In the summertime, I can’t help but be amazed at all the local produce our region grows. Around here, who hasn’t gone for a drive just outside city limits to see what’s available on farm stands or enjoyed an amazing sundae during the Winona Peach Festival? Everyone seems to be heading out to the farmer’s market this time of year to grab the best from close by and almost every day I hear of a new independent shop to explore. Where we live it’s so easy to eat and shop local, but what about banking local?
You’ve probably been told to always shop around for the best deal. For every major purchase I’ve made in the past ten years, from a laptop for school, to my first car I’ve pounded the pavement comparing features and price. So why would it be any different when it came time to buy my first house and get my first mortgage?
I was surprised to learn of a recent report by the Canadian Associated of Accredited Mortgage Professionals, which discovered that four of five recent homebuyers didn’t consult with a credit union when getting a mortgage. As I do all of my banking at a credit union, it was obvious for me to check them out first, but if you do your banking elsewhere, it may surprise you how many competitive options are out there.
You’ve probably heard the saying – love conquers all, but when it comes to money that’s not quite true. For most Canadians, money is the leading cause of relationship trouble. Some researchers speculate that couples who make less cash are more likely to separate not because of their low-income, but because of all of the stress and skirmishes over money – or lack thereof. Having an open and honest money chat with your other half early on is key to establishing a deeper level of trust in your relationship – especially before you think of walking down the aisle.
I get it – regardless if you’re a new couple or have been committed for years it can be hard to open up your financial life to each other, but it’s an important talk for both your personal and financial futures. Most Canadians actually say they regret not discussing their financial situation with their partner before their marriage. So to avoid future fights, consider discussing the following financial matters before you take the leap:
Life Insurance is for “old people” – at least that is what I used to think. In a recent study, “Gen Y consumers are the least likely to own life insurance. But four in ten Gen Y households say they would have immediate trouble covering everyday living expenses if a primary wage earner were to die.” Well it’s no wonder us young folk haven’t have a clue about life insurance. We’re young, healthy and most of the time let’s be honest; we think we’re the untouchable Superman. I never thought I’d find the time to blog about such a topic, but having just recently bought my first life insurance policy myself I had to have a little chat with you all about my eye opening experience.
A brave new year of college and university starts in September, and that means many of you will get to live in a house of your own for the first time. If you’re renting an apartment, you’ve probably already started looking online for options. Once you find that perfect fit, all that will stand between you and your very own pad will be rent cheques and a lease agreement. But wait, what’s a lease agreement? Great question – let’s cover that.
A lease agreement is simple: it’s a contract outlining your living situation and expenses paid to your landlord for a specified period of time – usually a year. Everything from your monthly rent, utilities, apartment upgrades and pet specifications will be outlined in your lease agreement. If you want a pleasant living situation, you can’t control your landlord, but you can control what you agree to, and expect, from your lease.
For first time renters, the excitement that comes with moving out of home can sometimes mean that important details are often overlooked. Never seen a lease agreement? Here are some examples, and here are some leasing tips to get you started.
Common terms you’ll be agreeing to include:
- The length of your tenancy (typically year-to-year)
- Rent and amenities
- Subletting restrictions
- The terms of rent increases, according to government guidelines
- Restrictions on your living situation, such as pets, parties, etc.
- What will happen if things go wrong (e.g., you miss a monthly payment, lease termination, eviction!)
- Payment options
Here are a few guidelines to prepare you to sign that lease with confidence.
Know your rights and stay organized
- The rules outlined in landlord and tenant acts differ by province. Become familiar with yours here.
- There are many helpful online legal resources and guides for renters. Check out Community Legal Education Ontario. The CMHC (Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation) also offers this helpful guide for newcomers to Canada.
- Make sure everything that needs to be addressed is included in your lease agreement.
- Look into your landlord’s history, and ask for references from former renters.
- Remember that negotiations are two-sided.
- Keep records of your agreements, cheques, letters, and all contact between you and your landlord. In the case a dispute needs to be settled, you’ll have proof.
Respect your agreement and communicate often
- Contracts are legal, but landlords are human: they may forget to honour part of your lease agreement, or problems may occur in their lives. That’s why it’s important to communicate with your landlord on a semi-regular basis. If they don’t live in the building, make sure you have their contact information and availability on file.
- Your landlord is responsible for general apartment upkeep, like heating and (sometimes) snow removal. Be clear about heating/air conditioning, supplies and waste removal options early on. You shouldn’t have to wait until July to get that air conditioning unit humming.
If things go wrong….
- If things aren’t working out, clearly outline your problem with proof and in writing, and if your landlord is being non-compliant with agreed terms, contact your province’s Landlord and Tenant Board, or seek legal aid. If the situation is irreparable, give notice and move out.
- Let others know about your situation. It’s always great to get a second opinion.
Now that you’re educated about lease agreements, you’re well on your way to becoming a responsible tenant. Remember, this may also be a great first step to show you what it might be like owning your own home some day. In the meantime, enjoy your newfound freedom! Just don’t forget to call mom and dad.
School is out and summer is just around the corner. You want to go on a Eurotrip with your buddies, but you don’t want to break the (piggy) bank. And who could blame you? Once in Europe, many of the world’s most famous landmarks—the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Coliseum in Rome, Buckingham Palace in London—are all just a train or short plane ride away.
I’m planning a Eurotrip of my own this summer and beginning to realize something pretty important, though: it’ll take careful budgeting to get there. Expect to spend at least $1,500 to $2,500 for a two-week jam-packed adventure. Here are some smart money-saving tips for your own Eurotrip.
Make a plan
Plan your destinations and how much you’re willing to spend in advance. Do your research. This makes it a lot easier to stick to your budget. Here’s a handy planning tool that might help.
Don’t skimp on travel insurance
Number one rule of travel: safety first. You can find travel insurance online (multi-trip medical starts at around $50). Here are a few options:
• Travel CUTS
• Travel Guard
Compare pricing on flights
Friends have been telling me about Hipmunk. The site compares flight prices across a number of travel websites that help you find the lowest rate. If your ticket price goes down after buying, call and they’ll give you a credit for the difference. Travelocity, RedTag and Google Flights are three other sites worth checking out.
By train or plane?
Your mode of transportation depends on how long you’re staying and what your budget is. If you plan to take the train throughout your stay, Eurail provides passes. And to compare your travel options, here’s a handy resource.
Put your phone on “airplane mode”
Have your itinerary on your phone. Use free Wi-Fi when you can, and get a $20 Skype credit for emergency calls. Some European phone plans are also quite affordable. All of the above sure beat a $37,000 roaming charge!
This one I love! Airbnb can connect you to local digs for less than the cost of a hotel. The real advantage, though, is getting a kitchen to cook your own store-bought (read: affordable) food in! Just be sure to check out your host’s reviews (a minimum of 10 is good), and make sure they look legit. Airbnb doesn’t provide refunds.
Skip the restaurants, buy some groceries, a cheap bottle of wine and voilà! – Bon appétit! Just remember to eat your greens!
Cash or Credit?
Avoid cash exchanges, because banks can take as much as 8 per cent when you change dollars to euros. And currency exchange booths take even more! Frequent flyers tell me to take out a small amount of euros in advance—for emergencies—then use a credit or debit card that’s widely accepted. Just make sure you’ve got the right credit card.
These figures are all in Canadian dollars, by the way, so one more piece of advice: remember to think about currency conversions before you get started.
Safe and happy travels, Euro-trippers! Here’s hoping you get great mileage for your euros.