Financial Matters

To Lend Or Not To Lend? 4 Things To Consider

LendMoneyBy: Ellan Dickieson, Family Service PEI

We have all been asked to lend money. It may have been $5, $500, or even $5000. Chances are, the person doing the asking viewed you as someone they could trust and turn to in a time of need.

Adult children, grandchildren or even friends may be coming to you to lend money. They might be purchasing a car, going to school or need a new appliance for their home. It might just be for weekly groceries, gas for the car, school supplies or to buy someone a gift. Helping others can make us feel good about ourselves and can be extremely rewarding, but if you are considering lending money you must always remember to put yourself first.

1) Do Your Research

If someone has approached you to lend them money, get as many details as possible. Regardless of the amount, the person should be able to provide you with the information that is necessary for you to consider a loan. Give yourself 24-48 hours to think about it. Some extra time will help you to gain confidence to form an answer. Be sure that you only lend what you can afford to live without and also consider the impact your lending decision will make on other family members or friends.

2) Don’t Be Afraid To Say No

If you have decided that now is not the best time for you to lend money, then you must stand your ground. Be firm and concise as you explain that you are not in a position to help out at this given time. People might assume that you have money to spare, but make it known that it acts as an emergency fund to protect you against unexpected expenses.

3) Help In Other Ways

With the life skills that you have, could lend a hand for someone in different way? Perhaps reviewing their finances or finding ways for them to earn extra income. Maybe you can provide them with services like babysitting, home cooked meals or drives to work. For an upcoming birthday or holiday, consider giving a cash gift this year.

4) Get Details When Saying Yes

If you do decide to lend a large sum of money, you should discuss all of the terms including: the amount being loaned, interest rate and repayment schedule. The key thing to remember is to write it all down! A personal loan agreement form can be helpful. Having it on paper will help avoid any confusion in the future.

In most cases, it is hard to say no but your financial stability is just as important as anyone else’s. Learn from the experience. Teach the person who has asked for a loan about self-sufficiency and independence. Both of you will feel better about your decision in the long-run through one another’s strength and support about financial matters.

For more information about lending and giving money visit: www.It’

10 Ways I Am Paying Down My Debt Faster- And You Can Too


Ellan vacationing in Newfoundland.

By: Ellan Dickieson, Family Service PEI

Do you ever imagine what your life would be like debt free? I know I certainly do! How many times have I thought, “If I just had $20,000”?

Paying down debt is hard work; it takes patience, perseverance, discipline and intelligence. As someone who is working very hard to pay off debt (most of which comes from a graduate degree obtained while living in a big city) I want to share some tips that have worked for me. It is my hope that my honesty will help you.

That being said, I realize that there really isn’t any one “best way” that works perfectly for everyone, and what worked for me may not be applicable to you. Hopefully within my ten suggestions you will be able to consider a few. The more of these you can apply, the faster you will get out of debt.

1. Suck It Up and Go Work

I realize I am starting harshly, but any amount of money is better than none! When I moved home I was under the impression I had the education to obtain a well paying government job. To say the least, it didn’t pan out. It took me 10 months to get a job in my field. In the meantime, I went to work for $12 an hour, working 12-hour night shifts in a home for the elderly. Although I loved the residents and I cherish my time spent with them, it was not a job that matched my qualifications. At times I was embarrassed to even tell people where my graduate degree had gotten me, but at the end of the day that pay cheque sure looked a lot better than nothing! You have to find a way to generate income (legally)- even if it is taking a job you are over qualified for.

2. Prioritize Your Debt: Pay Off Your Most Expensive Debts First

Upon my return home I had credit card debt and three sources of student loan debt, all with varying interest rates. I prioritized these debts based on interest rate. I chose the debt that was charging me the most interest (credit card 20%) and focused my extra payments on paying that one off first, while continuing to make minimum payments on the others. Once my first, most expensive debt was paid off I started to focus on the next most expensive debt (Federal student loan 5.5% interest rate).

I will continue this method until each of my debts is paid off, with the Provincial student loan, sitting at 0% interest rate, being last as it is the least expensive. This strategy can help get you out of debt quickly, and you will feel encouraged as you knock off one debt at a time.

3. Pay More Than the Minimum

Once you have prioritized how you are going to repay your debts, make sure that you always pay more than your minimum payments. If you only make your minimum payments each month you will be running on a treadmill; it can take forever to pay off your balance.  If you want to pay off your balance quickly, pay as much extra as you can afford. Even an extra $50 each month will help. I spent a lot of time using financial calculators to see how quickly I could get my debts paid down. I would suggest you do the same.

4. Spend Less Than You Plan to Spend

Like most young professionals, I wanted to get my own place, decorate it nicely, travel, shop, dine out…the list goes on and on. The harsh reality is that most of us have wishes and wants that are bigger than our pay cheques. Many people get into debt and stay in debt because they tend to buy what they want, not what they need. Instead of my own place, I settled for moving in with someone else. Not only did this save me a ton of money on rent, but I also didn’t have to furnish or decorate the place. Although I don’t have a place to call “my own” I do have new friendships that will last me a lifetime. Try to think about what you could do without. Sometimes living without can be a blessing in disguise.

5. Buy a Quality Used Car Rather than a New One

To be honest, some of the worst debt I see is vehicle debt. The reason being, when you purchase a new vehicle the value decreases the minute you drive off the lot, and if you are having difficulty keeping up with the payments your options for getting rid of the debt are limited. You can save yourself thousands of dollars if you buy a quality used car rather than a new one. I got lucky; my elderly neighbor was selling her vehicle and 2 years later, knock on wood, it hasn’t cost me a cent. I cannot begin to describe how nice it is not to have to make a car payment every month!

If you live in an urban area you may be able to forfeit a vehicle altogether, or cut back to a 1 vehicle household. Not only will you be saving money, you will be saving the environment and increasing your activity by walking or biking!

6. Create a Spending Plan & Track Your Spending

You should have an idea of how you plan to spend your money. I prefer to look at how much money I take in every month, and how much I think I will spend. I simply write down all my known fixed monthly expenses (rent, car insurance, debt payments) and then estimate my fluctuating expenses (gas, groceries, entertainment). The key here is to make sure that I am spending less than I earn. The other key is to see how much I have leftover, and decide what I want to do with it; pay extra on debts, save for emergencies, a vacation, or all three.

Planning is great- but saying and doing are two different things. That is why you need to track your spending. (Insert blank look here). I get it; it’s not exactly something to jump up and down about. However, doing this can save you almost as much money as working a part time job.

I don’t track my spending all the time; that would just be torturous for me. To keep my money mind happy, I track my spending about 2-3 months a year. This allows me to see if my spending is in line with my budget. Do I really spend $200 a month on gas and $200 on groceries?

I prefer to use an app on my phone, however a notepad can work just as well. Be sure to adjust your spending plan based on your tracking results. Should your personal circumstances change (new job, living arrangements, baby) be sure to track at that time.

7. Save on Food

I don’t cut out coupons, make meal plans, read the flyers regularly or grocery shop at Mom’s house (not saying I haven’t or won’t again someday). I do cook food at home and try to avoid eating out for convenience. I don’t buy a coffee in the morning. I make big pots of soup and chili and put them in the freezer. I go to Costco and stock up on the necessities, and I share/split bulk items with others. I pick up the flyer when I walk into the store and do tend to buy things that are on sale.

There are numerous ways to save on food, simply visit Pinterest. Some require a little effort; some require a lot of effort. Find a happy medium that works for you. I don’t expect to see you on the next episode of Extreme Couponing.

8. Get a Second Job and Pay Down Your Debt Aggressively

I often get asked why I would want to work a second job. My answer: Because I can, and someday I may not be able to, or won’t want to.

If you have the time and ability, taking on more hours, or getting a second job could be your key to financial success. I teach fitness classes as my second job. It rocks! There are far greater benefits than simply the pay: I get to help people, I get paid to workout, I meet people, I get a free gym membership…the list goes on. Do you have a hobby that you could turn it into cash? This doesn’t work for everyone, but if you can make it work, you could be debt free faster.

9. Get Creative with Vacations

I know I should be telling you to completely cut vacations, but nobody wants to do that, including me. So instead, I encourage you to vacation on a budget. For me, this looked like adding pleasure to work trips. I was fortunate to get to travel to Ottawa, St. John’s and Vancouver for work in the last few years. Each time I tacked on extra days and was able to visit friends/family and tour the area. I also suggest vacationing where you have friends/family you can stay with, as accommodation can often be one of the biggest expenses. I have also chosen to take many smaller vacations in the Maritimes, close to home, which usually involve the less expensive option of camping. It is amazing how many great vacations are waiting in your own backyard!

10. Find Free Money

Yes, there is such thing as free money! Are there grants that you can apply for, whether it is to do renovations to your house, or to pay down your student debt? What costs would your employer be willing to cover? This may include your work gear, cellphone bill, travel expenses, professional fees/dues or first aid training. Would they be willing to contribute to a retirement savings plan? Some employers will agree to match your contributions up to a certain amount. All of these things are what I call- free money. You MUST take advantage of all the free money you can get!

As mentioned, what is working for me may not work for you. A good first step is to meet with a Credit Counsellor. A Credit Counsellor will be able to review your financial situation and provide you with additional options to help you get out of debt faster. This may include a consolidation loan, refinancing your mortgage or a debt repayment plan, amongst others. At the end of the day what is important is that you feel in control of your debt and you have a plan for getting it paid down as quickly as possible.





Debt Warning Signs- Is It Time To Reach Out For Help?


It is often our human nature to wait until we are backed into a corner to reach out for help. Call it denial or whatever you want, we frequently try and navigate difficult situations on our own. How do you know when you may need help managing your money and debts?

There are some definite warning signs, which may indicate that you need assistance with your debts. These warning signs can include:

  1. difficulty paying bills on time
  2. receiving collection calls or past due notices
  3. living in your overdraft or line of credit
  4. losing sleep worrying about debts
  5. spending more than your income allows
  6. not paying credit cards in full each month
  7. impulsive spending due to financial worries
  8. hiding spending or debts from a partner
  9. allowing bills to stack up because you can’t pay them
  10. a decline by your financial institution to consolidate your debts
  11. no budget or spending plan in place
  12. feelings of hopelessness that you’ll never get out of debt

If you, or someone you know, are experiencing some of these warning signs please know that there is help available. Our Credit Counsellors can provide you with confidential, non-judgmental coaching about your situation for free. As a Non-profit Credit Counselling service, we can lay out all of your options for you and then let you chose what you think is best. Why not take advantage of a free service and get yourself back on the right path!


What Savings Vehicle is Best for You? TFSA vs. RRSP

205By: Kathleen Batstone, Credit Counselling of Regional Niagara

Ever since the Government of Canada introduced Tax-Free Savings Accounts in 2009, people have been asking the question – “Where should I put my money – in an RRSP or a TFSA?”  Both of these savings plans allow participants to use a variety of investments and are a good way to save for things like retirement or education. Choosing which option is better for you depends on a number of factors.

Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs):

  • You don’t pay income tax on money you contribute to an RRSP, as long as you don’t put in more than your limit.  If you take money out of your RRSP, then you usually have to pay income tax on it.
  • The contribution limit is 18% of your previous year’s income, to a maximum of $24,270 in 2014, less any money you contribute to a pension plan.
  • You can’t make contributions to RRSPs after the year in which you turn 71.

Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs):

  • Unlike an RRSP, you pay tax on income you put into a TFSA, but interest you earn on money in a TFSA is not taxable.  That means when you take money out of a TFSA you pay no tax on it.
  • As of January 1, 2013, Canadian residents, age 18 and older can contribute up to $5,500 annually to a TFSA. This is an increase from the annual contribution limit of $5,000 for 2009 through 2012.
  • There are no age limits on TFSA contributions.

If you want to save money for a more short-term expense, a TFSA is usually the better option because you can take money out of a TFSA any time you like without paying tax. You can also put the full amount of the withdrawal back into the TFSA in future years. Make sure you understand the rules about when you’re allowed to put the money back in or you may have to pay a penalty for over-contribution.

For long-term retirement savings, one of the factors when deciding which plan is best for you is the income you think you’ll have when you retire.  Many financial planners use the following guideline: if your income is greater now than you expect it to be during retirement, go with the RRSP. One reason for this is because the tax deduction you’ll get for RRSP contributions at the higher tax rate you’re paying now will be larger than what you’ll have to pay when you take money out at your lower retirement tax rate. Most financial professionals suggest that you should take the tax refund you get from an RRSP contribution and immediately add that to your RRSP as the best way to maximize the plan’s advantages.

The second part of the guideline says: if your income is lower now than it will be when you retire, put your money into a TFSA. Unlike withdrawals from an RRSP, withdrawals from a TFSA do not count as income, so they aren’t counted when the government is determining whether you qualify for benefits like Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement.

Of course there are other factors to consider as well when making your decision. For example, you may be able to use RRSP contributions to help buy your home or finance your education. Both the Home Buyers’ Plan and the Lifelong Learning Plan have rules about who is eligible and when you have to pay the money back, so make sure you get all the details about how those plans work.


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3 Ways to Create a Personal Budget Plan with Irregular Income

Budgeting and money management strategies to get through the better times and the leaner times.By: Julie Jaggernath, Credit Counselling Society

When you’re a student with a student loan, a self-employed entrepreneur or someone who depends heavily on commission or seasonal income, you might be tired of hearing everyone tell you that a budget will make managing money easier. But when you have irregular income, what if creating a budget is the problem?

If you have fluctuating income, seasonal employment or if you depend on lump sums of money to carry you through several months of expenses, creating a budget can be extremely difficult.

The trick is that while your income fluctuates, with some careful planning, your spending doesn’t have to. Here are 3 ways to budget with irregular income.

Getting Started with a Budget – How to Plan for Expenses

Before trying one of the strategies below, take time to identify your expenses. List out your regular weekly and monthly commitments.

Then add in amounts for the less regular expenses you need to spend money on. These can be harder to identify than the regularly occurring expenses, so pull out your calendar and some bank or credit card statements and start reconstructing your spending habits.

Another great way to identify your spending habits it to write down where you spend your money. People who track their spending for at least a couple of weeks are often very surprised when they look back and their spending journal reveals where they actually spent their money.

3 Budgeting Strategies When You Have Irregular, Seasonal or Fluctuating Income 

When your income fluctuates, or you have irregular, seasonal, or sporadic incomefocus on planning and implementing a budgeting and money management strategy that keeps your spending from fluctuating. 

Here are 3 personal budgeting and money management strategies to get you started:

1. Budget Using Your Average Income

If you have had irregular income for a few years, one strategy is to calculate the average net income you’ve had each year for at least 3 years, divide by 12 and use that amount to build your current monthly budget. If this amount is not enough to meet all of your expenses, you must consider how you can supplement and increase your income on a regular basis or decrease your expenses to make your budget balance.

If you are self-employed, part of the planning process for any budgeting strategy must include a separate savings account for income tax payments.

2. Budget Using a Holding Account – This Method Works Well for Students

Another strategy is to set up a holding account. All of your income, including tax refunds, gifts, bonuses, student loans, etc., is deposited into the holding account. You pay yourself a monthly amount based on what you have identified you can afford and what will allow you to meet your obligations. During months of higher income, the holding account will have a larger balance. During the leaner months, the holding account balance will decrease. However, the amount you pay yourself does not vary from month to month.

A Special Budgeting Note for Students

For post-secondary students who are trying to budget with a lump sum of money, the holding account method is usually the easiest. With loan, grant, bursary, scholarship or money saved up from working over the summer, it can be much too easy to spend it all at once. By using a holding account and taking a “pay cheque” out every two weeks, it’s much easier to make the money last as long as it needs to.

3. Use Two Budgets: One for Good Times & Another for Leaner Times

A third way to deal with irregular income is to have two budgets, one for the better months and one for the leaner months. For most people, this is the hardest way to manage their money effectively because it’s easy to get into a spending habit during the better months and then feel deprived during the leaner months.

With two budgets, some people are tempted to spend because they expect to have money again in the better months ahead. They rely on credit to supplement their leaner times, which results in a cycle of debt and spending habits that becomes expensive and difficult to break.

The Bottom Line with a Personal Budget When Income is Irregular

personal budget allows you to focus on what you can do rather than on what you can’t, even if you have irregular income. Taking the time to create a realistic budget makes it easier to manage your money so that you can focus on spending time and energy on what’s important to you.

Sourced from:

Setting Your Donation Rules For 2015


By: Ellan Dickieson, Family Service PEI

With December having just passed, it is probable that many people made monetary donations to support a local, national, or international cause. Islanders, and seniors specifically, are some of the most giving people across the country. The act of giving to others makes us feel good about ourselves and often aligns with our individual morals and values.

Donating is a personal decision, but can be highly influenced by social and peer pressure, placing you in a situation where you feel obligated to make a donation. It happens to all of us. A friend, co-worker, family member, or total stranger asks us to make a donation, and we don’t want to!

Unfortunately, most of us don’t have a money tree. This means, just as we can’t always buy the things we want, we can’t always donate money every time we are asked.  This New Year, start to think more about your giving proactively, rather than just responding to solicitations that comes in. By preparing and setting donation rules, it will be easier for you to stay on track with your donation budget, and say no!

Set Your Donation Rules:

How much will I give?
Set your own limits. Make them annual, seasonal, or monthly, as you wish. Write down the amount you will be giving to specific organizations. Keep track every time you donate, and at the end of the year re-evaluate your donation budget.

What causes do I support?
Do you prefer to support local charities or national charities? Causes that your family members/friends are part of? Sport, or health oriented charities? Pick a charity of choice or make a prioritized list of favourites.

What don’t I support?
Some people have individual reasons for choosing not to support. Perhaps the charity does not align with your personal morals or values, or perhaps they are not having a direct impact on your community. Knowing what you do not support makes it easy to say no.

Other rules?
Some people insist on researching a charity before they donate. If you are giving away your hard earned money, you want to make sure it is going to charity you trust.

For more information on donating, including a donation tracker, please visit

Powers of Attorney

By: Ellan Dickieson, Family Service PEI

Norma fell and broke her leg. She will require surgery, and a lengthy stay in the hospital. She has bills at home, which need to be paid.

Lorne has learned that he has dementia, and therefore may not be able to look after his own affairs much longer. He will be asking his daughter to take over the responsibility of his personal finances.

Eleanor finds it very difficult to leave her home, as she no longer drives and has limited mobility. Her friend Joyce, whom she trusts, has offered to help with her finances and legal affairs.

Norma, Lorne and Eleanor are at a point in their lives where they are unable to look after their affairs, and will require the assistance of someone they trust. In their situations, they can use a power of attorney to assist with their affairs.

A Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives another person the power to look after your financial and property affairs if you cannot do this yourself or if you wish that person to do it for you.

The power that you give this person (the attorney) can be as narrow or as broad as you would like. You get to decide what they can and cannot do while you remain in control! This is a General Power of Attorney that can be specific or limited to a task or certain time period.  You may want your attorney to:

  • sell your car
  • write some cheques
  • make decisions about your property

This type of attorney ends however if your become mentally incapable of managing your own affairs.  An Enduring or Continuing Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows an attorney to act on your behalf if you become mentally incapable of managing your finances or property and often takes effect when you sign it.

If you wish to give another person authority to make health and other types of personal, non-financial decisions for you, another type of document will be required and they vary depending on your province.

A Power of Attorney can be used for many different reasons.

  • You can plan ahead by appointing someone to make your decisions when you want them to or incase you lose your capacity to make your decisions.
  • It can give you a peace of mind that you have someone you trust taking care of your affairs if you were to become sick and unable to make decisions.

Losing capacity means you are no longer mentally competent. In the terms of Power of Attorney, this means that you are unable to understand financial or legal matters and you do not have the ability to make decisions.This could happen if you were in a comma or unconscious, or if you were to experience dementia or other cognitive impairments.

A Power of Attorney must be one or more persons who are an adult over the age of 18, mentally capable of acting on your behalf, able to understand and fulfill their duties, and able and willing to act as per your wishes, beliefs, instructions, and values.

Remember you have the right to revoke Power of Attorney at anytime, you don’t give away decision making authority you share it, and therefore you are still in charge.  An attorney can abuse their power; such abuse may be improper spending/stealing money, or taking your CCP or OAS benefits.

Look out for yourself and know that this type of abuse can happen to anyone. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone if you think you are being financially abused by your attorney.  It is highly unlikely that somehow this is your fault.  Reach out for help if you have any suspicions that you are being financially abused.

Being an attorney is not a privilege, it is a responsibility.  Duties of an attorney include:

  • Act in the persons best interest
  • Act honestly and in good faith
  • Keep records of everything
  • Exercise care, diligence and skill when acting for the person.

Please note that power of attorney varies from province to province, so please check with your province to see what the specifics are in appointing your attorney.

Put Your Christmas On A Budget: Why & How

Christmas savingsBy: Household Management 101

When you think of Christmas on a budget perhaps you think of doing without, and everyone sitting around an empty Christmas tree looking sad. However having a Christmas budget doesn’t mean you are limiting your fun. Instead, it shows you are taking responsibility for your financial life and are taking steps to have a stress free holiday season.

After all, nothing screams stress like a credit card bill in January that you can’t pay!

Creating a holiday budget is something everyone should do, whether you are tight on cash this year, or are Uncle Scrooge rolling around in your money bin.

Each of us should be mindful of our spending, because Christmas, and the holiday season in general, is not about who can spend the most, but instead about love, family, friends, and faith. Money is not needed for any of those things.

How Much Do You Plan To Spend For Your Christmas On A Budget?

That being said, people enjoy giving gifts, entertaining, and traveling during the holidays. Those things cost money. Do you know how much you plan to spend on your Christmas budget this year?

In a Gallup poll Americans reported that they planned to spend $743 on Christmas, on average. When you are talking about spending that much cash, for any reason, you should have a written and thought out plan to make sure you can afford that much, and that you really need to be spending that much even if you can afford it.

You have heard and probably thought lots about the commercialization of Christmas, and the “give me” attitude of our children at this time of year. Celebrating Christmas on a budget can help you curb some of these more vice like characteristics of the holiday, and get us back to the core values we most cherish.

Create A Written Holiday Budget

I urge each of you to create a written budget for your Christmas purchases this year, not just one in your head.

The reason to write it down is that it is then more concrete, and you are more likely to take the exercise seriously and really think about the amounts in each category.

In addition, a written Christmas budget holds you more accountable because you can project the expenses now, but you can also write down how much you actually spent later, as the season progresses.

The first year you create your Christmas on a budget is the hardest, because you have to start from scratch with your numbers and form. However, save your budget form you create this year in your household notebook, and next year use it as a jumping off spot to make the budgeting process easier.

Christmas On A Budget – Categories To Consider

The most obvious part of a holiday budget revolves around how much you want to spend on gifts to give your family and friends. However, that is just one of many categories that truly reflect all that you will spend on the holidays this year.

The complete list of categories includes:

  • Gifts you will purchase (use this printable Christmas gift list to help you stay on budget for this category)
  • Supplies for gifts you will make
  • Wrapping supplies, such as paper, bows, gift bags, etc.
  • Decorations you want to purchase this year (and if you have a spectacular light display the increase in electricity that will cost, for example)
  • Christmas cards
  • Shipping, such as for boxes to be mailed to family far away, and stamps for your Christmas cards
  • Food, for parties, your own holiday celebrations, to give away as gifts, etc.
  • Any other entertaining expenses for those holiday parties you are giving or attending
  • Traveling expenses, such as gas, hotel rooms, etc.
  • Charitable giving this holiday season

I know this article is about Christmas on a budget, but I would suggest adding your planned expenses for Thanksgiving and New Years in there too, because this will more accurately reflect your spending for the whole holiday season, to make sure you can still afford everything you are planning.

Can I Still Afford This Christmas On A Budget Plan?

Once you see all the numbers laid out you may gasp, and try to grapple with the question of whether you can truly afford the amounts you have put down.

Frankly, that is a good thing. It is much better to make that realization on paper than after the spending has already occurred.

A good rule of thumb is never to spend more money for the holidays than you take home in your paycheck for one week. If you are in debt, or cash strapped, your budget may realistically need to be even less.

Keep trimming those numbers until they reach a total you can truly afford. This exercise will help you examine your priorities and values, which is always a good exercise around the Christmas season anyway.

The Most Important Step For Your Christmas On A Budget – Stick To It!

Don’t just fiddle with your numbers on paper until they look pretty, and then go off and spend whatever you want at the store. Actually commit to your Christmas budget, and don’t spend more than you have allotted.

If you have trouble with this, try using only real cash and the envelope method to pay for purchases. Make an envelope for each category and put in it the amount of money you have allotted for that category. Then, spend from that envelope and stop when you run out. This concept is very simple, but truly works wonders!

For even more tips on making your holiday budget check out this Christmas budget how to’s and video tips page, which provides more tips for making your family’s holiday budget, and tracking your spending to make sure you stick to that budget.

Merry Christmas, and may you truly enjoy your Christmas on a budget and stress free New Year!

*To access the tools that go with this article, go to the following source.


FSPEI Launches It’s Your Right Toolkit

Bz7vqFHCIAAvaLBBy: Family Service PEI

On Tuesday October 14th we launched our new financial literacy toolkit for seniors- It’s Your Right- Protecting Yourself Financially As You Age. This project has been made possible through the Government of Canada New Horizons for Seniors Project.

Special guests that attended the launch of our new toolkit were: Hon. Lieutenant Governor Lewis, Hon. Minister Wong Minister of State (Seniors), Hon. Valerie Docherty Provincial Minister of Community Services & Seniors, MLA Mr. Aylward Opposition House Leader.  We greatly appreciated the attendance of all our special guests and all who participated in the launch.

Financial difficulties can happen to anyone.  This toolkit was developed based on the input of PEI seniors, and is designed to educate and empower the senior themselves, encouraging them to utilize available resources to take a pro-active approach to protecting themselves financially as they age.  Even though it was developed by seniors for seniors it is a great toolkit for anyone.  Increasing financial literacy at any age will decrease a persons’ vulnerability, and subsequently help prevent financial abuse.

The toolkit, It’s Your Right-Protecting Yourself Financially As You Age, has eight main topics.  These include:

  • Who Can You Trust?
  • Lending, Giving, and Donating
  • Talking About Money
  • Scams & Frauds
  • Tips & Safeguards
  • Planning For Your Future
  • Financial Abuse
  • Getting Help

The content of this toolkit has been derived from local, regional and national resources, including the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, the Canadian Bankers Association, Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and many more.

The toolkit can be found at would encourage seniors to take advantage of the hands on training session, which will teach the ins and outs of the toolkit and increase financial literacy. The training dates and locations can be found on the website or by calling 902-436-9171.

Knowing that not everyone has access to the internet, we have developed a print version of this toolkit. We are working hard to make this toolkit available to all PEI seniors through local libraries, seniors clubs and banks.



Starting Your Emergency Fund

241By: Ellan Dickieson, Family Service PEI

As a young professional who harps on others about being financially responsible, I figured it was time to start practicing what I preach. With the credit card debt paid off and the student loans on the way down, it was time to stop relying on the credit card for emergencies, and actually start an emergency fund. An emergency fund for what, I asked myself. I don’t own a house, or have kids; I have a full time job…what could possibly go wrong?

Oh yes- I do still have those wisdom teeth, and the car that, knock on wood, has been really good to me, but has travelled +250k kilometres, and I did take a job in the not-for profit sector.

Frankly, everyone has multiple reasons to start an emergency fund. The first step to starting is understanding what an emergency fund actually is: An emergency fund is cash that you’ve saved up for the sole purpose of helping you maintain a normal life through the emergencies that life hands you.  Most of the time an emergency fund just sits there earning a bit of interest, until you actually need it.

Some people may view this as a cruel sort of punishment. Here you have money sitting in the bank just staring at you waiting to be spent. Life is short; you should be using that money now, living life to the fullest, right?

Actually, it is quite the opposite. Having an emergency fund means you have peace of mind. You don’t have to live life holding your breath, hoping that nothing bad happens. You are armed, prepared, and ready to tackle whatever comes your way!

Getting Started:

Set a realistic goal of how much money you want to have in an emergency fund.  Start with a small amount, such as $250 or $500. This is a goal that you should be able to reach in a realistic time frame.

Next break that goal down into smaller pieces. How much can you afford to contribute per pay period? Perhaps it is $10, $20, or $50. Regardless of the amount remember, any savings is always good savings!

There are numerous options for finding that extra money every month; you may simply have to get creative. Could you make more money by getting another job, working more hours, or turning a hobby into income? Or perhaps spend less money, by packing your lunch, carpooling, writing a grocery list, or bottling your own wine…?

Make It Automatic:

The easiest way for me to save money is to not have to be responsible for taking it out of one account and putting it in another.  With online banking I was able to set up a second online savings account, separate from the one I normally do business with. This way, the money is automatically swept from one account to the other, and accumulates interest at a better rate.

The other benefit of my online savings account is that the money is not easily accessible. I can’t just run to the ATM and grab the cash, there are a certain amount of transactions I can make before I am charged, and there are limitations and rules. These limitations give me enough time to think carefully before I act.

Please note that different banking institutions offer different products, and therefore I would encourage you to shop around for something that suits your needs.

Continue to Set Targets:

With the money automatically being transferred, before you know it you are going to open up your online banking and see that $500 sitting there. And what a glorious feeling it is! Your account will have enough money in it that you will start earning a bit of interest and you will start to feel in control of your financial situation.

So, when you have something good going, keep on rolling with it! Set another goal of $1000, then maybe 1 month’s worth of living expenses, 2 month’s worth etc. If something unexpected comes up along the way don’t be afraid to tap into that fund, that’s what it is there for. Remember that paying to fix the car using the credit card means paying interest, and paying with your cold hard cash doesn’t!

The Challenge:

This all sounds lovely, does it not? But in the real world there are challenges. The first challenge I faced was not finding the money to save, but not touching the money I had saved. What can I say, we live in a society that focuses on the now, and when friends are heading to Vegas NOW, well I want the money NOW! Given my desire to travel and see the world, I have started a separate travel fund. For others this may be a “splurge fund”. Point being, do what you have to do to not touch the emergency fund.

Remember, life can throw us curve balls, and although we cannot always control what comes our way, we can prepare ourselves. Don’t forget, luck favours the prepared!