Make It About Memories, Not Money

Mother Nature has been quite kind to us in Manitoba so far this summer. The sun has been shining and the temperatures are fantastic. And let’s not mention the M word, the lack of our buzzing, biting little buddies.

Now that school is out, it’s time to think about how to entertain ourselves on the weekends and the kids for two whole months. With a younger generation who has access to more technology and games than any generation prior, it’s easy to visualize a summer spent indoors. With the summer shaping up as it has been so far what a better time to break that cycle. Let’s be smart about it and not break the bank while we’re at it.

We live in a beautiful province that offers so many options for activities. These can range from day trips to week long outings for anyone who wants to enjoy it. Here are some cost-effective options for making memories.

  1. Grand Beach. This huge stretch of soft sand beach and sand dunes is only a one-hour drive from Winnipeg. This beautiful beach has been listed world-wide as an experience to be had and so many locals have yet to make the trip. It’s a great getaway for a day and offers camping, motels and cottage rentals for longer stays.
  2. Birds Hill Park. Located a very short drive from the city, this vastly under-utilized year round provincial park offers a slew of activity choices. Paved and natural trails allow for biking, rollerblading and hiking. There are horse stables and quite often Polo games are available for viewing. There is a campground with choices of basic, electrical or full service camping and a beach with food and beverage options.
  3. Little Limestone Lake. A little longer trip, but the closest to the Caribbean you can get when you don’t live near the ocean. It is the biggest and best marl, colour-changing lake in the world.
  4. Whiteshell Provincial Park. Part of the Canadian Shield landscape about 1.5 hours east of Winnipeg, is a treasure trove of natural resources. This park is filled with wildlife as the wilderness is quite undisturbed. If you’re looking to spend time at the lake, there are beaches, waterfalls, rapids, diving, sailing, swimming and waterskiing as just a few choices.
  5. Assiniboine Zoo. An absolute gem located right within the city and one of the most beautiful urban parks the zoo offers a plethora of experiences for young and old. Right now you have the chance to see the incredibly endangered snow leopards. The two little cubs are just settling into their new enclosure and are still awaiting their names. Included in the regular admission this summer, the new attraction Xtreme BUGS is being offered for a limited time. One of the biggest attractions, literally, is the polar bears whom you can see in action without travelling to the North.

This is such a small sampling of the destinations available in Manitoba. If you love to travel and experience the outdoors, this is a great place to do it without having to hurt your wallet. Now, get out there and experience all there is to do in Manitoba!

Money Management – Can You Afford It?

On the face of it you can, because there’s the money in the bank that’s maybe not doing much. After all, the bank is paying you 0.00001% on your deposit account, you don’t understand the stock market so there’s no point risking it there because you could lose a lot more than whatever you’ve seen in the shop will cost you. Why not treat yourself?

But do you have a financial plan?

Honestly, if you don’t have a financial plan, you’ve absolutely no idea if you can afford that new thing or not! Absolutely none!

Let’s go back to basics

You want to have a certain amount of money and assets by a certain age. I would suggest at least $1M by the age of 50 including your house, pension plans and whatever as a minimum. For a couple, it’s at least $1.5M.

Work back from there and figure out how much you need to save every month to get there.

If you’re 25 years old, you need to be socking away $500 every month for the first year. The next year, $600 a month. The year after that, $700 a month, and so on, increasing your savings rate by $100 per month every year. If your savings grow at 7.5% a year, you’ll be a millionaire by 50. Just! And you’ll probably have to pay some taxes along the way on your investments…

Anyway, let’s assume for the moment that you’re saving in line with this plan and that you’ve been following it religiously for the last 3 years. This means at the age of 28, you should have about $25,000 in the bank or in assets, at the age of 40, you should have about $350,000 in the bank or in assets. Even this is the absolute minimum and unexpected things can happen along the way like being unemployed for a few months which might eat into your savings and prevent you from adding to them during this period.

The affordability test

If at the age of 28, you haven’t got $25,000 in net worth, you can’t afford it! And even if you can, you might prefer, having thought about it in these terms, to pass on that impulse purchase and to keep the money in the bank instead.

The push-back

If you have a partner, it’s possible that, even though you’re focused on the long-term, your partner is more of the spend-it-if-you’ve got-it variety. If this is the case, it’s absolutely crucial that you have your numbers straight in your head to be able to push back against unnecessary purchases that would take you away from your (joint) financial objectives. And don’t forget that the numbers I’ve given are only for a single person, not a couple.

Splurge-Wiggle

Having said all of the above, it’s important to have a bit of slurge-wiggle room in your monthly budget if possible to buy a few things that are not completely necessary. This will actually help you stay on track because otherwise you might simply throw the budget out of the window as being too restrictive and depressing.

Conclusion

You can only afford to spend any surplus you have after meeting your savings goals first. By thinking about your finances in this way, you’re well on your way to Simple Money Management!

Manage Your Money Like a Basketball Bracket

Nobody likes the process of building a budget but since we have all been captivated by watching NCAA basketball during March I thought of a way to make the process more fun by turning the chore of budgeting into a game.

If you are a March Madness fan you probably still have brackets on your mind. How about using those same brackets and turn them into a budgeting tool? What if you could make the process of creating a budget just as fun as filling out a basketball bracket?

Here are seven ways to make your budgeting more fun:

Figure out your priorities: In basketball brackets, these are called seeds – the best-ranked team is No. 1 and the worst is the No. 16 seed. In the world of budgeting your main concern is separating your needs from your wants. Ask yourself, is this item a necessity, or just fun to have? Unlike your basketball bracket, you may not come out with a single winner. You may have various purchases that are important that are placed in the winner’s bracket.

It’s time to pick your final four: It’s important to know what your top four priorities are. We call those food, shelter, utilities and clothing and transportation. It’s imperative that you take care of these items before anything else. That means you’re not buying that new 65″ HD TV until your kids have food on the table and lights to do their homework.

Always do your research: Some people spend hours researching the teams so they can put a sleeper team in their winning bracket. What if you could do that same amount of research and understand where all your money is going every month. And maybe even find a sleeper item in your personal budget.

Be flexible: Just like a basketball bracket, you make your budgeting forecasts based on current data. Just be aware that information and your habits are constantly changing. Stay flexible so you can make your budget updates quickly. Never “set it and forget it”.

Always aim for perfection but expect a little less: How easy is it to pick a perfect NCAA bracket? Did you know it is less than one in 9.2 quintillion? Luckily, making a usable budget is much easier than picking that perfect basketball bracket. A perfect budget doesn’t exist either because there is always something unexpected that comes up that isn’t in the budget – emergency room visit, car trouble, etc. So don’t ever aim for perfection when it comes to budgeting. Just prepare for the unexpected.

Never ignore the past: In budgeting as in basketball there are trends. By looking at the trends in your past budget or spending habits you’ll know your inclinations for future spending. Your trends will tell you if you need to make any adjustments in your current budget.

Reallocate if necessary: Just like in basketball you might have to change your proposed winners or sacrifice teams. Reallocating funds within your budget is a big part of streamlining your budget. Whether you’re simply moving money between activities or shifting larger quantities monthly, keep a watchful eye on every move you make.

Remember, your budget doesn’t have to be a boring task. I agree that comparing your budget preparation to an NCAA tournament bracket is quite a stretch. The point I am trying to make is you can have some fun while getting yourself out of debt and learning some creative ways to manage your money.

How to Budget Your Way Out of Debt

While so many are unemployed and the situation is worsening the debt crisis hitting families is becoming more unsustainable. Governments say they want to create employment but they have no way of stopping companies from moving offshore or from ceasing to exist. This is having a huge impact on all countries and the introduction of robots to do the work of humans is causing the frustration that many in debt now feel.

It is one of the most painful times in someone’s life when they cannot pay the bills and suffer shortages of essential items, even food. While privatisation of resources is another cause of debt companies are demanding higher fees for services provided.

There seems to be no end to the vicious circle but there are some things that people can do to make ends meet. Short of cutting out all non-essential items one of the things that really helps is a budget. One must write it on paper to show how much comes in and what goes out.

An account ledger is a good place to start. On the left hand side list all monies coming in while on the right hand side all the money spent. That includes groceries, bills, and other things. The aim is to get a balance between the two sides.

Once everything is listed work out ways to pay the bills over a longer period. Instead of paying the full amount at once ring the company involved and stagger the payment over two to three income periods. That way one can be paying off the majority of debt without stretching themselves too far.

If unemployed and there is no income, then that is a different matter. One has to apply to the government for the dole and use charities to help pay the bills. The main thing is good management and that can only be achieved when things are written down and the ledger is balanced.

Under normal circumstances it will happen that things will come right. Slowly over time and with determination to pay less for things and even to put a little aside each payday for emergencies the debt will be dissolved. It’s a self-discipline exercise as well as restraint against spending on things that can be put off until another time.

The golden rule is not to use credit cards and never buy anything unless you can afford to pay cash for it.