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Make a change: Tips and tools to help manage your money

Remember, everyone’s personal situation is different, so the approach you choose should fit with your financial situation and life stage.

How can I manage my expenses?

Managing your expenses is a first step to achieving your financial goals. Understanding where your money is going will help you get a handle on what changes you need to make to ensure you’re living within your means and making your money work for your future.

To start, creating a spending plan is a useful tool to manage your expenses. To do so, you’ll need to track your spending so you can figure out where your money is  going every month. For a typical household budget, spending items are usually categorized into necessity expenses (essential expenses, like food) and discretionary expenses (non-essentials, like eye cream). 

Note that the non-essential expenses are the ones you can better control. The easiest way to reduce them is to do so gradually while balancing your quality of life.

Once you get a handle on  your spending habits, it will be easier for you to define your spending goals and set a  limit for each expense category, with the goal of  having cash leftover in your budget every month. 

You should also include a savings allocation in your spending plan to make sure that you don’t spend all of your money.

Once you’ve organized your budget plan, you should re-evaluate it every month to make sure that you’re on track.

Budget managing apps

There are a lot of apps out there that can help you manage your budget. They all have different methods and functionalities, so it’s important to understand what they offer and which features are most important to you.  

First up, we have Mint and Fudget. Both of these apps are free and user-friendly.  They use the estimated budget technique: at the beginning of the month, you estimate your expenses for each category. You then follow the monthly evolution of your estimated budget with what you’re actually spending and make adjustments as needed.

Mint also allows you to import your bank transactions automatically, making it much easier for you to manage your finances all in one place.

If you’re willing to shell out a few bucks, YNAB is also a great option for managing your budget. Just like Mint, it automatically imports and categorizes your transactions. The difference between the two apps is in the budgeting technique: YNAB uses an envelope method—a time-tested technique since before the invention of the computer!

What’s an envelope method? We know you’re at the edge of your seats so we won’t keep you in suspense: with the envelope method you assign  a job to each of the dollars you earn. By doing this, you categorize your available money instead of basing it on the money you think you earn. You then spend according to the money you have available.

As added value, YNAB also offers educational content such as podcasts and blogs, so you can keep learning about how to gain control of your money.

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Get to know Cloé, Head of Customer Success

Cloé comes from a small seaside village in northern Quebec. At 16, she moved to Montreal to pursue her university studies, and she’s been calling the city home for the past 15 years.

Cloé has been with Moka since 2016, and her current role is leading the Customer Success team. Her main mission is helping users have the best possible experience with the Moka app—she’s also the one who sends you those friendly Moka emails and wishes you a good day! 

Why did you decide to join the Moka team?

I had moved to Australia for 2 years, and when I returned to Montreal, I was looking for a new job. I met Phil Barrar, the founder and CEO of Moka, through a friend. At the time, the Moka team was only 4 people, and the app was not yet available on the Apple Store and the Google Play Store. I was the person Phil was looking for to handle all aspects of the client experience. Now with so many years of experience at Moka, my role is constantly evolving.

How were the early days at Moka?

I arrived during a period of high-growth. The team was in the same building and floor as they are today, but in an office at the other end of the hall. They worked in the same offices as their incubator, in a collaborative space where they could exchange and share their ideas with other start-ups.

How was your experience working remotely during the pandemic?

My partner and I bought a loft a few months before the start of the pandemic—an old factory that had been converted into apartments. We had plans to renovate everything and to move in afterwards. Then the pandemic hit, and the loft wasn’t close to being ready for working from home. Picture a completely unfinished loft without a kitchen table, me working from the sofa, and dust everywhere! 

Needless to say, it was a challenge for a few months. Like so many of us, we made the best of the situation, and today I have a great home setup.

What do you love most about your  job?

Many things make me happy working with Moka, but the main thing is having a positive impact on the lives of our users; namely, helping them invest when they didn’t know it was possible.

Are there any differences between French and Canadian Moka users?

Of course, the French and Canadian cultures are different. Canadians tend to be more familiar with the stock market, and with the concept of investing. The launch of Moka in France was different because the product had to be more informative and educational.

There are also some notable language differences. Both Quebec and France have French as the main language, but each country has its own unique expressions. Sometimes, the Customer Success team learns and teaches new expressions to our users!

What qualities are essential for your  role?

Being comfortable with the unexpected and with change are key for thriving in the world of start-ups. I have good listening skills and am empathetic, as our team represents the voice of the users. You have to be able to put yourself in their shoes and understand their point of view in order to offer them solutions.

What is your #1 financial goal?

I want to move. Because of the ongoing pandemic, my boyfriend and I have realized that a loft isn’t ideal for working from home.

We hadn’t planned on staying in the loft for a long time, as it was intended for a short, transitional period. But the pandemic changed our needs, and we’re now looking for a larger place where everyone can have their own space to work in peace.

What do you do to save money on a regular basis?

Like so many young adults, I didn’t realize the value of every single one of my expenses, and like so many people I struggled to save. Every month I paid my rent, bills, and necessary expenses, and only after did I save any money that was leftover (if there was any!). But now I’m  much more diligent! I allocate part of my pay each month as soon as I receive it into several investment accounts, including my Moka account. I don’t even have to think about it anymore because it’s automated.

What goal(s) did you achieve with Moka?

My first goals were travel goals, and I certainly reached them over the years! Currently, because of the pandemic, my goal is to build an emergency fund, which I’ve successfully been able to grow. 

What do you do in your spare time?

I’m very fond of yoga, reading, and I love to travel. I also enjoy spending time with my friends, and I’m a big foodie! 🍽 If you have any great spots in Montreal to recommend, don’t hesitate to share them with her 😉

Your favourite must-watch series?

There are almost too many to list! I really liked The Queen’s Gambit, because I found the costumes and the entire storyline very beautiful. Another favourite is The Crown, an interesting historical series on the Queen of England. I also recommend the series Atypical, the story of a young man with autism. For me, it’s both a touching and funny series.

What was your dream job when you were little?

I’ve been practicing classical dance for years. As a child, I dreamed of becoming a professional dancer 🩰

A funny story that happened to you?

I went to Miami with some friends for a music festival. We had a great week partying in Miami and our return flight home was booked quite early in the morning (you can imagine how we felt about this early flight!). Despite all the fun, we still managed to pack everything and have our things ready for the next morning.

We stayed out until 6am (it’s Miami after all!) but still got to the airport on time and checked in our luggage as planned. Once at our gate in the departure lounge, everyone put on their headphones and fell asleep while waiting for the flight. We were called to board but…no one woke up! The flight left without us along with our suitcases. We explained to the agent that we had actually arrived at the airport 5 hours earlier, but still missed the flight. Luckily, they booked us onto another flight home the same day.

The lesson she learned was to always set an alarm if you plan on falling asleep at the gate!

Is there another career that she would have wanted to pursue?

Maybe a lawyer, because what I was doing before Moka 👩🏼‍⚖️ I studied law and worked as a criminal lawyer. I miss some aspects of the job, but criminal law ended up not being the right fit for me. I would potentially be interested in a completely different branch of law, such as information technology law.

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Saving vs. investing: What’s the difference?

Sometimes “saving” and “investing” are used interchangeably, but they’re two completely different concepts. And choosing one or the other can impact your long-term financial situation significantly.

What is saving?

Saving means simply putting aside part of your income. Instead of spending everything  you earn, you set aside a certain amount to use later. There are different ways to save, but the most common is to put your money in a savings account in a bank. There is no risk to save—your money will be there whenever you want to withdraw it!. 

However, it’s important to know that in 2021, the annual inflation rate is around 1.1% on average, but interest rates for savings accounts usually range from 0.75 to 2%. Essentially, this means that the interest you could earn on your savings may not  compensate for ever increasing prices (or inflation!).

If your savings are intended to finance a short-term goal, such as taking a trip or buying a new car, annual inflation doesn’t pose much of a problem. It’s when it comes to long-term saving plans—financing the purchase of a condo, for example—that you might end up losing purchasing power.

What is investing?

To put it simply, investing means acquiring assets (stocks, bonds, property, real estate, etc) that have the potential to increase in value over time. In this case, the point is to get a return on your investment. The money deposited in a savings account earns very little, while a smartinvestment allows you to grow your money much faster. Of course, the amount an investment earns during a specific time period (or yield rate) will vary depending on the type of investment, and there is also a risk that your investment may not see any returns. 

What’s the fundamental difference between the two?

From a strictly economic point of view, saving is simply the money you don’t spend. The money you save is also  liquid, meaning it’s  available immediately. 

Investing, on the other hand, is about using your money to generate a profit. Usually this is done with a long-term plan in mind. 

Saving can be seen as a safety net that can be used to deal with the unexpected expenses that arise in life. If your car might break down or you owe money on your tax return, your savings can help you stay out of debt. A good rule of thumb for emergency savings? Aim to have the equivalent of 3 to 6 months of expenses set aside, so you can cover rent, groceries, utilities and all the other basics even if you suddenly lose your income.

If saving is a safety cushion, investing is the entire couch. Money that’s invested in the medium- and long-term is what generates a profit and can make it possible to improve your quality of life and set you up for retirement. 

Making the choice between saving and investing is a question of your needs and personal preference. Your goals, risk tolerance, age and financial situation, such as whether or not you’re in debt, can help inform your choice. Getting advice from a financial advisor will help you make cents of your situation. What’s certain is that it’s never too early (or too late!) to start investing.

Give me an example!

Take Peter and Chloe: they each have the same profession and earn a salary of $40,000 dollars a year. Every year, Peter and Chloe both save 20% of their salary, or $8,000.. While Peter puts his money in a savings account, Chloe invests her savings.. Peter’s savings account earns 1% per year, while Chloe’s portfolio earns 5%. What happens after 40 years of working? Chloe will (potentially) have accumulated $694,718 in compound interest, while Peter will have only accumulated $75,001.90, even though he is earning the same salary and putting exactly the same amount aside!

It really makes you think, doesn’t it?

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3 ways to save money without a budget

How much did you spend last month? For those of us who want to save money, knowing the answer is essential.

And we’re not talking ballpark. Or being $200 off and thinking “close enough!” We’re talking down to the cent. Most of us should know the answer. However, many of us just think we know the answer. 

Here’s the thing: if you want to save money, you can’t kind-of sort-of know the answer. You need to know exactly where your money is going every month.

We check our social media accounts 500 times a day. Why shouldn’t we give our money even a fraction of that attention? Use these three steps to start saving now.

Check your income vs. your expenses

Every financial check-in needs to start with a baseline. How much are you spending and where are you spending it?

Knowing where every cent (yup, cent!) is going will help you identify areas where you can redirect your income towards your savings goals. Track your expenses for several weeks (or even a couple of months) to see if there are any trends. A simple spreadsheet works, or use an app like Mint. Then, highlight specific purchases or note entire categories (travel, restaurant, auto, etc.) where you may be able to cut back.

You may want to separate your musts (rent, insurance, groceries) from your nice-to-haves. Can you commit a monthly amount ($10, $20, $100, whatever it may be) to your savings and add that to the “musts” category? What would you need to adjust in the nice-to-have category?

Even if you are a budget-y person, you still want to track your actual spending. 

Automate your must-pay bills

There’s nothing worse than fees or interest when you don’t actually need (or want) to pay it. And who wants to pay money if they don’t have to?

Automating your monthly expenses, such as phone, internet, and other must-pay bills helps ensure you pay for your expenses on time and before you spend money on the more fun—a.k.a. unnecessary—expenses. Paying the expenses on time, and not having to stress about it, will give you peace of mind and reduce the chance that you’ll be whacked with any late fees or interest.

Of course, automation isn’t for everything (see below re: pesky recurring subscriptions), but when it comes to your monthly must-pay expenses, it’s worth considering.

Add everything to your calendar

In the age of monthly subscriptions and auto-renewals, it’s easy to have many what-the-heck-is-this-charge moments. That streaming service “free trial” that required a credit card. Digital magazine subscriptions you stopped reading. Auto insurance that auto renews.

Pull up your calendar. Add any recurring payments, and add a reminder at least a week before your subscription is set to renew. Heck, set multiple reminders if it’s helpful. The reminders will give you time to evaluate whether you’re still using the subscription, need to cancel, or want to change it.

While you’re at it, include all the automatic payments you just set up. You’ll want to check on them each month so you can catch, and address, discrepancies as they arise. There’s nothing worse than trying to dispute a double charge from a restaurant—that you ordered from 10 months ago.

Bonus tip: Reach your savings goals even faster by ramping up (or starting) your investing. Moka makes it simple to invest your spare change by rounding up your purchases—including those automated must-pay bills (see step 2, *cough cough*). Can your piggy bank do that?

Even if you make small adjustments to your finances, they can have a major impact and help you save money in the long run. Next time you’re scrolling through your socials, take a few minutes to check in on your finances. You’ll be able to go over your income and your expenses, including recurring payments and make any necessary adjustments to keep your savings goals on track.

It turns out, every cent really does add up.

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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, 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 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.