Going Back to School Without Breaking the Bank

Can you believe it’s almost that time of year again? You know what time I’m talking about – the “most wonderful time of the year.” No, I’m not talking about the holiday season; I mean back to school.

While back to school can be an exciting time for parents, it can also be a costly time. The last thing you want to do is start the school year in debt, but with the list of must-haves for children getting longer and longer every year, keeping your back to school budget in check is often easier said than done. Thankfully it is still possible.

Here are some ways to go back to school without breaking the bank.

Plan Ahead

Did you know that people who go to the supermarket without a shopping list are more likely to spend more than those who go with a shopping list in hand? It shouldn’t come as a surprise. Those with a shopping list know exactly what they’re going to buy. They can get in and out, without the temptation to wander and wonder what they need.

You may be wondering what the supermarket has to do with back to school shopping, but the two have more in common than you think. Similar to going to the supermarket, you want to plan ahead for back to school shopping. Take the time to do an inventory of what your child already has. That way you won’t end up buying supplies like pencils, pens and paper that your kid already has a ton of at home.

Once you know what your kid has, create your list together with your child. This can be a great learning experience for them. They can help you choose the items that they need, while still working within the budget you’ve set for them, teaching them a valuable money lesson.

Shop Around

For basics like pens and papers, there’s nothing wrong with heading to your local retailer, but if you’re going to be buying anything expensive or anything in large quantities, it’s worth spending the time to shop around. By shopping around, you can see if there are better details to be had out there.

And don’t just limit yourself to brick and mortar stores. See if there are better deals to be had online. You may be surprised about the deals available out there.

Share with Other Parents

Buying in bulk can save you money, but what if it’s way too much of something like pencils and you’re afraid your child isn’t going to be able to use them all even when they graduate from university? You might consider going in “halfsies” and split the cost with another parent. By doing that you can still get a great deal on an item and not end up with way too much of it. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved!

Start Shopping Early

Don’t make the mistake of waiting until the day before school is back in session to go shopping. Not only could the supplies you need to be sold out, you’re probably not getting the best deals on them either. By planning ahead of time, at the end of July or early August and starting your back to school shopping early, you’ll save money (even if your kids don’t like hearing about back to school so early on in the summer).

Are you looking for other ways to save on back to school? Contact our offices today for more great savings tips.

Climb’s Personalized Credit Prescription provides you with customized recommendations to help rebuild your credit score.

About the Author

Sean Cooper is the bestselling author of the book, Burn Your Mortgage: The Simple, Powerful Path to Financial Freedom for Canadians. He bought his first house when he was only 27 in Toronto and paid off his mortgage in just 3 years by age 30. An in-demand Personal Finance Journalist, Money Coach and Speaker, his articles and blogs have been featured in publications such as the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, Financial Post and MoneySense. Connect with Sean on LinkedInTwitterFacebook and Instagram.

What Are NSF Fees? (and How to Avoid Them)

You’re running around doing errands and you stop to log onto your bank account. You discover that in the midst of your busy day, you’ve somehow overdrawn your account. Now you’re being charged an NSF fee, and you’re so confused.

What’s this fee dragging down your balance even more? And how can you get rid of it?

What is an NSF Fee?

A non-sufficient funds fee is a fee your bank charges when you overdraw the account and you have a negative balance. Banks charge this fee because they have to cover the difference while your account is in the red.

You may also be charged if you wrote a check to someone else and they tried to cash it, but there weren’t enough funds in the account. The bank will charge an NSF cheque fee. The fees depend on your bank, but are often around $45.

These fees are designed to discourage people from overdrafting their accounts and not having enough money.

How to Avoid NSF Fees

The easiest way to avoid NSF fees is to always have enough money in your bank account. If you keep a buffer in your checking account, you never have to worry about overdrawing your account.

If you keep incurring NSF fees because you keep too much money in your savings and not enough in your checking, move a small amount from your savings to your checking account. It’s not worth trying to earn a higher interest rate in your savings account if you end up paying a $45 NSF fee every few months.

You can also find a bank that notifies you when your balance is low. Some banks do this by text or email. When you get this notification, you can transfer more money from your savings account to your checking. Some fintech apps also send reminders when you have a low balance.

If you still use checks, make sure to note how much money you have when you write the check. It’s easy to forget about checks you’ve written because there’s no way to be reminded of them. If possible, try to switch to online payment. Most checks expire only after six months, so you could wind up having an account overdrawn because someone deposited your check five months after you wrote it.

Some people experience NSF fees because they set their bills to be automatically paid the same day. If possible, stagger your dates so they don’t all fall on the same day. You can base them on different pay cycles.

If you accidentally spent more than you earned one month, you may have to keep a balance on your credit card to avoid overdrawing your bank account. You’ll pay interest on the credit card, but that’s preferable to owing an NSF fee.

It’s better to make minimum payments on your debt than try to pay the max and overdraft your account. Make the minimum payment automatic and then pay extra manually, once you know how much you can afford to pay.

About the Author

Zina Kumok is a trained journalist and has covered everything from professional sports to murder trials. Now, she specializes in personal finance and has written for brands and publications such as Mint, Investopedia and Discover. She paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in three years.

Identity Theft: What It Is and How to Prevent It

Identity theft is a growing problem in Canada. Every year thousands of Canadians fall victim to it. While the Internet and computers have made our lives easier in a lot of ways, it’s also made it easier for fraudsters to steal your personal and financial information. The good news is there are ways you can protect yourself. Let’s take a look at what identity theft is and how you can prevent it.

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is the deliberate use of another person’s identity, usually for financial gain. Identity theft comes in all different shapes and sizes. It can be something as simple as stealing someone’s mail or more sophisticated like hacking into your computer. Even companies aren’t safe from data breaches. There have been countless stories of personal data breaches over the years.

The aftermath of identity theft can leave you in financial ruins. Not only could fraudsters ruin your credit, but you could also suffer thousands of dollars in losses. This can hurt your ability to get credit later on when you need it if you want to get a mortgage or car loan.

How to Prevent Identity Theft

You don’t just have to sit idly by hoping you aren’t the victim of identity theft. There are things you can do to be proactive and prevent it. You should be extra careful about handing over personal and financial information, especially your address, date of birth, social insurance number (SIN) and credit card information. If someone were to obtain those online they could assume your identity.

Without further ado here are our best tips on how to prevent identity theft.

Safeguard Personal Information

Be extra cautious when sharing your personal information. Examples of sharing personal information include buying goods online and filling in an application for employment. Before willing handing over your personal data, you should ask why it’s needed and how it will be used.

Be even more careful with your SIN. If your SIN ends up in the hands of fraudsters, your credit could be damaged. Unless your SIN is absolutely required, it’s best to leave it off a form.

Protect Your Wallet or Purse

Hold onto your wallet and purse and keep eyes on them at all times. A criminal will have hit the jackpot if they obtain them. When you bring your wallet or purse with you, it’s a good idea to leave as much of your personal data at home. For example, don’t make the common mistake of bringing your SIN card everywhere with you. Only bring it when you truly need it.

Be Cautious with Your Credit Card

You should be cautious when sharing your credit card information with anyone. Although the majority of credit cards have zero liability protection where you aren’t at fault if your credit card is fraudulently used, it’s still a good idea to be proactive and takes steps to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Although it’s convenient, don’t save your credit card information directly on websites. If the website is ever hacked, your credit card information could be stolen.

Also, only share your credit card information with companies that you trust. Don’t ever give it to an incoming caller unless you’re 100 percent certain who it is.

Looking to rebuild your credit after being the victim of identity theft? Contact our offices today to come up with a game plan.

Climb’s Personalized Credit Prescription provides you with customized recommendations to help rebuild your credit score.

About the Author

Sean Cooper is the bestselling author of the book, Burn Your Mortgage: The Simple, Powerful Path to Financial Freedom for Canadians. He bought his first house when he was only 27 in Toronto and paid off his mortgage in just 3 years by age 30. An in-demand Personal Finance Journalist, Money Coach and Speaker, his articles and blogs have been featured in publications such as the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, Financial Post and MoneySense. Connect with Sean on LinkedInTwitterFacebook and Instagram.

Ways to Boost Your Credit Score

Your credit score is like a grown-up version of a report card. It shows how liable you are to pay off debt on time and in full and how likely you are to default.

But everyone makes mistakes and it’s common for your credit score to drop while you’re still learning about how to be responsible with your money. Like a low GPA, you can raise your credit score fairly easily.

Read below to find out how to boost your credit score and how to keep it high.

Pay Your Bills on Time

The biggest element in your credit score is if you pay your bills on time every month. That makes up a huge portion of your credit score. When you make a late payment, the company notifies the credit bureaus that produce your credit scores.

Figure out why you struggle with late payments. Is it because you often don’t have enough money to pay your bills? Or do you simply forget to pay your credit card bill?

Set up automatic payments from your bank account for all your bills. You can pay just the minimum if you can’t afford to pay the entire statement at once.

You can also create recurring calendar reminders in your phone, calendar or planner. If you prefer getting physical reminders of your bills, sign up for paper statements to be sent to your home.

As soon as you notice a late payment, call the company and make a payment right then. Usually, a payment needs to be more than 30 days late for it to show up on your credit report.

Lower Your Credit Use

A credit score tells prospective and current lenders how responsible you are. One of the factors that determine your creditworthiness is how much credit you’re currently using or your credit utilization. This makes up 30% of your credit score, so it’s an important component. This mostly affects credit cards and lines of credit.

You can find your credit utilization ratio or percentage by dividing your current credit balance by the available credit limit. Look up your credit card bill and view the most recent balance and then find the total credit limit.

If your balance was $3,000 and your credit limit is $10,000, then your utilization percentage is 30%. That means you should pay off more of your balance or call the credit card provider to increase the limit.

Fix Mistakes

It’s not uncommon for your score to be low because of a mistake or error on your credit report. That might be because your identity was stolen, and someone opened a credit card in your name. It might also be because you didn’t get a bill in the mail and the lender sent the bill to collections.

Look at your credit report to see if there are any mistakes and call the lender to ask about any collections or defaults. If you find an error, try to fix it as quickly as possible.

Avoid Opening New Accounts

Too many new accounts will affect the average age of your credit accounts. If possible, don’t open any new accounts unless you absolutely need it. If you have a lot of new accounts, a lender might think you don’t have enough cash on hand.

If you’re still having trouble increasing your score, check out Climb’s Personalized Credit Prescription that will give you custom, specific advice on how to increase your credit score.

About the Author

Zina Kumok is a trained journalist and has covered everything from professional sports to murder trials. Now, she specializes in personal finance and has written for brands and publications such as Mint, Investopedia and Discover. She paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in three years.