CRA Scam

As tax season is winding up (and has worn me down considerably), it is a good time to remind people of the ever evolving CRA Scam here in Canada.

For those who don’t know the scammers are posing as our lovely people at the Canada Revenue Agency. They call and email citizens claiming that they owe the CRA back taxes and convince people that they need to pay. Also that they accept iTunes cards as payment. Last time I checked iTunes cards were not considered legal tender.

Since people probably don’t want to read the whole thing below here are the main points:

1.  Do not give your Social Insurance Number or banking/credit card information over the phone.

2. If anything is owing to CRA they WILL NOT ask  if you have a lawyer. HANG UP if you are asked this or if you are told there is a warrant for your arrest.

3. CRA advises of payments outstanding in WRITING, in the MAIL. They won’t call you or email you to request payment.

4. Call the CRA directly at 1-800-959-8281 , sign up for the CRA MyAccount, go to your local CRA office (if you live nearby) or if you have an accountant they can look into it for you (let’s hope they won’t bill you for it).

I know that people are afraid when these people call but you can just HANG UP on them. Do not give them the power, you have the power. It’s ok because you do have tools at your disposal to shut these people down, more on that later but right now just some common sense.

1. Do not freely give your SIN (Social Insurance Number) to them, this will most certainly lead to identity theft. That’s if you engage with them (which I hope you don’t).

2. If they ask if you have a lawyer HANG UP. There is never a warrant out for your arrest. CRA will always garnish your wages, up to 30% of your income, if you are in that deep with them. But of course CRA is nicer and will send a letter to contact you to make payment arrangements prior to that happening.

3. Screen your calls, if you do not recognize the number DO NOT answer. Pretty sure these people do not leave a message. But make note of the number that pops up so you can contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

4. Ask them for their ID number. If they do not provide then HANG UP or tell them you have to go to the bathroom or pray for their soul.

Helpful resources to keep around:

1. Take note of your tax centre, one that sends you mail correspondence. Look up their phone number, that is where CRA should be calling you from. Yes their number will come up on your call display. If you do owe money they will always issue WRITTEN correspondence.

2. Sign up for the CRA MyAccount Service, this will give you your up to date account balance. Or call the automated inquires line at 1-800-959-8281

My big message here is…. If someone calls states they are from the CRA and call from a number that is not in the vicinity of your tax centre HANG UP. Then call the CRA directly at 1-800-959-8281 to verify if that was actually them calling.

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DIY Document Stand

IMG_20180320_092504My inspiration for this project came from my work. As a backgrounder I live in a cubicle land, not the high ones mind you but in that land nonetheless. One day I saw my co-worker prop paperwork up using a tube of lotion as the stand. She did really well with it because the paperwork did not curl forward AT ALL.

Got me to thinking of how could I make one, tried repurposing a binder, man are those things cheap! so back to the drawing board…..

As tax season is upon is I thought maybe this would be a good time to make a document stand before the paperwork piles on.

Off to the dollar store I went…..

Materials:

1 clipboard

1 small easel

1 trusty hot glue gun

It’s that easy and it only cost me $3.50 per one (not including sales tax)

This easel….

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It is great because it is a chalkboard so you could have stopped right there but I liked it because it was broad. Get your trusty hot glue gun and affix the frame of it to the clipboard. NOTE: Make sure you align the outside legs of the easel to the bottom of the clipboard, it makes it more flush with your surface.

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Don’t forget to put some hot glue on the bottom of the easel legs because it will prevent it from sliding on your surface.

I chose not to personalize it because well if it is covered with paper who is going to see the flair anyway?

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So see mine and hers will be plain, yes I like to share. Now I am sure this will give inspiration for others out there. Wouldn’t it be great for those recipes you tell yourself that you will one day make? Some things are just better at eye level.

This project is so quick you guys the time you save by putting it together the more time you can add some flair with washi tape and jewel stickers!

You’re welcome for the motivation!

~B

 

Bed Time Chart Hack

Do you see all the pretty bedtime chart printables on Pinterest and Etsy and wonder if there is a better way?

One night as we were trying to establish a bedtime routine for our child and I needed to think of something fast….. So in half an hour you can have a bedtime chart provided you have the materials on hand.

Materials:

  1. One piece of cardboard 8 1/2″ x 11″
  2. Recipie cards
  3. Blue Tack
  4. Marker
  5. Pencil crayons
  6. Stickers
  7. Fame stand

Time to complete: 1/2 hour

Can’t recall where I got this piece of cardboard….. but if you have a binder that is falling apart or a cheap one you can take apart this is the same type.

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I found that using recipie cards were a good way to present the bedtime to-dos as visuals help to reinforce what we need to do before going to bed. My drawing skills are not great but it has worked.

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Then this where I got creative…. Now you don’t have to put numbers on it but it helps also with numeracy skills, also helps for placement of blue tack. The stickers are Jolee branded from Michael’s.

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Now it is put together, using a frame stand is better than trying to get it to stay on the wall.

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There you have it a quick and easy bedtime chart when you need something fast. We didn’t have to use this chart for that long but it’s still a great tool nonetheless.

Here’s to overcoming the bedtime struggles! We are all in this together.

-B

An Open Letter to ABC Daytime….

Dear executives at ABC Daytime,

I am a 20+ year fan of your (now lone) daytime property General HospitalThree weeks ago I took a break from the show because I was disheartened by the change in status of one of your long time actors whose storyline got dropped ABRUPTLY in favour of a storyline that keeps perpetuating America’s culture of gun violence.

Yes I am calling it like it is, almost every episode I have been catching up with there is someone with a GUN. They’re usually handguns, but a gun is a gun is a gun. The time is now to transform storytelling in daytime, stop with the guns being used to hurt/intimidate/terroize/write off characters in stories of “good vs evil”.  It’s bad enough that no one has a vision to transform Sonny Corinthos and Co. away from violence. I also understand that it was the “mob” that saved the show in the 1970s but using guns as a prop to intimidate characters should not be tolerated anymore. ESPECIALLY now where many people are being terrorized by people with unbelievable access to more powerful guns in the same country where you produce and brodcast this show.

I challenge your producers and writers to stop using this “prop” as a crutch when telling story, especially during daytime. Falling back on this crutch time and again does not move the show forward in a direction that is smart and thoughtful. A show that respects character history while still being an escape for the audience. Now is the time to take a positive direction and evolve.

As a division of an entertainment company that prides itself on family values through your Disney properties I would hope that you could be a leader of change.

Sincerely,

Brandi Wilson

CANADA

13 Month Debt Elimination Challenge Month #2

The other day I read an article the average Canadian has $8,500 of consumer debt.

That is non- mortgage and non-student loans and that is me.

When you exclude student loans from the image you will see below I do fall into that category. This is why it is so important to tackle this in 2018, when I should have tackled it in 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014…. The biggest difference is that I decided that I need to settle, can’t try to be a CPA anymore, it’s just not going to happen, so stop spending the money on courses and especially I did not spend $600 this year to renew my student membership, I withdrew and it feels like a huge relief.

December was a challenging month as last minute Christmas shopping ate a little lot of progress. Adding ~$500 of additional debt was the biggest letdown. See the image below. SO not happy with myself. Overall I only paid down $730, not cool.

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Therefore in January I will be doubling down and using credit cards sparingly. As much as I want to be perfect I am not so admitting fault and taking action is needed. With that I am now not going to include my OSAP (Student Loans) balance in my overall debt to eliminate because I have always been able to report the interest paid on my income taxes. Also I will omit my VISA card as I always pay the balance every month in the middle of the month for it’s 27th of the month due date.

5 habits that will need to be carried to the end of the 13 months:

  1. Use only the low limit card
  2. Use found money to pay debt
  3. Don’t use cards for food purchases
  4. Don’t use cards at the dollar store
  5. Don’t use cards for charitable donations

Point 5 is a good strategy, I have a lot of cheques to use, need to increase donations for my 2018 tax return and don’t need points badly enough to use cards to contribute charitable donations.

Here are some wins I had this month:

  1. Sold an item on Kijiji for $5, this money went to the Toys for Tots fundraiser at my child’s daycare.
  2. Sold a Barbie on eBay for $40 (this was before both eBay and PayPal took their cuts but some money is better than no money)
  3. Sold a movie on Amazon for $10 (before they took their cut and before I had to pay for mailing, some money better than no money)
  4. Received a $20 Leger survey cheque.

Challenge in store for January and February is that my driver’s licence and plates are up for renewal in March and have to shell out $210 to get it done. This cost always seems to go higher and higher every year.

Along with this challenge is always looking for revenue streams and continuing to beat myself up for taking a lower paying job almost 3 months ago instead of staying and having this paid off.  This is what I get for being impulsive and not having my priorities straight.

To see where I started check out 13 Month Debt Elimination Challenge Month #1

There is no one solution to getting rid of debt but we can all learn from each other and aim to be in the black instead of being in the red.

 

 

Best Loyalty Points Programs

Out of all the loyalty points programs we have today in Canada there are only 4 programs I use and constantly redeem.

PC Points

If you have the President’s Choice Mastercard it will be easy to rack up points (but not when you buy in the store) but to maximize this program is to sign up for the additional PC Plus program. This one like the Shopper’s Drug Mart one I will mention below you need to maximize the additional offers they will send your way that uses your buying habit history. Like for instance 2,000 points for every $10 sent on vitamins, $2.00 in points I can dig that. But to make it even better you will have to go to No Frills (especially if you live close to one) in order to save for. In the vitamin example I can save an additional $2.00 by getting it at No Frills vs Loblaws which is also nearby. You are going to get the equivalent of $0.10 to $0.20 in points, like my vitamin example with the PC Plus offers. Also to maximize the PC Plus check the flyers and in the store. Of course don’t get carried away and buy what you need. I recently logged into my PC Plus account and saw that since 2007 I have redeemed $320 in groceries and/or apparel.

Shopper’s Optimum

Like the PC Points program noted above this program’s credit card makes it easy to build up the points balance. To maximize this program without the credit card one will need to shop during the 20 times the points events. Also would need to utilize the offers sent in email. The additional offers that are sent are based on your buying habits and what you would most likely purchase. Some of these offers are 15 times the points on one product or a flat point amount. Like the Petro Points program below with each purchase of product you will receive points. It is equivalent to the tax that was paid. Better than nothing of course. A big drawback to this program is that it does take awhile to get to the points levels if you are not using the maximizers all the time.

BUT PC Points and Shopper’s Optimum are consolidating in February. The only thing I hope is that they will use the $0.10 or $0.20 per every $1 scheme, that way you know what you are getting for points. Also the minimum redemption for PC Points is $20 whereas Shopper’s is $10, which will they go with?

Petro Points

To really maximize this program you need to put in some effort doing some surveys.  I do not recall how I got enrolled in it but going to www.askingcanadians.com helps to accumulate those Petro Points faster. Some surveys can pay you up to $2.50 in Petro Points! I know right?! However if you don’t qualify they’ll still give you a nickel. Something is better than nothing at least. Last year between gas purchases (and instore indulgencies) and these surveys I accumulated over $40 in points. I maximize this by being able to convert these points into CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) dollars to pay for our annual CAA membership.

Chapters/Indigo Plum Points

The Plum Points program has a benefit to all the bibliophiles out there or to those who are buying educational toys. The trick with this is to use the x number the points events. Also there was a good promotion (do not recall if they have it any more) where you buy 3 books and get $5 in points. I save these points up for toys. This program is great that the minimum redemption is $5 but it seems like it takes a lot to accumulate points.

Walmart Rewards

I just received my Walmart Rewards Mastercard, of course it gives you higher rewards if you shop at their store, but the hook is if you sign up for paperless billing you receive $10 in rewards. The other hook is that if you make 2 purchases of $15 or more each (one at Walmart and one at another retailer) you receive $15 in rewards for each of those transactions. 1.25% rewards for all purchases made at Walmart and 1% for everything else. What I really like about this program is that the minimum redemption is $5.

There you have  it the best (according to me) loyalty points programs in Canada. Comment below with which is your favourite?

~B

13 Month Debt Elimination Challenge

Today, December 1st I have challenged myself to by December 31st of next year to have any non-mortgage debt eliminated. The debt comes from you guessed it, credit cards and a line of credit. This is a tall order you see as I have $12k in debt almost $5k of that is remaining student loans that I should have had paid off years earlier. This is now out in the open in the world wide web so I have to do this.

So where to start…..

Write it down

A good first step is to write everything you have down. That way you have a really good idea of where to start. 

Here’s my starting point:

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Yes that is ledger paper and yes it does not look good at all, mainly because I took the photo with the webcam on my laptop.  So I highlighted my high debts as to show their importance. 

Stare at the list

In order to have the reality of your financial situation to give you a wake up call you need to examine it.

Stare at it often, several times of the day if needed. Look at it when you get up in the morning and before you go to bed. 

Come up with a realistic strategy

My strategy right now is to pay off the small debt first and work my way towards slaying the bigger debts. 

As you can see one of my small debts is almost gone. After that I will not use that card, ok I will solely use it for gasoline purchases. Which equal to about twice a month now and no more than $100 so that will be manageable and paid in full every month. Also I am done all my Christmas shopping so I get a one month head start on paying those off. 

Do not let points/rewards tempt you

So easy for this to happen, this is part of the reason I am feeding the debt monster. All the cards on that list have some sort of points or rewards attached to them. The programs lead you to buy things you don’t need. This is why I am going to stop until these are paid.

So I plan to update with the progress every month and let you know of any time I can get extra money to pay it down and any setbacks I encounter. The ultimate goal is to bump up the savings. Are you also coming to a point where debt is becoming too much?  I would love to hear your strategies, good luck to all of us!

~B