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With Earth Day quickly approaching, going green is top of mind for many—my family included. But instead of trying to live green for one day or one month, what if you and your family made a long-term commitment to reducing your environmental footprint?
I’ve recently discovered millions of homes across the country share a dirty little secret—Canadian households typically have three zones that can consume up to 60% of energy usage. However, by making small, mindful changes, families can turn their impact from negative to positive.
In my books, Green For Life and There’s Lead in Your Lipstick, I talk about the small and easy changes families can incorporate into their day-to-day lives to eliminate harmful chemicals, save on energy costs and leave you feeling good about your environmental footprint. By focusing on each area as a ‘greenable zone’, it is possible to unlock countless environmental saving opportunities.
The first step is to identify which areas of your life have the most potential for green living—if your family is anything like mine, you undoubtedly spend the most time in the kitchen and there are several simple changes that can be made:
Where does an estimated 65% of your home’s total indoor water use take place? The bathroom. In this room, small simple changes can make a big impact:
As Canadians, there are many alternatives that we can start to integrate into our daily lives that will help make the planet a cleaner, healthier and more enjoyable place to live. The laundry room is the final room in the house where small changes can make a big difference:
There are lots of great online resources that offer tips and tricks on how to live a greener life—education is the key. I follow several green companies online for daily tips and green giveaways; my personal favourite is Seventh Generation.
What mothers of young families need is something compelling, engaging, and time efficient to make their financial affairs a priority. And could you make it a bit fun, too, they ask?
That why Golden Girl Finance (always fresh, fun, and modern) has written their Top 9 Financial Tips for Moms.
Drum roll, please…
1. Show me the money! – Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB)
This benefit pays $100 per month, per child, under the age of six. The aim is to help with childcare costs but the payments can be used for any expenses. Every family can receive this benefit no matter the family income, but the parent with the lower income must claim it for tax purposes.
2. Money for nothing and the education is free (well sort of) – RESPs
An RESP is a government approved program to encourage saving for the purpose of post-secondary education. Talk to your advisor about it while your kids are still young.
3. Not so taxing - Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA)
You don’t need to be a mom to take advantage of this registered all-purpose savings account. It is included because it allows you to earn TAX-FREE investment income to fund lifetime savings goals, such as retirement or education savings. Annual maximum contribution limit is $5,000. All income and capital gains earned within the account are, say it again, TAX-FREE!
4. But I’m the boss…of ME
In 2010, the government introduced the Fairness for the Self-Employed Act. Previously, self-employed Canadians were not eligible for maternity or parental leave benefits. With an estimated 900,000 self-employed women in Canada, this was clearly an important issue. Under the new legislation, self-employed Canadians can now receive similar benefits to other employed Canadians if they opt into the program at least one year prior to claiming benefits and are responsible for making premium payments starting with the tax year in which they opt in to the program.
5. Protect those (ass)ets girl! – Review your Insurance
6. Where there’s a will…there’s a way
7. Fit for a tax credit - Children’s Fitness Tax Credit
The government provides a non-refundable tax credit against the payment of programs that provide physical fitness benefits for children under the age of 16.
8. Not only are they Divine & Delightful…they’re Deductible!
If both parents work outside of the home, the parent with the lower income can deduct child-care costs on their tax return. For children under the age of seven, you can claim up to $7,000 per child, per year, for childcare expenses (so if you have three very young kids, for example, you can claim up to $21,000 in childcare expenses—about the cost of a full-time nanny). For every child between the ages of eight and 16, you can claim up to $4,000 per child, per year, for childcare expenses. You can also make childcare deductions if you decide to go back to school.
9. Don’t forget about the golden years!
Raising a family is expensive. While most moms are focused on saving for their children’s education and making sure their kids have the best of everything, don’t forget about you. While your children can borrow for their education, you cannot borrow for your retirement.
So you’re having a baby. Congratulations! To collect this once-in-a-lifetime gift, please insert $10,000.
What? Can someone say reality check? When many of us think about bringing a tiny baby into the world, we think about that sweet little face, the teeny-tiny clothes, and the warmth and love this precious little being will bring into our lives.
What we don’t always think about is the price tag…but perhaps we should. According to TD Canada Trust, a baby’s first year of life costs its proud parents around $10,000. When you consider that most women will also have to take some time off work, the whole financial picture can seem pretty overwhelming. So how can you make parenthood work, without going into debt to do it? Here are some tips:
1. Have the talk
If you and your partner plan to expand your family, whether it’s this year or a few years down the road, the time to talk about it is now. How will you prepare? Who will earn the money? Who will take parental leave? The sooner you lay out how you both feel about these things, the easier it’ll be to come up with a financial plan that works.
‘People often go through so much planning around having a child, but then they don’t have a plan with respect to how they’re going to manage the financial impact,’ said John Tracy, a senior vice president at TD Canada Trust.
‘There’s always an opportunity for misunderstanding or different expectations if couples don’t communicate. If you talk about it, it’ll be easier to work something out,’ Tracy said.
Once the baby’s born, you might not be able to stop worrying about whether it’s eating enough, how well it’s sleeping and whether you’ll ever get to sleep again! But when it comes to money, a little planning can help prevent at least one more thing from keeping you up at night.
2. Plan ahead…if possible
There are two kinds of parents: Those who plan for a baby and those who get one a little sooner than they expected. If you’re in the former group, use it to your advantage by setting financial goals to tackle before you become a parent, such as buying a home, setting up retirement savings and paying down debt.
If you’re a surprise parent, it doesn’t mean you have to fall off the financial wagon; you still have nine months to get started. Set up the best spur-of-moment plan you can to help reduce the financial impact, and then make a commitment to work toward an increasingly secure financial future.
3. Make saving a habit
If you’re thinking about having a baby, you’re probably at a stage in your life when there are a lot of demands on your money. But even if your budget is tight and you don’t have a lot to devote to savings, Tracy says you must make an effort to save anyway.
‘We’re big proponents of building a habit of saving, even if it’s only a small, nominal amount,’ Tracy said. ‘This helps to maintain some momentum in terms of savings goals.’
This means that when you’re working toward parenthood, it’s important to try to save as much as possible to offset the cost of additional expenses and parental leave, even if you can’t get the entire amount together. Tracy said it’s also important to continue to save during parental leave.
‘If you continue saving over the course of the year that you’re off work, it’ll be easier to pick back up where you left off when you do go back to work,’ Tracy said.
4. Make sure you know what you’re in for
Okay, so now let’s talk maternity leave. The reality is that many people are (unpleasantly) surprised by the fact that it doesn’t replace your employment income—not even close. And the bigger your income, the greater the discrepancy. That’s because while the government offers paid leave for one or both parents through Canada’s employment insurance plan, the benefits are equal to just 55 percent of your average weekly wage, up to a maximum of $485 per week. Oh, and that amount, like all employment insurance benefits, is taxable. For many people, that can be a real blow to the pocketbook, so be sure to look into what you’re eligible for ahead of time, and make a plan for filling in the shortfall. (One piece of good news: you won’t have time to even think about shopping for a while…)
5. Don’t leave money on the table
If there’s one thing you don’t want to do when you’re dealing with the financial impact of a new baby, it’s leave money on the table. In fact, beyond maternity leave, there are quite a few places to look for additional income and benefits. Tracy recommends sitting down with your employer (or human resources specialist) to find out what parental benefits might be available. According to Statistics Canada, one in five Canadian mothers is eligible for ‘top-up’ payments from her employer, which essentially aim to provide a bit of a boost to what a new mother is collecting from EI. Some of these additional benefits apply to fathers as well, so it’s important that both partners do some investigating.
Tracy also recommends looking into government benefits and tax incentives for new families, such as the $100-per-child Universal Child Care Benefit. You can investigate other Canadian programs for children and families at Service Canada.
Start a firm financial legacy
If you can teach yourself the ABCs of budgeting and saving, it’ll be much easier to teach them to the little one too. One way to start is to open a savings account, TFSA or RESP, when the baby is born, contribute to it on a regular basis and get your child in on the fun when he or she is a little older. According to Tracy, all banks have children’s accounts just for this purpose.
A baby may be small, but it comes with big financial responsibilities that continue to grow along with the child. Fortunately, with some careful planning, budgeting and saving, you can really reduce the dent that cute little bundle will put in your bank account—and that’s precious, indeed.
Think back to before you were a mom. Remember how you’d purchase a latte or a new pair of shoes without batting an eye? How you used to grab drinks after work without feeling guilty about your self-indulgent spending? You probably never thought twice about simple purchases like these, so why are you punishing yourself for even considering them now?
According to a recent survey by BabyCenter of more than 3,000 moms, women are encountering increasing amounts of money anxiety after giving birth. This includes an overwhelming fear of guilt about spending and apprehension over improper saving habits.
Granted, raising kids can be extremely expensive. As such, it makes sense for new moms to have their minds on their money and their money on their minds. However, many moms are reporting that their money anxiety is interfering with their emotional health.
If your bundle of joy is making it virtually impossible to banish money stress, rest assured you’re not alone. Here are a handful of issues that were uncovered by the BabyCenter study, as well as some tips to help alleviate your penny pinching obsession.
1. Feeling guilty about personal purchases
According to the BabyCenter study, more than 57 percent of new moms feel guilty when they spend money on themselves. The source of this anxiety is threefold: first, as a new mom, you’re still adjusting to the fact that you’re no longer your number one concern. Second, you probably have less money now that you’re a mom; and third, you’re still struggling to adjust your finances to handle a growing family. These factors combine to create an overwhelming sense of fear when it comes to spending money, even on the smallest of personal purchases.
Having a baby is certainly a financial shock for any family; however, your new addition doesn’t have to blow your budget completely off course. Sit down with your spouse or a trusted family member and seriously sort out your financial responsibilities. While you’re at it, build in some spending for yourself. Try and set some money aside to spend on “extras” including entertainment, shopping, and that morning latte. It’s always easier to spend on yourself when it’s a planned purchase, so don’t be hard on yourself. If there’s room in the budget, give yourself a salary. You’ll more than deserve it!
2. Obsessing about spending on baby
While moms are hesitant about spending on themselves, they apparently have no problem splurging on the newest edition to their family. Stats from the BabyCenter study found that 90 percent of moms are more likely to purchase something for their child than for themselves. What’s more, mommies tend to spend 61 percent more on their child’s clothing than on their own.
Spending money on your new child isn’t just fun, it also gives moms the high of shopping without the guilt of spending on personal items. What’s worse, it’s easier to rationalize a purchase for your child if it’s a toy or gadget that might build her brain or make her laugh.
Moms often find themselves living in a child-centric, materialistic society that’s constantly pushing parents to buy, buy, buy. Failure to live up to this standard often leaves moms feeling as though they’ve failed as a nurturer. On the flipside, if you’re constantly overindulging your children, they’ll never learn the true value of money.
When it comes to curbing spending on your kids, it pays to learn the power of saying ‘no.’ This will not only teach your children how to tolerate not getting everything they want, but it will also help you to avoid irresponsible spending decisions.
3. Money makes being a parent easier
Many moms feel that having money—and more of it—is a necessity for raising kids. In fact, 68 percent of moms that responded to the BabyCenter survey felt that having money made parenting easier. Close to 62 percent also felt that they needed more money in order to feel secure about their child’s future.
From daycare to healthcare and higher education, raising a baby through to adulthood can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. As such, it’s crucial to have a long-term financial plan. This might include making some hard decisions concerning your lifestyle. Ask yourself, what’s more important: living in a big house, paying off your student debt or growing your family? Sometimes opting to live a simpler life is all it takes to better care for your children.
Mom needs a splurge, too
Moms don’t have to be misers. Take the time to manage your family finances in a responsible but relaxed manner. Splurging every now and again, both on yourself and your new baby, is perfectly acceptable. After all, what’s good for mommy is often what’s good for baby, too!