Thursday, November 15, 2012

Blog For Financial Literacy Awareness Day!

It is something you are literally going to think about every day of your entire adult life. Sometimes when you think about it your hands are going to start to sweat and your heart will race. It is going to be the source of most of your 'discussions' with your significant other. It is the leading cause of divorce in North America right now. Sounds like I could be talking about sex! In fact - most teenaged boys answer just that. Truthfully - all those statements refer to MONEY! We spend our time figuring out how to make more of it, and how to spend less of it. Sometimes we're successful at handling it - sometimes we are not!
 Today is 'Blog For Financial Literacy Day'. It's part of the overall Awareness Month going on throughout November here in Canada. I am happy to be taking part in posting today on the theme of 'My Best Tip'! A number of personal finance bloggers are taking part and if you check out my first post this month you'll see where you can find a list of everyone participating.

So what is my best tip when it comes to Financial Literacy Awareness? It is one of the words in the title - Awareness! I have written a couple of times here, and I will do it again right now, about the fact that being connected to your money and your overall financial situation is the most important thing to keep on your mind. Everything else - such as where to put your money, how to make your money grow, the best investments, the best credit cards (shudder) - is just part and parcel of the overall concept that you have to be aware of where you stand financially all the time.
There are hundreds - no thousands - of websites all talking about Personal Finance. Many of them have great information on their specific area of expertise. They are easy to find and by using websites such as, you can find the best PF websites all listed and ranked in one place - making the information gathering that much easier. But all that information is useless if you don't get it set in your mind to actually take control of your financial life - and keep control of it at all times. Stay on top of your bills. Pay your debts automatically from your accounts. Sit down with your partner and have a discussion about money as often as you feel comfortable doing so - more often if it makes you uncomfortable. Make a plan and stick to it.
Money can lead to a lot of good things in life. It can also lead to a lot of bad if it is handled improperly or allowed to rule your life instead of you ruling it. Make a vow to yourself, and your loved ones, that you will keep connected to your finances. In doing so, you will have a huge advantage over the majority of the population and you'll be ready for anything that is thrown your way.
I hope we can continue the journey together. Cheers!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Black Friday Freakout!

It's coming! In less than two weeks the single day all shopaholics have circled in red on their calendars will hit us. It is, of course, Black Friday. Even for those of us who live in Canada, and are close enough to the border with our southern neighbours, Black Friday has taken on a life of it's own. I have co-workers who book the Thursday and Friday off (a year in advance) so they can stay in a motel in the U.S overnight on Thursday - shop their brains out on Friday - and bring back more stuff duty-free because they've stayed a 24 hour period. Wow!
So what are my thoughts on Black Friday? Truthfully - I have to say that I see it as a good opportunity to practice smart money thinking on everyone's part. If you see a store has something you really need, or a gift you plan on getting for someone for Christmas anyhow, at a really good price - go for it! But ONLY IF you can work it into your already pre-determined budget. Don't spend the electricity payment on that 42" LED-HD TV if it will set you back a month on your bills. Also - do not rack up the credit card because then you're just adding interest to the whole equation. But if you've got money saved, this may be a good chance to save a few dollars on already planned purchases.
The key is to be smart about it. I hope everyone knows by now that stores will put just a few items on major price slash to get you in the door. Other items are then only slightly discounted or at regular price but 'labelled' as sale items with an inflated original price. Do your research between now and next Friday and figure out exactly what you are going to buy and stick to your list. It's the impulse items which end up breaking the bank as you walk around the store with your prized purchase already in the cart.
The Black Friday Freakout doesn't have to end up putting you in dire financial straits heading into the holidays. Use it as a chance to set yourself up with a few gifts in the closet and a few dollars saved still in your bank account at the end of the day.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Do The Small Things Really Matter?

Are you a penny pincher? Do you find the best deals and pay the least amount possible for anything you buy? Are you connected to where your money is going every month and taking steps to hold on to as much as you can? If you answered 'Yes' to any, or all, of those questions, you are living a 'frugal' life. The problem is, some of the 'experts' are saying being frugal isn't enough to really change your financial situation. They tell you to focus instead on maximizing your income, getting better jobs which pay more, investing your money where it's going to give you a better return. (I always find that last one funny - considering most people reading personal finance advice blogs probably don't have the extra money available to actually invest in anything) I agree with the idea that you should work on those areas, when it's appropriate and feasible to do so in your life. But for college students, being 'frugal' and money smart is pretty much the only way to control your financial situation.
Let's take a look at the numbers, shall we? I've given almost 100 useful tips and tricks in my book (which I promise not to plug - again - because you can click on the links on the side if you would like more information) (Wait - was that non-plug actually a plug in disguise?) which can save students money while they are away at school. Buying no-name groceries, partying at home, mass transit, etc. etc. - they all add up. Let's use a very, very conservative number and say that using a few of the tips together will save a student around $200 a month compared to what they would have spent otherwise. Students typically spend 8 months of the year away at school (Sept. through April). So a student could very easily save (8 months x $200/month) or $1600 over the course of one school year. Multiply that by a four year programme and that totals $6,400 in savings.
I don't know about you - but over $6,000 in my pocket, or not borrowed, in a four year period is a pretty significant chunk of change. It's enough to potentially make a difference in how much a student needs to borrow,or even if they have to take out a loan at all. Since the average student winds up with @$25,000 in student loan debt - knocking that down to under $19,000 is a good start.
Do the small things matter when it comes to being money smart? Absolutely!! When the only thing you can control is how much you pay out - being frugal and controlling your spending will go a long way to putting more money in your pocket - or less money in the hands of your lenders when you are done school and heading out into the real world. Stay smart - increase your PF IQ - the little things add up! Cheers!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Scholarship Season Is In Full Swing!

In today's post for Financial Literacy Awareness Month, I thought I would talk a little bit about something near and dear to every student's heart - or bank account - Scholarships!
'Tis the season to ramp up the applications and really try to get every possible scholarship, bursary or grant that you can find. There are numerous scholarships which have their deadlines either this month or before Christmas, so it's important to find the ones with the soonest cutoffs and get moving on them first.
I found a great article written today by my friend Jodi Okun. She is a professional Financial Aid Advisor. Her entire business is to help families get through the paperwork and preparations necessary to get financial aid for college. Jodi's article is entitled  '10 Ways to Make Scholarship Sponsors Love You'. It gives some terrific information to increase your odds of being awarded money to continue your education just for filling out some forms.
I have a couple more resources available on the sidebar which will lead you straight to scholarship search sites - and Jodi has many links on her site as well for you to check out. Don't delay! Now is the time to get those scholarship apps in the mail - or the email! Your bank account will thank you in the end. Cheers!

Election Day!

Just a really quick note this morning to wish all my American readers well as they head to the polls today. It's a tough choice for some - others know exactly who they are voting for, or even knew months ago. As my late Mother used to say to me, 'Vote in every election you get the opportunity to vote in. If you don't vote you don't have the right to complain about whatever happens after election day!' May you all have nice weather to wait in and short lines at the polling stations! Cheers!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Do We Really Need an Entire Awareness Month?

As you may already know - especially if you've dropped in here in the past week or so - November is Canadian Financial Literacy Awareness Month. A chance for all of us Personal Finance type people to spread our vast knowledge about money to the masses gathered around their computer screens, or tablets, or whatever other device. But do we really need an entire month dedicated to enlightening each other about Financial Literacy? In my humble opinion - Hell Yes!! In fact, I don't think a month is long enough. We need Financial Literacy Awareness Year - every year - for as long as we live our adult lives!
As I sit here writing this today - it is my birthday. Not just any birthday. One of those birthdays that ends in a 'O'! One of those birthdays which makes you sit down, or lay down in my case last night, and reflect on your life so far, the mistakes you've made, the successes you've had and where you think things are heading from this point forward. In my time of reflection I realized that many of the things I thought of in those areas in some way or another revolved around money. Maybe it was my lack of financial literacy when I thought about some failures and mistakes I had made. Maybe it was the extra money I came into when I thought about the progression of my career and where things are heading in that area of my life. Whichever reflection came to mind - there was a monetary aspect to almost each and every one. Even thinking about my kids had me reflecting on wishing I could have taken them more places but being unable to afford that luxury.
That is why it is so important to spend your entire adult life being Financially Literate. Staying connected to your money is something I've been talking about here for awhile. Learning how to handle your money - where to invest it - the best ways to save it - the tools you can use to get the most out of the money you have - these are all things we need to stay aware of all the time. There are thousands of websites all dedicated to personal finance. Some good, some not so good, and some great. Take this opportunity to find a few that speak to you and connect with what you are dealing with right now in regards to money. The Wisebread website listed in my favourites is a great place to start. They rank hundreds of PF websites and put them into categories so you can find one that has the information you need. Use that as a starting point for your own financial literacy.
A month is not enough - make this Financial Literacy Awareness Life! Cheers!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Another Great Site - For Students

Continuing with the theme for Financial Literacy Awareness Month - I wanted to introduce the younger readers (and by 'younger' I mean those in their early 20's) to a great personal finance website. The site is called The sub-title of the blog describes what readers can do if they read it - 'Kill Debt. Have More Money Now. Enjoy Life.' It is written by a young man by the name of Martin whom I had the pleasure of meeting recently at the Canadian Personal Finance Conference in Toronto. Martin is a very funny guy (both in person and in his writing) - and he's also very wise beyond his years when it comes to thoughts on personal finance. The combination of humour and wisdom comes through in his blog in some great posts which will have you laughing one second and taking notes the next.
Studenomics was recently selected the best PF blog for young people at the Plutus Awards handed out at FinCon12 in Denver. Martin does a great job of supplying his readers with useful tools while making it fun to read at the same time. Go ahead and click on over to take a look! Cheers!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

An Online Financial Literacy Community

I'd like to begin Financial Literacy Awareness Month by introducing you to a very useful resource available online. There are numerous places on the internet where you can get your questions answered about personal finance. One that I have recently found, which runs the gamut from saving and budgeting to investing, is the TD Helps forum. It's hosted by the TD Bank - but that's where the branding ends. None of the information is given with a sales pitch trying to get you to buy TD products or services. It is strictly a forum for Canadians to ask their money questions and get straight up answers from people who know what they are talking about. Straight up - I'm not getting paid to endorse this site - I just think it can be added to all your other tools when it comes to being smart about your money.
Here's a little blurb from the company regarding TD Helps...
A first among major banks, TD Bank Group has launched a community where people can ask the questions that are keeping them up at night and receive a tailored answer within hours, from an expert and sometimes from someone in the community who’s been there. No strings attached – just personal, expert advice available to anyone with a question. The TD Helps community was originally launched in the spring as an online home financing advice forum. Canadians were so receptive to the “virtual face-to-face” interaction that it has expanded to include a broader range of financial advice, including investing and planning for retirement, saving and managing your money, and borrowing and managing credit. You won’t find a sales push anywhere on the site, the goal is simply to build a community that will help Canadians make better financial decisions. In addition to Canadians asking specific questions to experts who are on-call to answer questions, high-traffic to the site shows Canadians are visiting the forum and using it as a resource, asking for info and reading answers to questions others have submitted. To date, thousands of personal finance questions have been answered on TD Helps.
Give it a look. See if any questions you might be thinking about have been answered. Some of the questions people have asked are specific to TD - but there are a lot of great answers to general financial questions broken down by category. I like the site as a reference tool - plain and simple.
Happy November (WOW time flies!) and Happy Financial Literacy Awareness Month! Cheers!