licensed insurance provider. 

Get multiple quotes

Each insurance company uses different calculations and factors to determine how much insurance will cost. One company may be able to offer you a lower price than all the others, so it’s always a good idea to compare prices by getting multiple quotes.  (Sorry, there’s no price matching!) 

When you speak with the insurance companies, you should also ask if you are eligible for any discounts. In Ontario, for example, drivers who have and use winter tires can save on insurance. It’s always worth checking to see if you could be saving more.

What will the insurance provider ask? 

Before you call an insurance company, be sure to have all the necessary information on hand, including: your name (it should match the name on the car registration and on your driver’s licence), address, and vehicle details (year, make, model and VIN). You’ll also need to provide your driver’s license number so reports can be pulled to confirm your driving history. You’ll be asked about your daily commute,  annual driving distance, and what you use the car for (your coverage will be different if you’re using the car for ridesharing). The exact details requested differ by province. Your credit score, for example, can be taken into consideration in some provinces but not in others.

Bundle your insurance

Bundling all your insurance policies with one company can help you save money. If you already have home or tenant insurance, ask your broker about adding car insurance to your policy. If you’re buying a second vehicle, insuring it with the same provider may give you a price break. If you live with family, you might be able to save by sharing the same policy. It’s also worth speaking with your employer to see if they offer group discounts on auto insurance.

Increase your deductible 

One way to save money from the get-go is to carry a higher deductible. A deductible is the amount that you will pay out in the event of a claim. If you increase your deductible, you’ll pay less month to month, but you may have to pay out more in the case of an accident or other unforeseen event. In some car leasing or financing agreements there is a limit to the deductible amount you can carry. In general, we don’t recommend increasing your deductible to lower your premium unless you are comfortable covering the potential cost.

Spend now to save later

Sometimes spending more now can save you more down the road. Most provinces require liability coverage for a minimum of $200,000, but you should consider purchasing insurance for a larger amount. If you are in an accident and sued for more money, you could be responsible for paying the difference out of your pocket.  

Purchasing a bare-bones policy may end up costing you. Accident forgiveness and ticket forgiveness are two optional coverages you may want to consider. With accident forgiveness, your first accident won’t impact your insurance premium. Ticket forgiveness, which isn’t available in every province, will also protect your premium if you receive a ticket. Sonnet Insurance, for example, offers both accident forgiveness and ticket forgiveness if you qualify.

If you rely on your car for work, you may want additional optional coverage. With transportation replacement or loss of use coverage, your insurer will provide you with a rental vehicle or pay for your transportation in the event of an at fault accident.

Ultimately, paying a few extra dollars a month for more extensive coverage may give you peace of mind. While some car insurance is mandatory, the kind of policy you purchase should also reflect your needs. If you have any questions about car insurance, reach out to a licensed insurance provider today. 

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The 5 smartest things you can do with your tax refund

Many of us are scrambling to get our paperwork in order to claim our tax refund as the April 30th tax filing deadline quickly approaches. The good news: The stress and anxiety of tax season is almost over.

More than two-thirds of Canadians will receive a refund of an average of $1,600 (*Cha-ching*) from the government. A number of different factors will determine the exact value of your reimbursement but thanks to free income tax calculator tools, like SimpleTax or TurboTax, you probably already have a good idea of what your tax refund will look like. Whether it’s a couple hundred dollars or in the 4-digit range, the question now becomes, “What do I do with my tax refund”?

Here are the top 5 ways to make the most of your tax refund.

Resist the urge to splurge.

Don’t fall into the trap of treating your tax refund like a winning lottery ticket. Go ahead and treat yourself to a little something like a nice meal out but some itches you should avoid scratching. As finance expert Suze Orman puts it, “Just because you can afford it doesn’t mean you should buy it.” A survey by Finder Canada found that 63% of Canadians make impulsive spending decisions on a yearly basis. A lack of careful decision making can result in buyer’s remorse so when tempted by an item with a hefty price tag, sit on it for a bit to avoid a guilty conscious. After all, your tax refund isn’t going anywhere.

Pay off your debt and pay-back your loans.

The average Canadian has nearly $30,000 in non-mortgage debt. This includes an average credit card balance of over $4,000. Many of us get by paying the minimum monthly payments, but since the average credit card interest rate hovers at 19%, it’s always better to pay sooner than later to avoid the high interest rates stacking up. Not only does debt put a dent in your wallet, debt can also have enormous emotional and psychological burdens. If you have debt, look at what you owe and pay back as much as you can. Prioritize ‘bad debt’ that incurs the highest rate of interest. By using your tax refund to pay off debt as quickly as possible, you’ll be one step closer to becoming debt-free.

Stash your cash in an emergency fund.

It’s easy to overlook the importance of an emergency fund when your finances are going well. With cash in the bank, it’s only natural to remain positive, which is perhaps why only 26% of Canadians have an emergency fund in place, with over a third of millenials having no emergency stash at all to offset unexpected financial difficulties. But the truth is you never know what the future holds. By putting some or all of your tax refund towards an emergency fund, you can be ready to tackle financial emergencies without going into debt.

Hack your life by investing in yourself.

Growing your knowledge and skills may give you a boost in self-confidence, but it can also provide great returns. You’re not only going to become more self-sufficient, but employers will find you more valuable, which means you can confidently negotiate a higher entry salary or ask for a raise. There are many affordable online courses you can take right now to expand your skill set. Not sure what skills will provide the best return on your investment in yourself? Check out this list of in-demand skills.

Save and invest towards a financial goal.

Whether you’re striving to meet a short-term financial goal like buying a new couch or a long-term one like buying a house, chances are that achieving your financial goals equates to saving money. Instead of placing the money from your tax refund under your mattress, start building towards your goals by saving your money into an investment account. By putting your money to work for you in a diversified investment portfolio that aligns with you financial profile, goals and risk tolerance, you’ll benefit from the forces of time and compound interest, and will likely reach your goal faster. Plus, you can reap the tax benefits of a TFSA or RRSP, depending on the type of goal you’re saving towards.

Pay it forward.

Donating to charity is not just a noble cause. It can also affect your bottom line. When you donate to one of Canada’s 86,000 registered charities, you can claim charitable tax credits or deductions with your official donation receipt. So why not do some good with your money from your tax refund, and in the process receive a little kickback from the government?

It can be difficult to decide what to do with your tax refund. When your instincts may be telling you “go spend!”,  reconsider what might be the best option for you given your financial situation and the financials goals you’re aiming for. Want to figure out what’s right for you? Drop us a message in our chat. We’re happy to help!

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Why alternative transportation is good for you, your pocket, and the planet.

Moving around is a big part of life. Choosing wisely about how you go from A to B can not only save you thousands of dollars per year but also make you and the planet healthier.

In Canada, the average cost of owning a car – depending on your province and your driving habits – is about $9,000 per year or around 20% of after-tax income for the average Canadian. (Use this calculator to see for yourself). Car ownership costs include value depreciation, insurance, registration, parking, maintenance, and fuel. If you’re trying to find ways to keep more of your hard-earned cash, then you may want to consider some of these alternatives to owning a car.

Get on the Bus, Gus.

Using Toronto as a baseline example, which is the most expensive monthly transportation pass in the country, taking public transit instead of driving a car could save you between $6,000 and $11,000 a year. Plus, you get to avoid traffic jams (Let’s hear it for the H.O.V. lane!), contribute to the local economy and use your commuting time to be more productive. Public transportation is also linked to healthier lifestyles.

It’s a taxi! It’s an Uber!… It’s you on the move!

With services like Uber and Lyft becoming more and more popular across Canadian cities, don’t forget: using ride-sharing as your only transportation mode will cost you more than owning a car. However, taking an Uber or a Taxi beat taking public transportation after a trip to the grocery shop when it’s -30 degrees out or when you’re running late. It also saves you the hassle of finding and paying for parking, gas, etc.

Share the road…and the car.

Car-sharing is a great alternative to car ownership. Services like Car2go, ZipCar, and Communauto offer you the chance to drive a car only when you really need it. Money-wise this is a smart move as long as you’re not using it to drive more than 20,000 km per year. Most car-sharing services offer fees that include gas, insurance, and parking, too!

Get healthier and wealthier.

Using your own steam to move from one place to another not only saves you money and the burden of shoveling a car out of a snowbank, but it also makes you healthier. While not great for long distances or during extreme weather, choosing to walk or bike when possible, help you stay fit. Even short walks and quick bike rides help you increase your lifespan, lower your blood pressure, maintain good cholesterol levels and put you –and your bank account– in a good mood.

Hit the road, Jack.

Canadians living in rural areas or small towns often lack options for alternative transportation, and owning a vehicle can be a necessity of life. Keep your costs lower by choosing an electric vehicle(check out these helpful government subsidies) or opt for  less expensive car models that offer better fuel efficiency and require less maintenance.  Avoid ownership of a second car. Car-pooling can also be a great way to increase your savings. For long distance trips, services like Kangaride are an alternative.

You Win. The Planet Wins.

It’s become increasingly clear that climate change is a thing. If we all make our contribution to reduce our carbon footprint, we can help make a better place for us and the generations ahead. As new technologies become available and the use of renewable energy goes mainstream, choosing how we move around can make a real difference. Here are some stats to prove our point:


Taking the train or the subway produces 76% lower greenhouse gas emissions on average per passenger kilometer than an average single-occupancy vehicle.
Light rail systems produce 62% less. 
Bus transit produces 33% less. 
Biking and walking? 100% less!

So… while you’re busy planning your next commute, choose wisely. Both for your pocket and the planet.

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How to crush your New Year’s resolutions all year long

Resolutions are exciting, but sticking it out can also feel challenging. Whether you have the hope to improve your finances or fitness, learn something new, or quit a bad habit, it’ll take persistence to achieve your goal.  Luckily, there are some easy things you can do to make your New Year’s resolution a reality.

Chart a path

When you’re tackling resolutions, mapping out your path to success in advance will keep you motivated throughout the year. What do you have to do every day, week or month to achieve your resolution before next January? Commit your plan to paper by investing in a Ban.do planner or track your progress in an app like Productive, and turn to your map as a source of inspiration when you feel stuck or discouraged. Remember to plan for obstacles: detours are part of the process. Each day is an opportunity to start fresh.

Take it slow

A little bit every day will go a long way.  Want to start meditating? Flip on a free guided Headspace lesson for three minutes each morning and build from there week by week. Learning a new language?  Download Duolingo and practice Spanish for just 5 minutes every day.  Saving for a down payment? Start small by  investing your spare change with Moka.  Good things take time and just a small consistent effort will add up over time.

Celebrate your success

Keeping yourself motivated and mindful of how far you’ve come is so important. Celebrate the milestones, no matter how big or small. Were you under budget on your grocery shopping this month? Amazing. Did you shave a minute off your 3 km run? That’s huge. There will be many smaller success stories on your way to achieving your end goal, and they deserve recognition.

Another way you can celebrate is to bring your friends and family into your support system with a commitment contract like stickK. Wager friendly bets throughout the year as you work towards a happy and healthier you.  

Consider the cost

It’s vital to think about how much your resolution will cost. If you want to start working out at the gym or finally take that trip to Europe this year, then achieving your resolution won’t be free. Figure out how much you need to spend or save to achieve your goal, and check in every month to make sure you’re making the most of your money.  Unfortunately, 67% of people who sign up for gym memberships don’t use them, but the pre-approved payments will just keep coming! So before you lock yourself into an expensive service, find out if there is a more affordable way to ease into your resolution. (YouTube exercise classes, anyone?)

Invest the difference

If your resolution involves cutting back on something, like smoking or ordering fast food, consider investing the cash that you would’ve spent every week. Imagine a vacation purchased solely with money that would’ve been spent on burgers! You could also use the money you saved to donate to a cause that’s close to your heart.

Automate the process

Achieving your goals isn’t going to be easy, so why not take all the help you can get! Want to save more this year? Setting up a recurring deposit with Moka. will ensure you’re putting money aside every week without having to stress.  Resolving to decrease your screen time? Wean yourself off social media with Space, an app that will hide your social accounts from you when you want to disconnect. Want to learn to cook? Try out a food subscription box: there are always great deals out there for first-time subscribers.

Change doesn’t always happen overnight. If you fall off the resolution wagon,  just dust yourself off and get right back on up there! There’s no reason you have to wait for the next New Year to start again.  

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Saving money can be your superpower

Everyone can be a superhero when it comes to saving money, and you don’t have to cut out coffee or couch surf, I swear. Here are some easy tips and tricks to make saving money your superpower.

Staying in touch 

Most people sign up for a cell phone plan and then forget about it. This practice could literally cost you hundreds of dollars a year. I recommend reshopping your plan on a regular basis. Look through your last three months of cell phone bills to see how much call time, data and roaming you use versus how much you pay. If you’re going over your limits, you may save money overall by cutting out overage fees and paying more for your plan up front.  In fact, I recently switched from a $55/month to a $85/month plan because it means I’ll still save money on roaming charges. Don’t forget: Plans vary from province to province, so if you are moving look into a new local plan.

Having fun

I recently joined Sinemia which makes it possible to watch three movies a month for just $9.99. You can catch one regular movie and one iMax, VIP, or 3D movie and the pass works at all movie theaters in Canada and the US. They charge you for the whole year up front, but if you see at least one regular movie a month, you’ll save money. If you’re in a couple, I recommend getting individual passes (and not the couple pass) so you have more flexibility to go to the movies.

If you’d rather stay home, split a subscription service with your roommates. The Spotify Premium family plan is for anyone who lives at the same address, and it’s only $3 a month if you split it with five other people. (If you have a personal Spotify Premium account, you pay around $10/month.) Have a quick peek at your subscription plans to see if there are any others you can share with friends.

Getting around

Public transport may be the cheapest option, but sometimes it takes twice as long as driving.  I find that car sharing services like Car2Go are cheaper than grabbing a cab or Uber. Plus, they can be more convenient than driving your own car in some big cities, thanks to designated parking areas. If you’re travelling, try renting a car with Turo. It’s the Airbnb of cars. And the best part about the service? If you’re traveling in Canada, the booking fee includes $2,000,000 liability insurance in the rental fee.

Hitting the road

Whenever I’m traveling, I try to minimize my expenses by booking accommodation last minute. It’s not as convenient as planning ahead, but I routinely save 30-50% on hotels. For great savings, try booking your hotel on the same day that you need it. I use the HotelTonight app as a benchmark for prices, but I also check out Airbnb and scan either Expedia, Hotels.com or Hotwire before picking a spot. If you travel for work (and are less price sensitive), you can book 10 nights with Hotels.com and get the eleventh night free, which you can use later when you are travelling on your own dime.

Earning helps you save, too

Many companies have referral programs that help you save or earn real money. Uber, for example, has a program that lets you earn ride credit by referring friends to the service. With Moka you can give $5 and get $5 every time you refer a friend. We help you earn cold hard cash and then automatically invest the money so your savings grow.

You can also earn money while you travel (or sleep on a friend’s couch) if you Airbnb your room or apartment. Hosting requires some prep–I recommend purchasing some extra sheets and towels–but it’s an easy way to make a little extra. I only accept guests with verified accounts and excellent ratings, so my experience hosting has been great. I made my first booking within 12 hours of posting my place. You can give it a try by registering your home.  

What do you do to save money? We’d love to hear your tips and tricks.

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How to master your finances as a university student

Handling your finances as a student can be crazy stressful, and we wanted to help make it easier. Here are some words of advice to help you crush your finances this school year.

Weigh your income against your expenses

Everyone is always yelling at students to save money. After awhile, it stops registering. So try this instead: Calculate the difference between your income and your expenses. Are you spending as much or more than you earn? What do you think you should do about it? The answer is different for everyone, but if you really want to master your finances, you have to understand your personal financial situation and draw your own conclusions.

Quick Tip: There are lots of online calculators, like this one from Smart Asset, that you can use to help you compare your income and expenses.

Let’s get digital

Leverage the power that technology will give you over your finances. Budgeting and saving are the bread and butter of financial literacy, and now there are many tools you can use to help craft your first budget (like Mint) and automatically save the suggested 10-15% of your income (like Moka). If you can afford to save more, do it.

Quick Tip: Set up a recurring deposit with Moka. This will ensure you’re putting money aside every week.

Give yourself some credit

Many students have misconceptions about the use of credit: They think credit is just a card you use to make large financial purchases. It’s true you can use a credit card to buy things, but your personal credit rating is something different. It’s a standing score that lenders use to decide what rate they will give you when you borrow money. If you have a bad credit rating, you probably have a history of not paying your bills on time, and banks will likely charge you a higher interest rate when you want to borrow money. This can be really costly over time. Paying your bills on time (and not buying things that you don’t have the money for) in university will help you in future.

Quick Tip: Check your credit score for free with Mogo. Contrary to popular opinion, when you check your own credit rating, it won’t have a negative impact on your score.

Apply. For. Scholarships.

Fifteen million dollars of scholarship money goes unclaimed every year in Canada. To be clear: that’s not individuals who win a scholarship and then don’t claim the money. That’s money that no one even applies for. That money could be your money. Apply for as many scholarships and bursaries as you possibly can.

Quick Tip: Scholarships Canada is a hub where you can find $200 million in awards. The Government of Canada also shares merit-based scholarships for post-secondary students.

Find a mentor

Have some frank conversations about finances with your parents, if that’s an option for you. If it isn’t, find someone else that you trust who can give you some unbiased advice (i.e. not someone who is trying to sell you something.) A financial planner may be trying to push a product you don’t need, like a loan or credit line. And no, you don’t have to find a financial expert to mentor you. The point is to start talking about your finances so that you can start building your awareness and figuring out what you don’t know!

Quick Tip: Ask any question you want on this Reddit thread for Canadian personal finance or find a finance-related club at your university.

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The three-step guide to budgeting for people who hate budgets

So you hate budgeting. The  good news is there’s a way to hate it less. Don’t believe me? Here’s my three-step guide to budgeting for people who’d rather be doing literally anything else.  Give it a try.

Step 1. Figure out what you need

This first step means making a date with your bank statements. Pick a rainy day (and yes, you can watch TV at the same time).

To figure out how much you need, pull up your last two or three months of credit and debit card records and creep your spending.

How much money do you need to spend on a monthly basis? Housing, groceries, and utilities are non-negotiables. Decent internet, a phone plan, transportation expenses, insurance, and loan payments can also count as necessities.

Next, grab an old calendar and write down what you paid for necessities on specific days.

This simple activity gives you an idea of when money normally leaves your account, so that you know what expenses you have to cover at the end of your pay cycle. This exercise can also make you aware of spending patterns, like how often you stock up on groceries and about how much you spend each trip to the store.

The shortcut

Skip the calendar and just make a list of numbers that cover what you need for a month. Add up these numbers. Yes, of course, you can use a calculator.

Step 2. Figure out what is leftover

This step involves some simple subtraction. Take the amount you get paid in a month (hint: peek your paycheque), subtract the amount you need to spend on necessities, and bam.

(What you make) – (what you need) = what is leftover

You can spend the leftover money on anything you want, which is not really the kind of freedom you think of when you hear the word “budgeting,” right?

Pro tip

Consider paying yourself first (i.e. saving) a necessity.. Try setting up a recurring weekly deposit with Moka and put away at least 10% of what you earn. Oh, and if you’re freelancing or self-employed, don’t forget to save money for taxes, too.

Step 3. Spend the leftover, if you want

This last step is the fun part: You can spend as much of the leftover money as you want. Overpriced lattes, fancy exercise classes, concert tickets, you name it.

Don’t have a lot leftover? Maybe that’s the wake-up call you need to ask for a raise or eliminate unnecessary recurring expenses, like old subscriptions or surprising bank fees. Sure, it may take a few months before you can afford something you really want, but you’ll never be scrambling to pay your electricity bill if you stick to this budget. Plus, you’ll avoid racking up debt and the expensive interest that comes with it.

Just remember to stop spending when the leftover money is gone.  Try keeping a simple running tally of every fun (i.e. not necessary) purchase you make and when you’re close to the total, you’ll know it’s time to slow down.

The shortcut

For an automated solution, set up an extra bank account. Every time you get paid, transfer the leftover to your extra account and leave the money for your necessities in your original account.

This means you’ll have one card just for fun spending and one for the necessities. Make sure that any automated payments are coming out of the right account and you’ve got a hands-free solution that does your budgeting for you.

That’s it

See, that wasn’t so hard, was it? A budget is just a plan for how you’re going to use your money to do as much of the stuff you want as possible.  If your goal is to feel like you still have flexibility and fun built into your plan, this simple approach is a great way to have your budget cake and eat it, too.

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How to slay your student debt years ahead of schedule

You don’t have to live with that pesky, lingering student loan forever. You can crush debt instead of letting it crush you.

As a financial coach, I’ve seen many of my clients pay off their debts faster than they thought possible. In fact, one of my clients paid off her student loan eight years ahead of schedule by using some of my easy tips and tricks. Interested? Here’s how you can graduate from debt for good.

Stash cash

The first step to paying off student debt actually starts with saving for a rainy day.  No matter how you slice it, there will come a time when you’ll need a little extra to help you out of an emergency financial situation. If you don’t have anything put aside, you may need an emergency loan. That’s why a rainy day fund is key: You’re trying to pay off debt, not rack up more of it!  To start tackling your student loan as soon as possible, save at least one month’s worth of basic living expenses, including the cost of housing, groceries, transportation, and utilities.

What to do: One of the easiest ways to save a month’s expenses quickly is to try a no-spend challenge by eliminating a specific category of spending from your lifestyle for awhile. My husband and I recently stopped eating out for month and we were able to put a sizeable sum in our basic emergency fund.

Embrace spreadsheets

The fastest way to eliminate that student loan is to give it all you’ve got! This requires some real-talk with yourself about your spending. How much you do you actually need to live? Think rent, utility bills, transportation costs, and basic groceries and household items. Now subtract these essentials from your monthly income. The difference? That is what you can really contribute to your monthly debt repayment.

What to do: Use a zero based monthly budgeting template to allocate a dollar amount to your most basic living costs, and then throw any extra from your monthly income towards your debt balance.

Prioritize payments

Not all loans are the same. In fact, federal, provincial and private loans have different interest rates and payment terms. High interest charges stack up fast and can significantly increase the size of your debt over a short period of time. That’s why it’s critical to create a repayment plan that minimizes the amount of interest you pay: You’ll save money overall and climb out of debt faster.

What to do: Prevent high interest charges from accumulating by prioritizing loan repayments for higher interest loans first. Generally, loans from private lenders or lines of credit have high interest (plus, the interest charges are not tax deductible) so they are good place to start. Next, compare interest rates on your provincial and federal loans.

Stay humble

You should definitely celebrate your financial success, but you don’t have to celebrate by blowing your whole paycheque!  People often fall into the trap of lifestyle inflation by spending more money when their income increases. Try to avoid this mistake by keeping your living costs low as your income goes up over time. If you get a job straight out of school, don’t drastically (and expensively) change your life. You’ll end up with more in the bank when it’s all said and done if you pay off debt first.

What to do: Avoid the temptation to overspend on purchases like a new TV or car. If you’ve got a roommate, keep them around a little longer and you’ll potentially save thousands.  Remember, student loan repayment is the goal.

 

Paying off that pesky student loan fast will require focus, but the sooner you get started, the better. Build a safety net, plan, prioritize, and keep your spending simple so that you can throw more at that student loan and be free of debt, forever.