Give Me Back My Five Bucks

2015 Canadian Personal Finance Conference

I’m currently in Toronto scouting out venues for #CPFC15 (yes, it’s actually happening!!!). For those that don’t know, CPFC stands for the Canadian Personal Finance Conference, and it’s something that I co-founded with my pal Preet Banerjee back in 2011. We wanted to create an event for personal finance bloggers to get together, learn, and share ideas, and the 2012 and 2013 conferences both sold out extremely fast. Past presenters have included Rob Carrick, Dan Bortolotti, Ellen Roseman, Bruce Sellery, and Kerry Taylor. It’s the only conference of its kind in Canada, and I’m super proud to be part of it.

Preet stepped away from the event after 2013, and after a year hiatus, we are back on track and ready to make 2015 the best PF conference ever. :)

If you’ve attended before, or are interested in learning more, I’d love to get your opinion on a few ideas I have for the conference. It’d be really helpful if you could take a few minutes and fill out this survey for me!

To stay up-to-date on the latest #CPFC15 news, you can follow the hashtag on Twitter, and like our Facebook page.

Any questions? Leave a comment, I’d be happy to answer them all.

2015 Annual Goals

Happy New Year! I hope that you all had a great holiday season. :) I’m coming off of a horrible battle with food poisoning, and I still don’t feel very good. But I’m happy to be getting back into some sort of routine.

2014 was an interesting year. Lots of ups and downs. I lost my job, but gained a new one. Lost touch with some friends, but gained new ones. I became vegetarian (after a year of pescetarian), started training for a marathon, and then got injured. Twice. I did a bit of traveling (but not enough – it’s never enough), started reading a lot more, and worked really hard on building relationships, bettering my headspace, and making myself more available – which meant less time working in front of my computer.

2015 will be about finding balance, and living with less. Right now, I don’t have much balance. I live most of the time at BF’s house, and as a result, my own house gets neglected. Stuff has piled up everywhere – stuff I don’t even need. Whenever I’m home, it’s a mad rush to get laundry done, go grocery shopping, and work on freelance stuff. Tasks get pushed aside, things get misplaced, lunches don’t get made, and sometimes it just gets too chaotic for me.

So I really want to focus on three things:

  1. Planning out each week as best I can.
  2. Start donating/selling/throwing away things I no longer use.
  3. Re-focus on saving on the little things.

Retirement has always been important to me, and 2015 is no different. It will continue to be a main priority, and hopefully if those 3 goals above work out, I’ll be able to throw more money towards my retirement than I have been in past years.

Here is a breakdown of what I hope to achieve in 2015:

Financial

  • Stay debt-free (aside from my mortgage). I feel like this goal is an obvious one, but it needs to be said.
  • Increase my income by 15%. Last year my goal was to increase my income by 20%. But because I lost my job, I wasn’t able to achieve this goal. So I’m bringing it back for this year. I’d like to increase my overall income (full-time and part-time) by 15%. I think that this a bit of a stretch, but it’s still realistic.
  • Save at least $800/month into my RRSP/TFSA. This is an increase of $50/month from last year. My RRSPs are in TD e-series funds, and my TFSAs are with Questrade. I’ll likely split up the money $600 into RRSP and $200 into TFSA. For those of you curious, I use a modified Global Couch Potato investment plan.
  • Stay on budget every month. I need to make realistic budgets for myself this year, and focus on hitting those targets. That’s the only way I’m going to be able to achieve the rest of my financial goals this year.

Personal

  • Limit Starbucks trips to 2x/month. No need to explain. :)
  • Bring lunch to work most days. My co-worker and I like to eat at a food truck most Fridays, and now that our department is expanding, I expect that we’ll want to do some team bonding. I want to bring my lunch to work most days, but I also don’t want to miss out on the small things.
  • Shop for needs. I didn’t do a lot of shopping last year, but I did enough to make me feel like I need to make this a goal. I need to be more aware of what I actually need, instead of what I want.
  • Go on one big trip. We’ve been talking about taking an RV trip up to Alaska/Yukon/NWT sometime this year. It would be a much cheaper trip than going overseas like we had originally planned. I’ve been up to Alaska on a cruise before, but driving seems way cooler. Plus, it works out because there are a couple of other trips that I’ll take this year as well – like two trips to Toronto, one to San Francisco, and then in November I’ll likely be headed to Mexico for a week. Plus there’ll be a small trip to Seattle (Blue Jays game!), and fingers crossed, Portland as well.
  • Run in one half marathon. 2014 was an awful year for me. I got injured twice, and was forced to stop running in August. My goal last year was to run in 4 half marathon races, and I only completed one. This year, my goal is to just train for one. And since I learned my body can’t handle both field hockey and running at the same time, I’ll have to do all my training during the summer. This is provided my orthotics
  • Read 20 books. I have a huge list of books to read on GoodReads. Time to tackle them.

Professional

  • Enroll in Business Management program. I did a lot of research last year to figure out exactly how I’m going to take my career to the next level, and I came up with a part-time diploma program that I believe will help a lot. My one and only professional goal for 2015 is to enroll and start taking classes.

Are you getting a holiday bonus?

Do you get a year-end bonus from work around the holidays? I haven’t worked for a company that has given out annual bonuses for a while, but now I am, I’m faced with the problem of how I’m going to spend the money. A good problem to have. :) And while I’m tempted to spend it on a new laptop or a trip somewhere tropical, I know this small windfall will give me the opportunity to achieve a few financial goals I’ve been putting off.

Here are a couple smart ways I’ve spent my annual bonus in the past:

Pay off something

Do you have a small balance on your credit card, an outstanding medical bill, or are you six months away from making your final car payment? Using your bonus to pay off your bills will help lower your debt obligation – giving you more breathing room each month. When I was paying off my student loans, I would throw any extra money I had towards that debt, and was able to eliminate it a lot faster than I had originally anticipated.

Improve your home

This is a big one for me now that I’m a homeowner. I’m finding there’s always something that needs to be done, and often times I put it off until the last minute. But things that are barely working will break down eventually, and using the bonus money to get them fixed now will save me money in the future. I know that not only will these improvements make me happier hanging out at home, but it will likely also increase the value of my home in the process.

Start a side business

If you’ve been saving money to start a new business, or if you want to take your existing business to the next level, using your bonus is a great opportunity to invest your money into your future. I have definitely spent bonus money on improving my websites, office equipment, and buying hosting. And I have a couple of friends who have received bonuses and invested that money that into a real, legitimate side business. One used the money to buy supplies and launch a store on Etsy.com, where she makes anywhere from $300-500 in extra income each month. And the other friend was able to buy additional baking equipment, which allowed her to offer more items to her clients.

Buy insurance

Set the money aside for the next time your home or car insurance comes up for renewal. That way you won’t be scrambling to find the money when the time comes. I used to get a small bonus every year from one of the companies I worked for, and felt pretty triumphant when it came to renew my car insurance, and could pay for the entire year in cash. Small win, I know. But back then, it was a major accomplishment. :)

Pay for a financial advisor

A financial advisor will be able to help you develop a personal plan of attack, and provide the peace of mind knowing that you are working with a sound investment strategy – and that you are on your way to achieving all your financial goals. Look for a fee-for-service advisor – unlike other financial advisors who might charge a percentage of your income or by trade, a fee-for-service advisor charges a flat fee or an hourly rate for providing specific services.

This year, I’m leaning towards getting a plumber in to fix my sink, and then putting half into my TFSA, and the other half onto my mortgage.

If you are getting an annual bonus this year, what will you spend it on?

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