Bye bye winter blues. Warm weather is approaching soon (I hope). When the weather starts warming up in April my thoughts turn to spending more time outdoors. Garden centres are opening, and many campgrounds are already accepting reservations, giving us something to look forward to.
This year, admission to Parks Canada is free for kids up to age 17. Get your Discovery Pass here. Fees help maintain and protect our national parks and historic sites.
April is a good month to…
Find out if loyalty pays
We understand that diversity is important in our investment portfolio to manage risks and improve returns. But, what about your regular banking? Should you keep all your accounts, loans and investments at one financial institution, or spread them around?
What are the advantages?
- Quick overview of all your accounts with links to holdings and recent activity.
- Save money on fees by consolidating similar accounts.
- You may know, and like, a staff member at your branch.
- It can be a good bargaining tool to get better interest rates or reduce fees.
An investigation by CBC Marketplace found that being loyal to your bank does not necessarily give you additional perks. The banks interpret your loyalty as making you less price sensitive and it would be too much of a hassle for you to transfer your accounts.
Nevertheless, most Canadians do feel very comfortable with their financial institution and have a great degree of loyalty even if their choice has some flaws. I admit I’m guilty of this. I’ve been dealing with my bank for decades. If you are too, at least make an effort once in while to do some comparison shopping and use what you find to negotiate some better terms and pricing.
Get your hands dirty
Did you know that according to real estate studies, you can boost the value of your home up to 15% with good landscaping?
Add some colour and curb appeal to your yard to reflect your personality and lifestyle, not to mention all that digging and hoeing is great exercise. And, what about growing some vegetables to help with the grocery budget?
Start with the colours you like – and the vegetables you like to eat. At the garden centre check out the recommended growing conditions for the types of plants you want. Don’t do anything you won’t have the time or money to maintain. You don’t want to end up hating to take care of your yard.
Get the kids involved too and have them grow varieties that sprout quickly such as radishes, lettuce and sweet peas. Give them tasks appropriate to their age and skill level.
No backyard? You can still grow plants in containers on your balcony.
Get inspired by National Volunteer Week
National Volunteer Week this year is April 15 – 21. Why not join the 13 million Canadians who, Statistics Canada reports, formally volunteer some of their time?
Besides being a benefit to our communities, volunteering builds confidence, increased satisfaction, an improved sense of belonging, and lifelong friendships. Volunteer work can also be used to leverage valuable work experience or build on an area of interest.
Selecting a volunteer position should be given careful thought based on your personal interests and what areas you want to be involved in. Volunteer Canada helps connect people to volunteer opportunities available in your community.
Celebrate Earth Day on April 22
Earth Day was established to promote environmental awareness and protection of our planet.
Consider your habits and how an entire economy exists in what we consume and waste.
According to Environment Canada, if only one bus load of passengers per day left their cars at home, that would eliminate nine tons of pollutants each year. Think of your own financial impact. Driving less means buying less gas. Your car gets less usage, so you pay less in maintenance and the car may last a lot longer before it needs replacing.
Think about your garbage. What do you throw out? How much money is spent via taxes to haul it all away. How much waste could you prevent if you recycled or “precycled” – reduced your buying habits and avoided products that are over-packaged.
How much money could you save on your water bill if you cut back your usage. Consider how much food you waste. Choose cleaning products with natural ingredients or make your own cleaner for pennies3. You can contact your utility company for an “electrical usage” thingy that will let you know just how much that old beer fridge in the basement is costing you.
You have no doubt seen on the news the “island of plastic” in the Pacific Ocean. Plastic is terrible for the environment because it doesn’t break down. Buying a reusable water bottle and using cloth shopping bags are just two small adjustments to make to your daily routine.
Plainly and simply, less consumption and less waste equal more money in your pocket and also supports the planet.
Take advantage of these Best Buys for April
Stores follow a yearly sales cycle. Here’s what you can expect to find on sale in April (and yes, I am aware of the irony of following the previous section with this one, but sometimes you do need to make a purchase):
- Vacuum cleaners – continuance of last month’s Spring cleaning theme
- Paint and wallpaper – to spruce up your home
- Gardening tools
- Rainwear – you know, “April showers bring May flowers”
- Cookware – especially those full pot sets, to give as wedding gifts
Other posts in this series: