Category Archives: Random

Painting

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My sister and I spent the Civic Holiday Long weekend painting our apartment.  Our apartment is only about 750 square feet, but we painted our entire apartment, including the kitchen/living area and both our bedrooms.  Needless to say, it was a lot of work, but worth it.  I love the way the walls look now, and it feels so much more like our home.

Lessons Learned

Painting isn’t difficult but it’s hard work.  There’s a bit of thinking ahead, a lot of preparation, and a lot of elbow grease.  After our painting fiasco, I’d be open to doing some part-time painting to earn some extra income 🙂

Even in painting our little apartment, I’ve learned some important lessons and thought I’d shared them here, in case any of you are interested.

Preparation

  • Clean your walls with TSP or alcohol, especially in an area where grease and dirt can build up (i.e., kitchen)
  • Prime your walls even when using Primer + Paint 2-in-1 (Note: a cheap primer and 1 coat of 2-in-1 is cheaper than 2 coats of 2-in-1)
  • Choose a wall colour which will complement the tone of your floors (i.e., warm or cool tone)
  • Make sure the previous coat of paint has dried before applying another coat
  • Soak your paint brushes in Varsol so they stay soft, then rinse paint and dry before next use
  • Tray liners are a life saver and save a lot of time and effort
  • A short step ladder is very useful for reaching the higher areas with a paintbrush

Tools

  • Fluffy rollers hold more paint and spreads more evenly
  • Use the good painters tape when painting very contrasting colours (i.e., an accent wall with white trim)
  • Use a wood stick vs a metal stick attachment for roller extension
  • Use a soft bristled 2.5″ – 3″ angled brush for trims and wall edges
  • Use a soft bristled 1″ angled brush for corners
  • Use poly sheets to cover your entire working surface

Unfortunately, I didn’t take “before and after” shots of my little project (my camera was packed away).  I’d like to show some pictures of my room of the completed project, but for now, here is the inspiration for my accent wall.

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That’s about it from me.

Readers, do you have any tips to share for painting?  Have you painted an accent wall before?

Cheers,

P.S. Have you ever seen a violinist rock out?  My latest YouTube obsession.  And these are my favourites.  Check her out because her stuff is awesome.

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Please don’t make this mistake…

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This post is not related to personal finance in any way, but more of rant. Feel free to ignore my ramblings if that is what you’re after.

A few weeks ago, I was at my sister’s convocation, when something terrible happened.

I playing photographer for my sister and her friends, when one of her friends exclaimed, “Frugirl Sis, your mom looks like she could be your sister!”

Me, “That’s because I am her sister.”

…. (awkward moment)… Sister’s friend, “Well, I really thought you looked like her sister…”

Now, my mom is wonderful and beautiful woman,  but she has had 3 kids who are all in their mid to late twenties.   I couldn’t help but feel offended that my sister’s friend thought that I looked like someone who has a 24 year old kid.

Lesson:  If there is ever a doubt, err on the side of caution.

Fast forward to last weekend, I was having brunch with my girlfriend, J.  The waitress comes to take our order and takes J’s order first, then she turns to me and says, “And for mom?”

Gah!  Again, J’s mom is a wonderful and beautiful woman, but my friend is my age – 28 (though she does look young for her age), but still!  Her mom?!!  I was fuming the entire day! 😦

Am I being too sensitive in both instances?  I really don’t think I look that old (don’t we all?)…  Hmmph.

Readers, have you been mistaken for age to the point of it being offensive to you?  Do you have any tips for dealing with the situation?  Unfortunately, I don’t think I handled either situations with much grace.

Cheers,

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Thoughts on Slice’s Princess Show

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“Princess” is a show hosted by one of my finance gurus – Gail Vaz-Oxlade.  It follows a similar format as Gail’s first show “Til Debt do us Part“, but focuses on (mostly) single women who feel they are entitled to spend money they don’t have on anything from make-up, clothes, cars, condos, eating out, entertainment, amongst other “luxuries”.

I’m not sure why I am so captivated by these “Princesses” – I guess a part of me is giving myself a pat on the back for not being “that bad”, but I guess that’s the lure of reality television.

Although I don’t consider myself a Princess, I can see how I can become one.  A nice haircut here, buying a nice outfit there, oh, and stocking up on some make-up — rinse, wash, and repeat — and tada.

A Low Annual Salary

Most of the Princesses make an income that is nowhere near sustaining their lifestyle, and they supplement their income with their parents’, siblings’, friends’ and boyfriend’s/girlfriend’s income.  Some Princesses are unemployed or work very minimal hours.

The income range of most Princesses range between $20,000 – $35,000 annually, but spent as if they earned much, much more – usually between $50,000 to over $100,000 annually.

What’s with these guys???

I know there are a lot of things that I don’t understand or know about these girls, but what always boggles my mind is that there is usually guy in the picture and he has been putting up with it.

In last night’s episode, one of the Princess’s boyfriend was giving her an “allowance” of $250.00 a week.  This Princess is unemployed, and wasn’t even looking for work.  Instead of taking public transportation, she was — get this — hiring a private driver!!  She was making about $6,000 a year and spending like she made $97,000 a year.

Maybe it’s because I’m biased and know so many great, smart and single females.  But why are these great women single, and why are these ladies just mooching off these men?  (Check out Mochi’s article – it really struck a chord with me.)  It just seems so off balance to me.

I’m not so naive to think that these types of guys would even be compatible with these women.  But it just seems unfair to me, you know?

Do you watch Gail Vax-Oxlade’s shows?  What do you think of the Princess show?

Cheers,

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Tagged …and a Profile Picture :)

For those of you who read my blog via reader, I’ve recently made a small change to blog, including tweaking the background image and added (gasp!) a profile animated image of me (via Yahoo!).   I was really exciting, and have my animated image in various outfits (of course).  I’d love it if you headed on over and checked it out! 🙂

I’ve been tagged by Cassie over at Digging Out and Up.  Since she posted this up over a week ago, I obviously suck at tag!  I hope that late is better than never! 🙂

1) When you started paying off your debt, did you do it by balance or interest rate?

Luckily, I only had about $9,000 of student debt when I graduated, since I only used  my credit card as a debit card.  So, I paid off the balance in full within 6 months.

2) What was your first job, and how much did you make doing it?

My first paid position was pulling out white hair for my aunts and uncles.  We’d get $0.10 – 0.25 per hair 🙂

My first job was a “pantry staff” at a summer camp.  Basically, I prepared the dining area, cleaned  the dining area, washed dishes, before and after every meal.  It really sucked.  I quit after 2 weeks because we had to work 6 days a week and I had to save up several days of vacation before I could leave since it was a 4-hour drive out to the middle of nowhere.  I got a check for $294 in the mail.

3) Have you ever stalled on an investing opportunity and regretted it?

Not really.  I invest mostly in index funds, so sure, I’d see a stock and think, I should have bought it as $ XX, but it’s based on guessing stock tips, as opposed to thoroughly researching it.

4) What was the blog that first got you interested in blogging?

Back when I was in second year university.  I had a long distance relationship with my ex and a really crappy internship = blog material! 🙂  I have gone through several blogs since then, ranging from a non-anonymous personal blog, anonymous personal blog, fashion blog, minimalistic blog… and now, a personal finance blog.

However, the first blog that really got me interested in writing about personal finance was Fabulously Broke in the City.  I started reading her blog back in the day of her first closet clean out, and have been hooked ever since!

5) If you had to trim your budget to the bare bones, what is the last thing you’d cut?

Toiletries and grooming. I know it seems like such an extravagance, but a good haircut will last a long time.  And helps me look more put together and feel more confident.  My skin is also really sensitive and acne prone, so I like to use good moisturizers and proper exfoiliants.  This is probably ~$500/year.

6) What was the worst piece of financial advice you’ve ever received from a well intentioned person?

Buy a house as soon as you can and stop wasting money on rent.

I understand they want me to build up my equity and increase my networth, but as long I am increasing my networth through other means of assets, then I am going to wait until I am ready for a house before buying one.

Besides, have you seen the housing prices in Toronto, lately.  They are outrageous.

7) What do you wear to work?

My work is pretty casual, so you will find me in jeans and a blazer/cardigan, on most days.

8) How much money would it take to make you feel “set”?

I wrote about a post of how I’d spend $1M if I won $1M, and that exercise made me realize that if I had $1M, I still wouldn’t be completely “set”, if I wanted to buy property and take care of my parents. Even with $1M, I’d still need to still make investments and make that $1M work for me.

So, for me to have no worries at all about money, I’d say $2-3M will do it.

9) If you were to start over, which money mistakes would you make again because they contained valuable lessons?

I’d start investing when I was 18 or 19 and take advantage of the magic of compounding! 🙂

10) Are you following in your parent’s financial patterns? Why or why not?

Yes and no.

I am trying to be frugal like them, but I do take on more risks with my investments.   I also don’t want to sink everything into a house, which was one of their financial priorities.

11) When you’re short on cash, what are your go to cheap meals?

  • Ramen noodles with an egg
  • Soaked dried beans and soy sauce with rice
  • Soy sauce and rice
  • Canned sardines with soy sauce with rice

As you can see, soy sauce fixes everything 🙂
Thanks for tagging me, Cassie.   They were great questions.

I think that most people I follow have been tagged, and I am too lazy to find out who hasn’t been tagged.  But I’d love to hear your answers to the above questions in the comments (if you haven’t already written about it), so tag yourself!

Cheers,

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Horror Story: Refusing RRSP Employee Matching aka Free Money

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My Dad

One of the most outrageous stories, I’ve heard was from my dad. Even though my dad is an immigrant and English is not his first language, boy, can he navigate his way around tax documents well.

When it comes to filing for personal income taxes, I bet that my dad knows more than the average Canadian. In fact, my dad is the go-to-tax man in my family and his circle of friends.

I say this with a lot of pride because if it wasn’t for my dad, I might not be as interested as I am in personal finance and how taxes relate to me (I started filing my personal income taxes in high school).

I love having our debates discussions about the merits of Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) versus Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs). We don’t always agree, but I always learn something new.

Funny Story

My dad told me a story of how his co-workers and him were discussing RRSP during lunch one day. My dad’s employer had a RRSP company match program where they would match their employees’ contributions up to 6% of their annual salary.

His co-worker contributed to his RRSPs (outside of the company plan) so that he could receive his annual tax refund. But my dad’s co-worker refused to put money into the company RRSP matching program because the way he saw it, he wouldn’t get a tax refund on the money the company is matching.

So let me get this straight…

At this point, I wasn’t even sure if I understood my dad’s co-worker’s train of thoughts.

Instead of seeing the 100% free money that company is giving to him to put into his RRSP, all he sees is that he doesn’t get a tax refund on the free money the company is giving him.

That’s right, buddy. You cannot get a tax refund on FREE MONEY.

So, his co-worker refused to contribute to the company match plan, and has never contributed to the company plan for the entire 15-20 years he has been working at the company.

Refusing ~$80,000 of Free Money

Let’s assume his annual salary was $40,000 for simplicity sake. That’s $2,400 annually of free money he is missing out on. Compound that over 20 years at 5% interest rate and he’s missed out on $79,440 of free money. And that’s assuming no salary increases over the 20 years.

All because he wanted to get a tax refund. On free money.

My dad tried to explain to him the logic that he cannot get a tax refund on employer contribution, but he is missing out on a 100% return but simply refusing the match. It fell on deaf ears.

The Lesson

I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir, but when one refuses to participate in a company matching program, you are loosing out on free money. Even if your contribution doesn’t increase in value – you are already getting a 100% return on the money you put in – from your employer.

Right now, most of my RRSP contributions go to my employer plan since I like to get my tax savings right away (money going directly to my RRSP plan is not taxed in my paycheck). But since the TD e-series funds offer better rates, I will contribute only the amount my company will match into my employer’s RRSP plan, and direct the remainder of my contributions to my e-series fund.

This way, I get my free money and lower fees 🙂

Readers, do you have any RRSP horror stories to share? Does your company have RRSP matching program?

Cheers,

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Welcome back, dearest Canon SD1100 IS

My camera went missing sometime between May and July of this year and for the life of me, I couldn’t find her anywhere!

Since I bounce between my apartment, BF’s apartment and my parents’, I just figured it was at one or another location.  It wasn’t until I searched each location before my east coast vacation with BF, that I realized it was missing.:(

I reluctantly gave up the search after I checked all 3 locations thrice.  No to mention I felt absolutely silly losing my camera.  Then, I decided to rotate my mattress on a whim, and there is was – stuck between my mattress and box spring.  It must have fallen in and gotten stuck!

So, I thought that I’d share some of the things that were on my camera.  These are the things that I find picture worthy.  There is a trend, here.  Enjoy 🙂

PS.  The gallery feature on WordPress is pretty neat! 🙂

What’s on your camera?  What do you like to take pictures of?

Cheers,

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What I would NOT use a Groupon for

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Warning: Might be TMI

One of my friends just sent out an e-mail trying to get rid a Groupon she bought and wouldn’t be able to use before it expired.  For a Brazillian.

If you don’t know what a Brazillian is, see here.

As you already know, I’m not a huge fan of Groupons.  But seeing all the Groupons/Team Buys/ Living Social deals for various spa treatments. you’d think they were trying to sell me potatoes.  Unlimited laser hair removal treatments at 95% off, Brazillian for $20, under arm waxing, etc.

Now, this might be a bit TMI, but I’ve only had my first Braziliian this year.  And it was one of the most awkward and intimate situations I have ever been in (much less with a stranger).

Aside from someone applying hot wax to my lady parts, I had to literally bare it all down there to a complete stranger.  I mean, you really have to trust this person.

Groupon, no thanks.

There was NO WAY I would want to use a Groupon for this.  I think that services are priced at a certain premium for a reason, and I have this fear there that something might go wrong when services are offered at up to 95% off.  It just doesn’t make sense to me.  What kind of shortcuts are they taking to offer me these services at this price.  Something just doesn’t sit right with me.

Despite my inbox being bombarded with all sorts of deals for brazillians and laser hair removal, I went the “old fashion way” and booked an appointment at my favourite salon in the City and paid full price and happily tipped my esthetician 20% because she did such a great job and made me feel completely at ease (despite my usual grumblings about tipping).

Have you used a Groupon for intimate spa services?  How did you find it?  What would you not buy a Groupon for?

Cheers,

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Money Etiquette or Personal Preference?

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When it comes to money, I’m not sure if there is actually a guideline for money etiquette or if it is just personal preference. From how to split a bill to when it is appropriate to use e-mail money transfer.

Is there actually an appropriate time and place for each of these options? Or like most things, does it depend on the person?

Splitting the Bill

For me, it seems like a no brainer to ask for separate bills, whenever possible. It just makes things so easy. There is no need to worry about whom owes whom later, or count out change, or my least favourite – trying to figure out change when everyone only has a $20 bill.

Most of my friends and I prefer to have separate bills, but recently in a work outing, a co-worker made the comment that it was “tacky” to be requesting separate bills at a restaurant. Coming from a culture where my relatives would (practically) fight over who pays the restaurant tab, I can sort of understand where my co-worker is coming from.

On the other hand, with more and more electronic transactions and my ever losing battle with my “eating out” budget, I think it’s much more convenient for each party to pay their own bill. If I order water, I don’t want to be paying for someone else’s beer!

Acceptable Payment Methods

If someone is paying me back for something, any payment is fine, as long as I receive it sooner rather than later. Even if it’s $10, I would much rather have that $10 in my account now than later. So I am totally okay with people wiring over money to my account instead of getting cash when I see them. 🙂

Aside: Having said that. Usually the money owed to me doesn’t make or break me, and I wouldn’t want the individual to incur fees for sending money. So, if it’s just $20, no biggie, pay me next time. Just don’t forget about it ;).

Also, I know there are many people out there who do not use online banking (like my parents), and would much rather have cold, hard cash over numbers via cyberspace any day.

Since online money transfers are especially useful when transferring large sums of money, is there a “minimum limit” before sending money via e-mail transfer when one could just as easily use cash? I was recently called out on money transfer for $20 because the person I was transferring to thought the amount was “too little to justify an e-mail transfer.” 😦

Please share you “money etiquette” guidelines or suggestions in the comments! I’d love to hear your opinions.

Cheers,

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On Politics

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I am not proud to admit, but not too long ago, I was part of the apathetic voters committee. The first time that I made an informed voting decision was earlier this year during the Canadian federal election. Previously, I was always afraid to make an uninformed decision, and vote for the wrong party.

Throughout the federal and provincial elections, I have tried to keep informed through the media and reading the platforms by the various parties, so that I can make the best decision I can today.

I do not claim to have all the facts. This is information I have gathered to the best of my knowledge. Please do your own research! 🙂

Personal Finances and Politics

To be honest, if I hadn’t started to get serious with my own finances, I probably wouldn’t be as interested in the well-being of my country’s or my provinces well being. Now, when a party pitches a platform, I try to understand to not only understand how the service or product will impact me but how it’s feasible for the government to endorse it. Obviously, the well being of a country or province is much more complicated than taking care of just myself and my finances, but it is the starting point that I use.

Ontarians, Go Vote!!

Before I continue, I want to encourage everyone to always go out and vote. Read up on your various leaders platforms and make your say count. Ontarians, this election is very close and every vote counts!

These are the links to the Ontario Liberal Party platform, the Progressive Conservative Party platform and the New Democratic Party platform.

There are a number of sites and articles summarizing the platforms of various parties, if you don’t have the time (or patience) to read them their individual platforms. Keep in mind that there are always biases depending on which organization or individual who put together the summary.

I am voting Liberal

I’m just going to put it out there. I’m voting for the Liberal party this provincial election.

I think the McGuinty government has been doing a great job running the province, despite the downturn in the economy in recent years. Investment in healthcare, education, green energy and re-training our work force are all areas where I have personally experienced a significant improvement.

What I like from the Liberal Platform:

  • Tax credit for businesses to hire skilled new comers Canadian work experience

I know far too many well-educated and highly skilled friends and family who have come to Canada, only to be severely under employed. There is nothing wrong with being a security guard, cabbie or factory worker, I think they are very noble professions that work very hard. However, it is not efficient use of a province’s labour resources, and also a disincentive for other skilled new comers to make Ontario their home if they can’t find good work.

In addition, I see the credit to be similar to the credit offered to businesses for hiring students to give them a foot in the door.

  • Commitment to investing in green energy programs and innovation

Programs, such as the Feed-in-Tariff, conservation programs for endangered species and preservation of our land and forests while creating jobs that require skilled individuals.

  • Providing more assistance to seniors including in-home health care and tax credit for accessible home renovations
  • Hiring more nurses and opening more nurse practitioner-led clinics

I only recently understood how expensive it was to keep a patient in a hospital. When my grandmother was under going chemo for cancer and then in remission, she had to stay at the hospital because no one was at home to care for her.

Healthcare assistance at home would have been something that would have worked well for my family, since my grandmother could be comfortable and be surrounded by her family. While at the same time, saving the government money, since the cost of keeping a patient in the hospital is the most expensive way to care for a patient.

This is what I have against Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservative party:

  • He started off negative

I loathe when a party goes negative. I feel it shows poor sportsmanship and it just leave a bad taste in my mouth. I mean, are we really still name calling? Please.

I’m sure all Ontarians are familiar with the “tax man” ad. The funny thing is, is that the PC’s have no intention of getting rid of the HST (because it is great for businesses), or the health tax. The eco-tax is gone, anyway. And “future taxes”? Any party can introduce future taxes. Including his.

  • He always criticizes McGuinty, but never offers much of a platform

In every speaking engagement or interview I’ve watched or listened to, he’s always the first to bash the McGuinty government. But never offers much about his own platform, at least not in detail. Always vague promises of putting more money back into our pockets and “making life more affordable.”

This morning, on CBC, when asked outright what his platform included, Hudak promised to get rid of Ontario’s gridlock. When asked how, he said that he would leave that up to individual municipalities to decide how to spend their money. In my head: So… he’s going to solve gridlock by doing … nothing?

  • His poor attitude towards the business tax credit for skilled immigrants

I always hate it when politicians talk down to their audience, and treat them like they are stupid.

I felt that he blew the tax credit out of proportion and instead, started to peg the tax credit as immigrants taking away jobs from hard-working Ontarians. As if to suggest immigrants aren’t Ontarians, as well.

As I said above, I see the tax credit similar to giving tax credits to companies for hiring students. I don’t see anyone throwing around ageist or racists comments about that.

  • Removing the hydro debt repayment plan from home owner hydro bills.

You can read more detail about it here and here. The just of it is that Ontario had to borrow $7.8 billion in 1999 to pay off remaining debt. Now, 20 years later, Hudak declares the debt has been paid because altogether they have made $7.8 billion in debt payments.

As all of us PFers who have every made a mortgage payment or credit card payment know his statement is ludicrous. Ummm… interest payments, Mr. Hudak?

  • His underhanded actions regarding misinforming voters about sex education in elementary schools

Sex education is a touchy topic. I’m sure it can be debated for a long time, with many, many different perspectives.

What I found disturbing and underhanded was Hudak’s party distributed these brochures and even translated to other languages the incorrectly quoted and paraphrased information. This shows complete lack of respect for voters, and once again, is talking down to his voters. Read more about it here and here.

And now I will step off my soap box. If you are still reading this far, thank you – now go out and vote.

Cheers,

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RRSP Matching and Refusing Free Money

I was inspired to write out my thoughts on this after reading Bridget’s post on Short Term Gain for Long Term Pain.

RRSP Matching at my Workplace

My workplace offers a 100% employer RRSP matching up to varying percentages of one’s salary based on seniority. The matching starts after one year of seniority and the percentage matched increases.

I had all my funds picked and all my paper work filed with HR weeks before my one year mark. Free money? Yes, please 🙂

Now I know that not everyone is as gung ho about personal finance as me. But imagine my shock and horror when I found out that most of my co-workers around me were not contributing to their RRSP’s. Especially when the company matched their contributions, 100%!

Free Money

I was one of the most junior staff members on my team at that time, but some of my co-workers and managers who had more seniority and higher salaries (hence, even more free money) did not contribute to their RRSP through our company. *palm to forehead*

I mean, if someone handed you $1,000 or $2,000 would you refuse it? Hell, no!

I tried to explain to a co-worker that the money she contributes via the company matching is not taxed, so even if she contributed $100 a month, her paycheck would not decrease by $100 since she’s taxed on less money. And even if she didn’t know what to put her money into, she could invest in low risk funds and still get the company match – it’s practically a 100% return. Alas, money can be such a touchy topic, I dared not go further unless she asked me.

Excuses, Excuses

I usually keep my mouth shut about personal finance, but after we got out of a learning session for RRSP, people just started talking about it. I heard comments like, “I have trouble spending less than I earn”, or “I need my entire paycheck, I can’t give up a couple hundred a month”, or “It’s so complicated, I don’t know where to start.”

I am not saying that I am better than these people for taking advantage of my company matching. I just wished they saw what an opportunity they have for money that is already part of their compensation package. Even if they put in just 3%, the company matches it all, and they’ve already contributed 6% to their retirement – easy peasy.

Ignorance

This didn’t happen at work, but I know people refused to contribute to employer matching RRSP since they did not get a tax shelter for the money the employer matched. *palm to forehead*

Yes, free money still counts towards your taxable income. But it’s free!

I digress.

Different Priorities

Maybe we all just have different priorities. Or maybe they want to contribute and just don’t know how to go about doing it. I know that I found it over whelming to start and that’s why I am so thankful I found this wonderful PF community online.

My priority is to reach financial freedom, and I will continue to take advantage of my employee matching (and saving aggressively) to get there.

Does your work place have employee RRSP matching? Do you take advantage of it?

Cheers,

P.S. Are you following me on Twitter @fab_frugirl?

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