azenner, Author at Refresh Financial
It’s that sweet, sweet time of year again, when we’re gearing up to send our kids off to school. It means more time to get things done, more peace and quiet around the house, and earlier bedtimes so we can all watch Daryl Dixon brain a few walkers after little Timmy has fallen asleep. As much as we love our kids, entertaining them for an entire summer is exhausting and we’re all headed for that blissful break, very soon! There is a downside to back-to-school, though, and that’s the cost of back to school shopping involved. Your kids want the Star Wars backpacks and the Gap jeans. They want a brand new, shiny pair of Jordans and a MacBook Pro to do what we used to do at the library. It all adds up and it can be one of the most expensive times of the year. Luckily, there are ways to save, though. Just remember, you’re the adult, and you make the rules. Don’t be puppy-dog-eyed into spending more than you want to. Follow these ten tips for your back to school shopping, and you’ll have a healthier wallet, happier credit cards, and possibly even some money-smart kids:

1. Get organized

Make a list of everything each of your children will need to start school. The schools they attend should issue a list sometime before school, of all the supplies they will need. Stick to the list. Don’t stray. Be straight with your kids about that so they know what to expect.

2. Make a budget and explain it to your kids

Including them in the process will help them to understand why they might be getting hand-me-downs, and it will teach them a little bit about money. They might have some input on what items they’d be willing to give up, so they can get the expensive backpack they really want, and they might have some creative ideas as well, as far as saving money goes.

3. Take stock

What does your child already have that can be reused another year? Do his siblings have items that can be handed down? Not everything has to be new. Let your kids know that the more you can save this way, the easier it will be to get the things they really want for back to school. You’d be surprised how reasonable kids can be when they understand the situation.

4. Shop second hand stores

With a little time and a keen eye, you’d be amazed what you can find in these stores. Bonus tip: shop second hand stores in wealthier neighbourhoods. They’re usually stocked with top-notch gear.

5. Pay attention to flyers, bonus points to be collected, items on sale and coupons

You can do this by subscribing to your favourite stores online: newsletters, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Pay attention to the deals they’re posting, and you’ll manage to cash in on a few.

6. Join and follow the discussion in the forums at

Usually around this time of year, a back-to-school thread is active, full of deals and freebies and promotions across Canada.

7. Grab discounted gift cards at the stores you’re likely to shop at

For instance, you can grab a $250 Gap gift card at for $225.

8. Shop at dollar stores

These shops are on every corner and usually have a vast selection of stationery supplies, as well as reusable lunch bags, backpacks, snacks and more.

9. Be sure to mention the tax-free status of everything you’re buying

In most places, school supplies are exempt or semi-exempt from sales taxes.

10. If your kids want the truly expensive items, make them pay for it

Paper routes are usually available for younger kids, and teens can find babysitting jobs, and sometimes part-time jobs to pay for the things they really want. You can also have them work for you, doing odd jobs around the house. If you follow these ten steps, back-to-school should be what it’s supposed to be: the best time of the year! How do you save money on school supplies? Let us know in the comments! We get that owning a home in a major Canadian city is a distant dream for most. No matter which way you slice it, home buyers have it tough in today’s economy. With astronomical housing prices and a poor job market, the horizon looks bleak. Canadians who strive for homeownership will struggle to reach that goal, and struggle further to maintain it. With the average rental price in the greater area of Toronto (check out the difference in prices around the city) sitting well below the cost of a repaying a $746,546 mortgage (and that soars to $1.22 million if you want a detached house!) you can see why the dream of home ownership seems unrealistic. This doesn’t just apply to Toronto, Vancouver is also known for its astronomical housing prices, with the average cost of a detached house in Greater Vancouver sitting at $1.77 million. Is there an alternative, though? A new way of thinking that could free people from the stress of saving to buy a leaky old shack for hundreds of thousands of dollars? Perhaps a different route that doesn’t come with complete debt slavery?

Invest, Don’t Buy

Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung say yes. They say the solution is pretty simple: don’t buy a house. Don’t get sucked into the hype. Just don’t do it. Kristy and Bryce opted out of homeownership after looking to buy houses in Toronto led them from one dump to the next. They took their down payment and invested it instead and now they say they’re millionaires. The couple struggled to pay their own way through university, and lived in an old, $800/month apartment in Toronto. They chose not to buy a car and, instead, they walked and used transit to get everywhere. It took discipline and sacrifice to save and invest every penny, nickel and dime, but it has paid off with debt-free financial freedom. They’ve even retired and they’re still in their early thirties. While most people their age are struggling to make mortgage payments and have decades of working ahead of them, Kristy and Bryce are globetrotting, happy and free.

Millennial Revolution

They have even begun a website to tell you how you can do it, too: Of course, this option is not going to be as easy for everyone and it may not be the right choice for you, but that’s where Refresh Financial comes in. Every Refresh Financial client gets access to the Refresh Financial Intelligence Training (FIT) while they’re building their credit and FIT can teach you how to invest wisely. While Kristy and Bryce’s story feels far-fetched and out of reach, it’s very true. This couple started out just like you and me, and by their thirties, were retired with a million bucks in the bank. They’ve proved that anything is possible, if you’re smart about your money. Get smart about your money now with the FIT program, and become a Refresh client today: click here. Most people don’t know their credit score. Many of those people avoid looking at their credit score for fear of what they might find. Some avoid looking because they’ve been led to believe requesting your credit report will harm your credit or work against any of your credit building efforts, and some don’t check their own credit score because they’re convinced they don’t need to unless they’re looking to borrow. Whatever the reason is, you can’t avoid looking at, dealing with, and talking about credit, and here are six reasons why:

1. Not talking about credit could force you to delay major life plans

If you wait to face your credit until you’re in the market to borrow money, it might be too little, too late. There is always the possibility of finding items on your credit report that come as a complete surprise to you. Whether it’s something you’ve long forgotten, something you didn’t think would have an effect on your credit score or instances of identity theft, surprises happen. They can also take some time to deal with which means a longer route to credit building. Don’t leave yourself in a position of having to wait months or even years to purchase your first home or car, just because you’ve avoided checking your credit. Do it now. Clean up anything that needs it, so when you do find yourself in the market to borrow, you’re all set to do so.

2. While you’re avoiding the topic of credit, your credit score could be getting worse

If you’re avoiding checking your credit because you’re afraid of what you might see, you could be making it worse. Most of us go through credit issues, and many of us have a feeling of failure or regret that stems from it. You are not alone, almost every healthy adult in North America has experienced the fear you’re experiencing. You have a choice now: face the truth and start to build it, or ignore it and make it worse. I think you know what the better option is, and who knows? It might not be as bad as you think.

3. Being aware of and talking about your credit doesn’t harm your credit score

If you’re avoiding getting your credit report because you think it will harm your credit, don’t worry. Obtaining your own credit report is called a soft inquiry – that is, an inquiry into your credit background that is not for the purposes of potentially borrowing money. When you get your credit checked for a credit card, a loan or a mortgage, that is a hard inquiry and can have an effect on your credit score. Checking your own credit will not harm your credit rating at all.

4. It’s easy to obtain your own credit report

As a Canadian, you are entitled to one free credit report per year from Equifax and TransUnion. To grab your credit report and find out your credit score, follow these links: TransUnion and Equifax. However, these don’t include your credit score. But you can keep track of your credit score with a credit monitoring program like Refresh offers. It allows you unlimited access to both your credit history and score, helps you guard against identity theft, and also gives you valuable insight with a detailed credit and debt analysis. You can find it here.

5. Your credit score has an impact on so many aspects of your life

Without decent credit, you might find yourself having trouble booking hotel rooms, renting a car, booking flights or even just taking business trips that will eventually be reimbursed. It affects your ability to buy a home, and it can also have an effect on your ability to rent a home. You can have trouble obtaining banking products you want, and you’ll find buying a car difficult. Credit seeps into so many areas of our lives that it is as important to talk about as our health, where we send our kids to school, or who we might vote for in an upcoming election. If you face your credit and get it under control working towards credit building, it will improve your life overall.

6. You will save money

Those with better credit get better interest rates, and you don’t get better credit by ignoring the topic of credit. As we covered yesterday, a lower interest rate on something as simple as a credit card can be the difference between six years to pay off a debt and 3 years, saving you thousands of dollars in interest. Even if your credit is in bad shape now, it’s not that difficult to learn how to build your credit. You will never be able to learn how to build your credit though, if you don’t bring up the topic, look at your credit report and clean it up as best you can. The bottom line is that if you take control of your credit and learn how to build your credit, you’ll take control of your life. It really makes all the difference in the world.