Tips To Save Money: Meal Planning

By Robb Engen | August 18, 2010 |
Posted in

They say if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.  I’ve found meal planning to be one of the best money saving tips out there for young families trying to stretch their dollars.

Knowing in advance what you are going to eat for dinner can save you from many impulse visits to your favorite restaurant or fast food chain, as well as those last minute trips to the grocery store when you don’t have anything left in the cupboards.

Tips to Get Started With Meal Planning

Start the meal planning process by making a dinner list.  I recommend matching the length of your list to your payday cycle.  If you get paid weekly, plan for 7 dinners, if it’s bi-weekly plan for 14 dinners.

I get paid monthly and plan for 30 nightly meals (seriously).  Put your list up on the fridge, this will help you remember to take the chicken out to defrost.

Take stock of what’s already in your fridge, freezer, and cupboards.  From there, use your dinner list to make your shopping list.

I make a list for shopping at Costco (meat, dairy, vegetables, other staples), and Safeway (whatever else I require that doesn’t need to come in size XXL).  For further money saving tips, try and hit Safeway on 15% off Tuesday (1st Tuesday of the month).

Related: How To Save Money On Groceries

I split up the meat into smaller portions and use our deep freeze to store it for the month.  Some people buy a side of beef and freeze it, which they claim can save money vs. buying retail.

This takes a fair bit of organization but since we started meal planning along with tracking our monthly expenses we have saved about $250/month.  We often end up with leftovers to use for lunch, which saves us even more money.

Not only that, my wife and I have lost weight, tried and fell in love with new recipes, and have actually become really good cooks.

Stay flexible.  Although meal planning sounds quite rigid, we switch meals all the time based on our schedule, what the weather is doing (for BBQ’s), or what might spoil in the fridge if we don’t eat it right away.

Related: 35 Ways To Save Money

The point isn’t to live like you’re in the Army.  Use these money saving tips to eat a little bit healthier, and enjoy more time with your family.

The Long and Winding Road

By Boomer | August 17, 2010 |
Posted in

When I saw the classified ad in the newspaper for a Financial Planner for a Trust Company I knew that was what I wanted to do – help people get a handle on their finances and plan for the future.  My dream job!

I worked for a bank and they didn’t recognize financial planning at that time so I took the six correspondence courses over three years at my own expense and passed the grueling six-hour exam the first time (yeah, me!), and became a Certified Financial Planner.

Related: Fee Only Financial Planner vs. Commission Based Advisor

Unfortunately, the bank still didn’t recognize my achievements but I worked my way up to become a Financial Advisor which sounded fine to me, I could still practice what I had learned.

However, this is where my ideas started falling apart.  Banks are like retail stores and they make their profits by selling financial products, and they want to entice customers from other financial institutions with cleverly packaged products that sound great.

As much as you may like your financial professional, make no mistake about it, they are compensated for selling bank products and bringing in more money from other financial institutions.

Related: Can You Trust Advice From Your Bank?

The packaged investment and credit products they sell are pretty much “one-size-fits-most” and there is very little individual about them.  Since it’s human nature not to look foolish or ignorant, most customers will nod knowingly and sign on the dotted lines.

The bank and I have since parted ways and I “retired” several years ago so things might have changed in the meantime but I seriously doubt it.

Now is my chance to do what I originally dreamed of.

From my experience I have found that many (if not most) people have little interest or information about one of the most important things in their lives – money, and it doesn’t seem to be taught in school.


Related: Why Your Financial Plan Sucks

It is my intention to post articles on investing and personal finances and help those who are interested in what I have to say to formulate their own individual financial plans.

Confessions: My Financial Sins

By Robb Engen | August 16, 2010 |
Posted in

It’s great to write about financial success stories and wisdom from past experiences.  Paying off debt, building a growing stock portfolio, and sticking to a budget are all part of my road to financial success.  However, there are some things that should also be part of my financial plan, and either I haven’t got around to it, or I don’t believe there is a great need for it at this time.

It’s time to confess my financial sins.  I don’t have an emergency fund.  I don’t have a will.  I don’t have adequate life insurance.

Emergency Fund:

The rule of thumb on this varies, based on who is giving the advice.  Let’s assume the standard emergency fund should cover 3-6 month’s expenses and should be held in a relatively safe account that can be readily accessed when needed most (like a high interest savings account or money market fund).

Ok, I get it.  You need to have some form of security in case you lose your job, or have a major repair to your house or car.  Also, for some people that earn commissions for a living it would be nice to have money set aside for the lean months.

But I’m not really in that situation.  I have a secure job, and we live well within our means.  In the event that something terrible did happen, or multiple things happened (a true emergency) we have a secured line of credit that we would draw from.

Yes, I have a fully funded TFSA.  But that savings vehicle is part of my long term retirement plan, so I would prefer not to dip into it.

Making a Will:

I have absolutely no excuse for this, as it has been on my “to do” list ever since I became a dad last year.  Maybe it’s the perception of being young and invincible, but I have a hard time thinking about my own mortality.  I’m not the only one who feels this way, as less than half of Canadians have made a will and a large proportion of Canadians die without ever making a will.

From what I have read, making a will is a fairly straight-forward and relatively inexpensive process.  Here are the main types of wills:

  • Holograph Will – This may simply be a few hand-written lines accompanied by your signature.  Valid in most provinces, this would be the most inexpensive way to go (no pun intended), but may not be in the best interests of your loved ones should you have a complicated estate.
  • Conventional Will – You can draw up a conventional will yourself, or have someone (a lawyer) prepare one for you. You must sign and date your will to make it valid. Depending on your province of residence, your signature must be witnessed by one or two people.
  • Living Will – Formally known as an Advance Health Care Directive. These specify the nature of medical treatment you wish to receive (or not receive) if you become incapable of communicating your own wishes. Not all provinces have laws making health care directives binding. These can be complicated, and are best drawn up with the help of a legal advisor.

I hope to make this a priority and meet with a lawyer to draw up a conventional will in the next few months.

Adequate Life Insurance:

Again, I don’t really have much of an excuse for this.  When I started my new job, there is a mandatory life insurance plan that all employees buy into.  The policy is set at $200k, although I do have the option to top-up this policy at my discretion.  I just don’t know the answer to the life insurance question – which is, how much is enough?

I’ve heard anywhere from 10 to 20 times salary is the general rule of thumb.  Personally, I think that’s crazy.  As long as all of your debts are covered and you have enough left over to support your surviving spouse for a few years, that should be plenty.

I would much rather have larger critical illness/disability insurance policies (which I do), because the likelihood of being off work due to illness or accident is far greater than an early death.

Perhaps I’ll look into a 10 year term policy to top up my life insurance to $500k.  Once the term expires I wouldn’t renew, as we’ll likely be self-insured at that point.

So there you have it, I confessed to my financial sins.  What about the readers, do you have anything to confess?

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