Simple, Yet Effective Ways to Save Money During Daily Life

On paper, it might appear that people are financially doing better now than ever before considering the fact that there are now more millionaire American and Canadian households than ever. Surprisingly, 76 percent of Americans  are living paycheck to paycheck and 36 percent do not have a retirement savings. For many, the thought of even putting aside $50 into an RRSP or 401(K) might seem impossible as they need it for essential living. At the same time, most people know that the job market has changed and true job security and a livable wage after retirement are a thing of the past. Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can cut back on unnecessary expenses.

Brew Your Own Coffee

Stopping in a Starbucks every day before work might be your morning routine, but it’s an expensive habit that costs Americans $1,092 a year. Save your money and avoid lines by bringing your own home-brew coffee into work. Sure it might not be a Frappucino, but it only cost you a couple cents.

Get Rid of Your Debt

No one likes being in debt and yet the average household owes $7,149 on their credit cards. When you are living paycheck to paycheck, paying the minimum might seem like a good option, but ultimately you as it will take you much longer to pay off the card, thus forcing you to continue paying interest on your amount. Even paying $20 over the minimum can help you save in the long term.

Cook Your Own Food

53 percent of people eat out at least once per week. While this might not seem like a lot, it definitely adds up especially for those that eat out every day for lunch. It might be convenient to order take out, but you can whip up a delicious and hot meal in around the same time it takes a restaurant to deliver your food. After all, cooking doesn’t have to be a formal affair. Some of the best meals take less than 30 minutes to prepare and cook. If you don’t have time during your work week to cook, batch cook your meals on your days off and make enough to pack for lunch.

Use Your Coupons

Couponing has become an art for many people, so much so that there was even a TLC show on it. While you don’t need to be as focused on finding coupons, you should take advantage of the ones you receive from stores you frequent. On average, couponers save $11.20 on their shopping trips. As well, make sure to take a look at the store’s circulars for the weekly deals.

Stop Smoking

Of course, this only applies to smokers but if you are one it’s a good time to stop. Not only is there a strong correlation between smoking and lung cancer, but it is also an expensive habit. The price of a single pack of cigarette varies but on average it is $5.75. Depending on how much you smoke, kicking the habit could save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

Challenge Yourself

If you’re already doing the above, look at other ways you can minimize spending in your life. Track all of your expenses for a couple months and see where your money is going. It might surprise you. Once you’ve done that, create a monthly budget for yourself and stick to it. At the end of the month you might actually see that you have more money left over than you expect.

Income tax filing deadline extended to May 5

Great news today!

Canadians are getting more time to file their taxes due to a mistake by the Canada Revenue Agency.

The deadline for most Canadians was set for the end of the month.

However, due to a human error, incorrect notification was sent to tax preparers last week indicating the deadline was May 5.

A spokesman for Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay says the minister has directed her officials to ensure no Canadians are penalized for the CRA’s error.

Canadians who file their taxes before May 5 will not face any penalty.

CRA extended the deadline to May 5 last year after the Heartbleed bug forced a five-day shutdown of its E-file and Netfile services.

Canadians Still Cautious about Shopping Online

With almost 90% of Canadians now using the internet, it’s no surprise that e-commerce is on the rise in this country. Yet lingering concerns over cyber and mobile security mean the majority of shoppers still prefer spending their dollars at the mall rather than online – making secure payment options a priority for online retailers.

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Consumers worry about credit card security

Statistics Canada reports that Canucks spent $18.9 billion online in 2012, with new research indicating steady growth in the e-commerce sector over the next decade. Nevertheless we continue to have a preference for traditional brick-and-mortar experience over the internet – spending around $450 billion in-store each year according to Industry Canada.

Many consumers simply prefer the immediacy of in-person shopping, seeing it as a way to avoid ill-fitting clothing or faulty products. But concern about cyber security is also clearly fueling this vast discrepancy in our spending habits. A recent study conducted by Ipsos Reid on behalf of Visa Canada reveals that 48% of Canadian credit card holders worry about falling victim to fraud while shopping online. The study also shows that two thirds of us (68%) are more focused on security while we shop than on convenience or speed.

Online retailers offering alternative payment methods

These figures have left e-businesses scratching their heads over how to put cyber customers at ease. Increasingly, retailers are offering consumers alternative payment methods to credit cards at the checkout. Pre-paid cards are a popular solution appearing across the Canadian e-commerce landscape. With a paysafecard, for instance, shoppers aren’t required to share personal data with online retailers. This can eliminate the risk of identity theft or other fraudulent behavior.

It remains to be seen, however, whether these strategies can lure Canadians away from their beloved malls back to the comfort of their own homes. But the verdict is clear: online businesses need to focus on security if they want to make a significant dent in the country’s competitive retail market.

Why Outsourcing to a Bookkeeper is a Good Idea

When you run a small business in Calgary or anywhere in Canada, it really is essential that you maintain a good set of books which are regularly and contemporaneously up-to-date. The tax man will not be pleased with records that were tossed together at the year’s ending.

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Tax preparation is really a crucial reason to keep an in depth set of books; however there are other aspects at play. It is vital that you understand how much money your company is generating as well as how and where the cash is being invested. Make a comparison of your results to industry standards to figure out where you have to improve your business. You must also compare this year’s product sales and costs to the prior years to make a note of your improvement in the business world. Critiquing the balance sheet accounts of this year (liabilities, cash, receivables, and so on ) to earlier years will even help establish revenue and product sales objectives.

Why Outsource?

Outsourcing your business’s bookkeeping to a certified Calgary bookkeeping provider can help you save operating costs, staffing overhead, administration time, clearing up important capital and boosting your abilities so you can operate your business more proficiently.

Your full-time bookkeeper will perform the tasks that you do not have the time, skills or wish to do. Those irritating bookkeeping jobs that keep you from the core of your business can become the burden of your bookkeeper instead.  These jobs include:

  • Documenting and reconciling banking activity
  • Documenting and reconciling charge card activity
  • Preparing product sales return
  • Documenting payroll
  • Printing financial statements

A typical misconception is that a company proprietor will lose control when they delegate their bookkeeping. With the correct techniques in place, the business owner keeps all administration decisions and the bookkeeper just tracks and correctly records the accounting activities.Having a certified bookkeeper on your side, your company could be much more profitable, more effective and more competitive. You will get precise reports highlighting your company activities so that you can make choices which will keep your company moving forward. Not to mention, all those deadlines you have will be fulfilled without you having to give them a second thought.

As a business, you have to be really careful of the money and income flow. Likewise, the costs too should be documented and regulated. In this circumstance, you will find the job of a bookkeeper to be very useful. If you are not in a position to maintain a record of your transactions in your financial ledgers, you will most likely end up with false earnings statements as well as an unmatched balance sheet. This should be prevented no matter what.

In addition, the professionals you will be employing from the Calgary bookkeeping services are usually well qualified. What this means is the overall efficiency of the worker will be a lot more than any other conventional full time bookkeeper. For that reason you have to consider getting bookkeeping services from the specialists as quickly as possible.

It is one thing to have a precise and updated snapshot of your business’s financial records. It is another to comprehend just what it means when it comes to your company’s development. With regards to analyzing cash flow statements, determining burn rate and knowing other essential monetary information, a financial bookkeeper will help a start-up company stay in front of competitors.

What You Should Know About Inflation and Deflation

Understanding the value of your Canadian dollar is important, but it can be tricky to know exactly how much that dollar will be worth tomorrow, next week or a year from now. When you know the basics of inflation in a financial sense, you start to understand just how local and global events influence how much your money is worth. Let’s talk a little about what inflation and deflation are and how they impact your finances.

How Inflation Impacts Your Finances

Inflation refers to the increased value of money as well as the increased cost to purchase a product. Most developed nations try to keep inflation to about 2 percent per year as a means to keep the economy on steady ground. If prices increase too much, it may make it more difficult for workers to purchase the goods and services that they need.

More often than not, inflation tends to happen faster in a robust economy. This is why banks will increase interest rates to ensure that the amount of money being processed through the economy stays at a reasonable rate. However, inflation can take place even during a neutral period in the economy or during a recession.

Although inflation may seem like a bad thing for consumers, it can be a good thing in the long-term. As prices go up, wages tend to go up to keep pace with that inflation. This can make the cost of installment loans easier to handle as time goes on. If you were paying $200 a month for a car loan at a time when you made $2,000 a month, you would be paying 10 percent of your income each month for that loan.

However, if your monthly pay increases 2 percent each year, you would make over $2,100 per month after three years. Despite the fact that the payment didn’t change, the percentage of your income going to that payment decreased, which makes the car more affordable in the long run.

What Is Deflation and How Does it Impact Your Finances?

Deflation is the exact opposite of inflation. Instead of prices or wages going up, they go down. When an economy feels deflationary pressure, it could cause unemployment rates to shoot up and fewer goods being purchased by consumers. While lower prices should make consumers want to purchase more goods, they may hold off because they know the prices may be even lower tomorrow or next week.

In addition, they have less money to make purchases with. Therefore, more of their income may go toward paying for gas, food and shelter. As these are considered staple items, the cost of food or the cost of an apartment tends to rise. Apartment prices tend to go higher in weaker economies because renting is often seen as easier than buying for those who may not have a stable income.

While gas prices may go down for awhile, they can only go down so far, and once again, lower incomes may negate any benefit that consumers see. During times of deflation, interest rates on loans tend to go down as a means of encouraging consumers to borrow money and start spending again. The hope is that this will spark demand and get the economy going. Fortunately, the economy rarely goes through deflationary cycles even when economic conditions are as poor as they were during the Great Recession.

What About Stagflation?

When wages stay stagnant despite the costs of goods going up, it is referred to as stagflation. Technically, workers aren’t losing any money in terms of real dollars, but workers lose purchasing power because their money doesn’t get them as much as it did in the past. This is one reason why economists plan for at least 2 percent inflation each year. Doing so allows companies to simply hold the line on wages to effectively cut costs without having to lower wages or let go of workers.

Understanding the concept of inflation and deflation can help you become a better consumer. It can help you determine whether borrowing money is good for your wallet today and in the long-term. When you don’t overspend to get access to capital, you can limit your debt to a reasonable level while ensuring that you have enough cash to pay your bills and cover everyday expenses.

The 7 Most Common Mistakes New Investors Make

As someone who has defended stock brokers from charges of wrongdoing, I believe I know a fair amount about investor behavior.  If you’ve finally decided to start investing your savings into the stock market, you may want to consider that a lot of the mistakes investors generally make in the market can be almost entirely avoided.

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If you’ve decided to take the DIY approach to investing in stocks then your biggest asset may not be tons of professional help or mathematically complex valuation models, but rather your attitude towards the process. A high IQ or analytic ability can only go so far if you can’t control your emotions while putting your money in play.

So, if you’ve dedicated yourself to succeeding in the market then here’s a list of some of the most common mistakes new investors make so that you can learn to avoid them.

 

  • Panicking When The Market Drops

 

All good things come to an end and this is true for both your life and the economy. If markets only went up everyone would be rich, there would be no bear sightings and you probably wouldn’t be reading this article right now. But markets don’t go up in a straight line; they frequently are volatile and sometimes collapse.

The volatility of the markets is what scares investors the most. People obsess about the ups and downs.  People often panic when they see their investments drop like a stone in a pond. But if you’ve done your research and are confident in your picks, there’s less reason to worry. In fact, a lot of professionals would consider a sudden, dramatic drop in stock prices as a great opportunity to buy more.

 

  • Getting Carried Away With Market Euphoria

 

Conversely, it’s easy to get carried away when things are looking up. After a spree of advances on the stock exchange you may have experienced a drastic increase in personal wealth. It’s okay to celebrate this momentarily, but it’s equally important to keep things in perspective. Reanalyze your stocks when the market is hitting all-time highs and see if anything seems to be over-valued.

Contrary to popular belief, selling is your best option when you think the market is getting ahead of itself. To quote the living investment legend Warren Buffett, “Be greedy when others are fearful and fearful when others are greedy.”

 

  • Not Paying Attention to Trading Fees

 

Trading fees may seem like a minor inconvenience the way most brokerage houses in the country make them appear, but you must pay careful attention to how much you spend on either buying or selling. Even small percentages of total transactions can eat into your overall return in the long term. What seems like a minor amount at the moment is worth a lot more in the future and over the long term.

 

  • Putting All Your Eggs in One Basket

 

One of the most common mistake investors tend to make is to not diversify their portfolios enough. There’s a great example of how a Columbia senior had managed to make $120,000 through his investments and then lost it all on one single company, Puritan-Bennett Inc.  This particular investor learned his lesson in terms of over concentrating positions and went on to become of the most successful hedge fund managers of our time – Daniel Loeb. So try to avoid the same mistake he made and you’ll save yourself a lot of pain in the long run.

 

  • Failing to Regularly Rebalance

 

If you’ve allocated your wealth in a certain configuration try to take the time once a year at least to reassess your portfolio. So, for example, if one particular investment is doing much better than the others and now forms a much larger part of your overall net worth than you expected, consider cutting down on it since you may be over exposed to that asset class.  Market studies have shown that asset allocation is crucial to returns achieved in investing.

 

  • Trading Too Often

 

Probably the single biggest folly of inexperienced investors is to fall into the trap of over trading. Trading too often in your online trading account has two very considerable disadvantages. First, your costs go up as you pay more in commissions to your broker – not good when you need all the money you can get to better compound for the future.

Second, you can trade in a stock every second of the day, but the fundamentals of the business you’ve invested in will certainly not change that quickly. What you are effectively doing is speculating on what the market is going to do, and a lot of experienced investors will tell you this is the quickest way to the poorhouse.  Likewise, you are trying to beat professional investors at a game where they have the advantages, like not having another job to do during market hours.

 

  • Borrowing Against Shares

 

The final most dangerous mistake investors can make is to borrow against their shares or securities in their account. Stock prices, by their very nature, are volatile but when you borrow you’ve adopted a fixed cost which you will have to bear regardless of what happens. If the market takes a turn for the worse your losses will be amplified due to the leverage you’ve adopted. Many have gone bankrupt doing exactly this.  At the most inopportune time, your broker-lender can require additional capital or sell your investments.

Even the most experienced investors make mistakes and experience losses – it’s just the nature of the beast.  But you can minimize your risks considerably by avoiding these common slipups that newbies tend to make when they’re starting out.

About the Author:  Andrew May is a FINRA arbitration attorney and the founder of May Law, a financial and commercial firm in Chicago.  He’s passionately committed to educating everyone from brokerage firms to individuals on the legal and practical matters of investing.  Andrew is also a frequent contributor to several online business and finance publications.  To learn more, visit www.Maylawpc.net.

StudioTax 2014 now available to download – Free tax software

I hate paying for tax software.

This company has released this annually and I have never had a problem and it is free!

It works for Mac and Windows now.

StudioTax is a windows bilingual personal Income Tax preparation software made by Canadians for Canadians. StudioTax is distributed using a free licensing model. No license key or registration is required to download, install and use StudioTax. After you use StudioTax and you find it useful, we ask that you take the time to make a modest monetary contribution toward the support of this product.

StudioTax is made available for individuals who prepare their own tax returns, or returns for a small number of relatives and friends only. Please note that tax professional cannot use NETFILE to file tax returns on behalf of their clients. They must use EFILE certified software.

Note that StudioTax may not handle some uncommon tax situations. Please review the restrictions page for a detailed list of exclusions.

StudioTax is very secure way to prepare and file your return. StudioTax is a Windows program (not a Web site) that installs on your computer’s local hard drive, saves your returns on your computer’s local hard drive, and absolutely NO information, personal or otherwise, leaves your computer.

As always, StudioTax is FREE for personal use, regardless of level of income and no questions asked.

StudioTax 2014 is the version to prepare and file the 2014 (due by April 30, 2015) federal and provincial income tax returns including Quebec provincial returns.

Here is the link to their website.

Top 5 Problems with Mobile Banking Apps

Technology advancements always go through ebbs and flows. There are many tremendous developments with hopes of becoming the norm, but sometimes the technology does not work as advertised. How about mobile banking apps?

digital-banking

Shouldn’t everyone be turning to online banking due to the convenience of 24/7/365 access? There have been some serious problems with cell phone payment apps that have scared some consumers away. Here are the top 5 problems with mobile banking apps.

Mobile Banking Apps Sound Great But …

The World Wide Web and financial industry have made great strides over the last decade, but have kind of gotten stuck in no-man’s land. Financial institutions want more people to try mobile banking apps, but the primary problems have not been resolved. Without customers, banking firms has no incentive to invest in the research & development needed to fix the problems.

  1. Questionable Security

Security is the #1 concern for most online bankers. In fact, one expert estimates that 90% of all mobile banking apps have security issues. Ariel Sanchez of IO Active Labs tested out 40 of the top 60 banking apps on his iPhone and found that nine out of ten failed. The apps could not even protect against common hacker scams, like “phishing.” That is a dire finding.

Solution: Bankers need to hire ex-hackers to develop their apps.

  1. Dropped Calls, Crashes & Bad Connections

Have you ever had a dropped call or bad Internet connection? Imagine if you were right in the middle of a financial transaction. Weather, traffic and who-knows-what can interrupt your online banking transfer. Bill Shipley of Accenture Mobility Services admits that crashes for most mobile banking sites is about 5%.

Solution: More investment to improve up-time rates for mobile banking websites.

  1. Won’t Read Paper Deposits

When Microsoft upgrades its Windows, it needs to have backwards compatibility with older versions. This is a standard technological rule. Unfortunately, banking mobile apps cannot even read a paper check or physical signature. The financial sector is stuck – it promises to go paperless when most people still use paper for financial transactions.

Solution: Add a scanner to mobile devices.

  1. Bankers Don’t Understand Apps

Most bankers are traditionally conservative. Most app developers are fairly independent and liberal. Many financial institutions do not mesh well with the cell phone application development culture. Combining the cultures has been very difficult. Some programming languages are open source; banks require confidentiality.

Solution: Banks must create their own group of industry programmers.

  1. Very Little Standardization

What platform should you develop your banking app on – Blackberry, Apple or Google Android? The investment into mobile banking applications is very expensive with questionable returns. One expert claims Android payment apps are risky. Banks have a tough time forcing their rules upon a world with different languages, technologies and laws. The global village is becoming more parochial.

Solution: International organization to establish uniform banking mobile app rules.

On the Edge of Something Big

Technology goes through stops and starts. Even with the many problems with mobile banking apps, consumers are still gravitating to online banking. Financial institutions might need to do what they did with credit cards: reimburse people for any fraud.

Mobile banking is stuck in “no-man’s land.” It needs to improve the technology, but executives must see online banking as truly profitable. We must remember that “Too Big to Fail Banks” also have many other problems to deal with. The future for mobile banking apps looks bright once the wrinkles have been ironed out.

Jason Kane is a professional blogger who focuses on personal finance and other money matters. He currently writes for Checkworks.com, a leading supplier of personal and business checks.

 

How to watch NHL hockey without cable?

I am a big hockey fan (playing not watching) but many fellow Canucks love to watch the NHL.

debt-slave

I wanted to share the various ways you can watch without an expensive cable subscription in Canada.

1. Try HockeyStreams and get all the games streamed live!

Or this one, or Reddit.

2. Purchase GameCenter at a discount.

GameCentre Live isn’t really an option for some as many games are blacked out (only shown on Sportsnet).

3. Rogers customers who have either Internet or Rogers Cellphone, can take advantage of the following promo:
Enjoy a free subscription to Rogers NHL GameCentre LIVE until December 31st with any internet or wireless data plan.

What other options are there?

debt-savings

Alternatives to Payday Advances

Many consumers try to do everything possible to avoid having to take out a payday advance. This is because there are high fees and high interest rates associated with them. The loan is often close to the amount of an entire paycheck.

debt-savings

When you’re already on a limited budget, it is a big financial risk to take a payday advance because it can put you further behind.

Auto Title Loan

Auto title loans are paid back in installment payments over time.  The loan amount is determined based upon the value of your vehicle. The value is determined by the age and condition based upon Kelley Blue Book values. The loan amounts are broken down into small payments on a monthly payment schedule. In the beginning, most of the payment goes toward the administrative fees and interest.

Online Installment Loan

Some consumers with poor credit can get a short term online installment loan. These will have high interest rates attached to them. It comes with the territory of having poor credit and needing funding for emergent situations.

These loans are typically paid off over a 12 month periods unless it is a significant amount.

Organize a Sale

If obtaining a loan is not an option, you can always organize a sale. When preparing for the sale, watch for free items advertised online and decide whether they are in good enough condition to resell. You can also post online via social media or Craigslist that you are looking to have a yard sale to help buy groceries, pay a utility disconnection notice or pay the rent/mortgage. Advertise the sale and mention that if anyone has items to donate to help raise the funds to contact you. This may bring in a lot more items that you can sell to pay the bill, purchase prescriptions with or purchase groceries with.

Another option that may seem easier is visiting a pawn shop with valuables to sell or obtain a short term loan on.  This may not get you as much money but it is something to start with. When you need money and can’t wait on a traditional loan, use some of these options. Creativity helps pay the bills sometimes. If you have nothing to sell and don’t have a bank account to get a loan, consider offering services such as skilled trades, house cleaning and shopping services. These can end up being a lucrative part time job.

Canadian personal finance website in simple terms from a Canadian perspective. Focusing on savings, investing, budgeting, taxes, and more. Includes Investing, Loans, RRSP, RESP, Credit Cards, Money Savings, Tax Savings, Retirement, Real Estate.