Personal Finance: Lent Begins Today

As part of Lent, I am reflecting on my previous writings a little more, and this little chestnut was from 5 years ago, however, I have done some judicious editing  as well.

Mardi Gras was on Tuesday, so that means that Lent begins today and this is a perfect opportunity for folks to start something new with their Personal Finances (and their spiritual life, if they wish as well). Easter is a time for new beginnings or restarting something you need to resume, however, most people view Lent as a time to “find something to give up”. That is one way of viewing your Lenten journey, but another way is to look for something to Enrich your life for the 40 days of Lent (leading up to Good Friday and Easter).

Financial Lenten Journey

What areas of your personal finances could use either Enrichment or Better still a sacrifice that might help your financial well being? There are some very simple ones that I think about every year (and have done a few of them):

  • The Latte withdrawal penance. Cut out buying coffee for the 40 days of Lent and put that money aside, to either save, give to charity or pay down your debt. Keep track of this and see how much money you might be saving here, it’s worthwhile finding out where this discretionary money is going.
  • Read 4 Personal Finance books over the 40 days to enrich your understanding of your personal finances or your investing adventures. Building up your expertise over Lent is a good thing.
  • Brown bag it for 40 days, give up buying lunch at work, and bring your lunch instead. Another way to find out where your discretionary spending is going.
  • Take the bus to work for Lent. Leave the car at home, buy a bus pass and take the Bus to work. Yes gas is cheaper right now, but not driving might have other benefits for you (less stress, more exercise, etc.,).
  • Live on cash for 40 days and get rid of your credit cards. Freeze them in your freezer, lock them in your safety deposit box, or cut them up, but live on CASH only (no debit either) and see if you can do it, does it change your spending habits?

Think about these or suggest others, I am open to suggestions myself.


Remembrance Day 2012

Poppies Amongst The Gravestones

We shall remember 2012, as we should every year on this day (and other days too) of the Things done by Others to protect us, and our freedoms.

I have the privilege to work with many veterans in my job, and it is always astounding to talk to them about the things they did and the abject humility it is told to you (when you can get them to actually tell you about their tours of duty). Don’t get me wrong, plenty of stories of the fun times with comrades in arms, however, they rarely if ever will talk of the work done.

Our new veterans from Afghanistan have seen things and lived through a different war, we must remember them, as well as all our veterans.

I worry that this government and future ones are not doing enough for our veterans, talk to your Member of Parliament about the treatment of our Veterans. The term “Homeless Veteran” should really not exist here in Canada, we should take care of our own.

Thanks to Veterans Affairs for this picture and the vignette at the end of this post.

We shall Remember


In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

 by John McCrae


Happy Canada Day!

Today is Canada Day, where we celebrate the confederation of our Country (well most of us, some in Quebec choose to ignore this), so this means all stores and banks are closed tomorrow (?!?!?) (This is pretty weird that everything is open on Canada Day, but closed the day after?!?!?). Enjoy Canada Day then, and go shopping (remember you can’t tomorrow).

Canada Day in Ottawa is actually pretty darn cool, with all the celebrations on Parliament Hill and if you are a Canadian, maybe you should come by (one year) to enjoy it all. A good year to think about doing this might be 2017 since Canada turns 150 then

Happy 145th Birthday Canada (the best Country in the world to live in (IMHO)). To my American friends, sorry, Canada is just a little better.

Happy Canada Day!

And now a fun version of our National Anthem, played on beer bottles, now if that is not Canadian, I don’t know what is!

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Taxes: You are now officially LATE!

Let me be a little more exact, if you OWE money to the government today (May 1) you are now officially late! You don’t actually have to send in your tax return until June 15th (midnight), however, if you owed money, you had better have sent them some money by now, or you are now in arrears.

You could have made an arrangement with the CRA, if you owed money (according to their web page):

If you can’t pay the full amount of tax you owe, you may be able to make a payment arrangement. If the CRA agrees that you are not able to make a full payment, an agent can work with you to develop a plan to help you pay your taxes.

So you had a chance, if you had called the CRA, and if you haven’t sent money yet, I would call the CRA anyhow, and see what you can do about it. Don’t do nothing, that is going to get you into more trouble, better to throw yourself on the mercy of the CRA now, than wait for them to come and get you!

If you are late, what kind of penalties might you get? Check here for the complete details, however:

If you owe tax for 2011 and do not file your return for 2011 on time, we will charge you alate-filing penalty. The penalty is 5% of your 2011 balance owing, plus 1% of your balance owing for each full month that your return is late, to a maximum of 12 months.

Yikes! Hope you paid on time (if you owed money). Oh, and you may be able to get these penalties waived if you can give the CRA a good excuse (an excuse that they agree is an extenuating circumstance). Keep that in mind too.


Ontario’s Budget: Fodder ?

So was the McGuinty 2012 Liberal budget a bit of fodder or does it really have a goal?

After reading over the government’s information, there are some interesting points to watch and see if they follow through:

  • …$4.9 billion in planned savings from removing overlap and duplication, implementing more efficient delivery models and focusing on core business…“, so there is a bunch of duplication of services out there that can be slashed away? I’d be very curious to see the specifics on that one.
  • … $6 billion in government actions to restrain compensation for school boards, payments to physicians and others in the public sector…“, so how the “Education Premier” lines this up with his “Pro Education” stance I am not sure.
  • Pay Freezes for MPPs, Execs at Hospitals, Universities and other places. I think the MPP pay freeze is an important bit of “optics” that they need to try to sell this austerity budget.

I would strongly suggest you read through the Government’s literature, it is worth reading over once to see if you are directly affected by this (and you most likely are).


That is the question that pops into my head. If this was a majority government, I would say it is the typical McGuinty trick of giving voters all the “bad medicine” at the beginning of their mandate, so you might forget later, but this is still a Minority government (only 1 or 2 votes short of a majority, so an interesting Minority, but still a minority).

So my guesses on this are the following:

  1. The Ontario Liberals think that the voters have “punished” them already, so if they push and get another election soon, they might get a majority this time? The argument would be, “we didn’t want this election, sorry, remember we are the good guys”.
  2. McGuinty has a “turncoat” in the wings ready to come across (ensuring a majority) and thus this is the normal “front loading” of bad news from the Ontario Government. Note they didn’t implement the wholesale cuts recommended by the Drummond Report, so that seems to have been a well placed red herring as well.

Either way, it looks like Ontario politics continues on, whether this budget actually comes to pass will be an interesting story. Any other possibilities I might have missed?

We await the “Harper Government Budget 2012” as well, but in the Federal Government’s case, they can use as big a stick as they want to bash the heck out of the Government Infrastructure (in general) and Civil Servants (in specific).