Sep 262013

How to Get Cheap Musicians for your Wedding Ceremony – Know People

By |September 26th, 2013|Blog, Personal Finance Tips|6 Comments

This is the latest installment in my wedding series, and this entry is going to really appease all of the people who are angry about me spending $20k on my wedding. And I know most of you have already read it, but if you think $20k is too much I will just direct you to this response.

I’ve already decided to set a total budget of $20,000 for the wedding, and we’ve already covered the $3,195 for the photographer. Next up: ceremony musicians.

Tag and I are both Catholic, and we will be having a full Catholic mass for our wedding. That means we need a pianist, one or more vocalists, and potentially some additional instrumentalists if we so choose. Musicians are not cheap and we could end up spending big money on all this stuff. So what’s the damage?

We’re Spending $0 on Musicians (not including tip)

One of the activities that Tag and I are involved in is the music ministry at our church. Every Sunday we show up to church an hour early to rehearse the songs, and then we are part of the choir as we lead the congregation in worship.

pianoIt’s a fun, spiritual activity for us, but it also comes with a great benefit: we are friends with all the musicians. Our choir director is also the pianist, and he is truly the most amazing pianist I’ve ever heard play in real life. He’s so good he has played at Carnegie Hall. He will be playing piano for our ceremony.

We also have friends who sing in the choir with us every week. We have officially asked one of them to sing already, but I’m thinking about asking a few more to join. The more the merrier as far as I’m concerned! Especially since these are our friends and they are happy to sing at our wedding.

We haven’t decided on the music, but we’re hoping to do something contemporary. If that’s the case, we have a guitarist, a bassist, and a drummer who we can ask. I’m pretty sure a lot of them would do it as a favor for us.

What About the Tip?

So in theory we are getting free musicians. In reality, we’ll probably pay just a little less than anyone else would. Our friends are offering their services free of charge, but we are going to tip them, and we’ll tip them a heck of a lot more than a normal tip since they aren’t charging us anything.

We are trying to save money wherever possible, but we also value our friend’s time and talent. If they weren’t playing the music then they would be sitting in the pews with all our other friends and family, so we are definitely going to tip them well for being willing to “work” at our wedding.

To My Married Readers: Did you have friends help you with parts of your wedding like the music? Did you give them a nice tip?

Sep 262013

6 Ways to Teach Your Kids About Money Management

By |September 26th, 2013|General Personal Finance|1 Comment

There’s never a bad time to start teaching your kids about money management. You will be preparing them for the adult world, so that they can stay out of debt in the future. With these guidelines, engaging your children in money management will be fun and meaningful.

Give Them Wages or an Allowance


Image via Flickr: Brad_Chaffee

Be mindful that giving your children wages or an allowance is not simply handing money over to them every week. Your children need to complete designated tasks for them to earn the money, just as they would in a real job. Base the amount of money you give them by what is right for their age. Their weekly allowance can be earned through their normal chores, but if they want to make more money, give them atypical chores to complete like washing the cars or raking the leaves. Be sure to take money away from them, if they don’t complete the chores you assign them. They have to understand the inconsistencies of money when what is expected of them is not completed.

Develop a Budget

Once you give your kids an allowance, it’s time to develop a budget with them. Remembering that you shouldn’t set too many limits on their money will help them understand both the freedom that comes with money, and buyer’s remorse. Give them the categories of give, save, and spend and let them allot money to each of those categories. The give category can be for gifts for friends or charities, and the save category can be for saving up for something big or the distant future. Since kids today are so tech savvy, utilize kid friendly, money planning apps like Tykoon to help teach them how to turn “I want this” to “how can I earn this.” To ensure that your child learns lessons on spending, try not to influence their buying decisions, but rather offer advice. You should also discuss with your children the concept of needs versus wants by emphasizing the importance of spending on needs first, before wants are fulfilled.

Make Them a Bank

Whether you make them a wallet, a piggy bank, or a play cash register, giving them a place to house their money will help them feel independent and teach them the importance of responsibility. They’ll feel like they are in control of their money, while also having a place where they can’t lose it easily. Give them different places to put their money for the different categories of their budget. You could appoint jars that are labeled give, save, and spend respectively.

Lead by Example

It’s hard to teach your kids about saving money or the importance of needs over wants if you’re constantly shopping for new clothes, or buying a new car every year. Leading by example is one of the most important aspects of teaching your children money management skills. They will inevitably pick up bad habits they see you do, so be aware of your spending habits. Openly talk to your kids about why you spend money on certain things, and what you save for with every paycheck. I had a very positive discussion with my son about why I spent on a Kids Britannica online when Wikipedia is free. In the end he understood that I wanted the reliability and he learnt about value.

Teach Them about Recurring Bills

There are several ways you can teach your kids about the recurring bills that are a part of life, and they must always be planned for. If you have a sense of humor, you could implement a tax that gets taken out of their weekly allowance. If they consistently leave their lights on or electronics plugged-in you could take out a utility fee. You can also teach them about insurance, by giving them a continual small price they’ll pay for you to replace something important of theirs if it breaks, like a game system or jewelry. If they have a hard time understanding how insurance works, you can show them homeowners insurance rates in your state. There are many ways to get creative with this money management lesson, just be sure not to get too carried away with fees, taxes, and bills while still enforcing an important lesson.

Help Them Start a Small Business

Igniting the entrepreneurial spirit at a young age encourages creativity and problem solving skills. Whether it’s a lemonade stand, a bake-sale, a lawn mowing service, a dog walking service, or they want to sell their arts and crafts, a small business teaches great money management skills. Help them create a business plan, and a budget for buying supplies for their business. Also, help them come up with a competitive price for their products or services.

From teaching your kids about savings, to understanding bills, money management will become a habit, rather than just something you tell them about through a stale cliché like, “money doesn’t grow on trees.” Do you have any creative ways you teach your kids about money that isn’t mentioned in the list above?

Sep 252013

Alternative Savings Options

By |September 25th, 2013|General Personal Finance|Comments Off on Alternative Savings Options

It has been a difficult time for savers over the last few years, despite the benefits of having money saved which is easily accessible low interest rates have meant that there is very little return on investment being made by anyone using a standard savings account. Thanks to many of us looking for alternative ways to invest our cash there have been an influx of options entering the market as of late, let’s take a look at some of them.


Although a more long term alternative to saving with a bigger investment needed in the right area with experience investing in property can give you a great return. Residential property can provide a monthly rental income and a long term return on the initial investment when property prices rise. As with all major investments, property should be considered a risk and professional advice should always be sought from those with expertise in the field. Examples of such include mortgage brokers such as FirstMortgage.

For those interested in property investment but prefer not to go down the residential buy to let route there are alternative options available.

Peer to Peer Lending

Peer to peer lending platforms have seen a significant amount of growth recently with options across the world available. The concept is simple, instead of placing your money in a bank you instead offer small portions of your money to peers seeking personal loans or investments in their business. The return on investment depends on the platform and risk associated with the borrower taking into account their credit history. Examples of such include Zopa and Funding Circle.

National Savings and Investments

If you are located in the UK, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man you can invest in premium bonds. These are similar to savings accounts but instead of being paid in interest you are instead entered into a monthly prize draw with the chance of winning £1 million tax free.

In addition there are further investment options such as investing in vintage fashion, art, gold, wines and antiques although these come with a larger risk than some of the other options available to you and typically require expert knowledge.

Sep 242013

The 3 Keys to Selling Your Home

By |September 24th, 2013|General Personal Finance|1 Comment

In marketing jargon, we talk about the “Ps” of marketing: Product, Pricing, and Promotion.  The same goes for your home sale! It’s all about getting the product ready, pricing it right and getting it out there by promoting it. So here they are in more detail: the 3 keys to selling your home.

1. The Product: The House

To you, it’s your home. But to a potential buyer, it’s a house. The difference? Personal affiliation.

The key here is to get the product in good order before putting it on the market. To do that, you need to take a step back and evaluate it as an impartial observer would.

Consider carefully what repairs need to be done and do them. Clear clutter off of every horizontal surface and give your house the once-over with a hawk’s eye. Do paint touch-ups where necessary, and remove anything that personalizes the home too much.

It may feel sad, but you need to stage your home carefully in order to allow another family to imagine themselves there.

Getting a seller’s home inspection done prior to putting up the For Sale sign is a great step for building goodwill with potential buyers. It shows you have taken care to make sure the house is fit to sell.

2. Pricing: Get it Right

One of the biggest mistakes home sellers make is to price their house too high. Again, it’s about being impartial!

Get a professional pricing appraisal done and look at how much comparable properties in your neighborhood have sold for. Use these as your guide for getting the price right.

Pricing your home for sale too high can mean the difference between a quick sale and sitting on the market for weeks or months.

3. Promotion: Advertise Your Sale

Now that you’ve got the house cleaned up and priced right, it’s time to get the word out!

Presumably, you’ve listed your house for sale online. To sell a home in Canada, the best way to get online exposure is to list your home for sale on REALTOR.ca.

Once you have a link to an online listing, you can share it across social media. Be sure to make it compelling and use some awesome photos (another P right there!) of your home to showcase it.

Perhaps the most important part of promoting your home for sale is putting up a great professional-looking lawn sign. Hosting open house visits is another great way to get the word out.

Also, create a one-page feature sheet of your home with a nice photo, some key information and your contact information. Put these up around your community and keep your phone line open for calls!

Author Bio

Jane Kennedy tweets and blogs about selling a house in Canada and Canadian real estate for the ComFree network based in Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Sep 212013

How to Save For an Early Retirement

By |September 21st, 2013|General Personal Finance|2 Comments

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. Don’t get caught with a low retirement fund that leaves you working well into your golden years. Nobody wants to punch the clock when they would rather be checking off life-long bucket list items. Saving for an early retirement is easier than you think. Careful planning today could mean a life of luxury in the future.

Start Early

start early

Image via wikimedia.org

This is pretty much a no brainer. If you begin investing today (yes, as in right this minute), your retirement fund will be far ahead someone who waited well into their 40s. For example, if you invest $2000/year in an account that accrues 7% annual interest at age 25, you’ll have about $150,000 by the age of 50. Compare that to a person who does the same beginning at age 35; he or she will only have about $60,000!

This is because money that accrues compound interest grows exponentially, i.e; the longer it’s been growing, the faster it will grow. Start early!

Invest According to Age

invest according to age

Image via wikimedia.org

The main goal of retirement is to be able to sit on a beach somewhere sipping cocktails while your investments chug away and offer you a respectable income. When you retire, you want your portfolio to naturally accrue interest that beats inflation and provides stable income.

Retirement is a good time to shift your portfolio primarily to bonds, preferably those backed by the US treasury. But to get to retirement fast, stocks are a high-risk high-reward option when you’re younger.

They can spike up the value of your portfolio faster than most other options. However, they are more prone to fluctuations. Stocks generally rose 10% over the past 100 years, but you don’t want them fluctuating while you’re trying to enjoy your golden years. Invest in stock while you’re young and have time to recover.

Cut Back on Trivial Things

cut back on trivial things

Image via Flickr by mynameisharsha

Avoid major investments like buying a home or a car. Don’t eat out all the time. No one expects you to be the perfect miser, but every penny you save toward your retirement will put you one step closer to achieving it early.

Invest Aggressively

Hand Putting Deposit Into Piggy Bank

Image via Flickr by kenteegardin

The more money you spend on designer coffee and hot threads means less money going towards your future. Most anyone can reach an early retirement so long as they invest aggressively. This means investing at least 20% or more of every paycheck into your retirement fund.

There’s even an Early Retirement Extreme movement that suggests living on only 25% of your income and investing the other 75% toward retirement.

Fortunately, some financial products are even designed and structured with retirement in mind. Perhaps you’re one of the many people asking: How does an annuity work? If so, you’ll certainly want to investigate your options regarding annuities.

Read Up On Tax Law

tax law

Image via Flickr by John-Morgan

One of the biggest drains on any aspect of your life, including retirement, is taxes. Nearly anything you do will have a tax-shaped shadow. This even includes your IRAs. You should know that (nearly) any withdrawal you make from your traditional or Roth IRA prior to the age of 59 and a half will suffer a 10% penalty. If you’re invested in bonds, stocks, and mutual funds, be sure you understand how much tax you’re going to need to pay for dividends and capital gains.

Make Saving a Habit

make saving a habit

Image via Flickr by DafneCholet

Manually putting money into a retirement fund can make it begin to feel like a chore. Plus you’ll start to second-guess your investment and subconsciously regret socking money away that doesn’t provide any sort of immediate gratification. The best option here is to automatically set up payments through your retirement accounts. Many providers will even give you some sort of incentive or fee exemption when you enroll in auto-debiting programs. Plus it’ll give you the piece of mind knowing that your retirement fund is always growing and moving forward, even if you forget about it sometimes.

Buy a Home Now

buy a home

Image via Flickr by Images_of_Money

It might seem counterintuitive to buy your retirement home while you’re still saving for retirement. But when you start paying for your living arrangements early, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to live out your retirement years without having to worry about mortgages or housing payments at all. This means that you can live on less money each year, taking a huge chunk out of living expenses and the total amount you think you need to have before a life of leisure. The IRS also lets you write off interest on a second home. Better yet, why not rent out that second home?

Early retirement isn’t easy, but is something definitely in your reach. Set goals today and make plans for the future. You’ll get there soon enough.

Sep 182013

I’m Hosting The Plutus Awards Again!

By |September 18th, 2013|Blog, Life|5 Comments

If you are a relatively new reader, you might not even know that I do really embarrassing music videos. I’ve sung a love song to a Roth IRA and I’ve even dressed up like a girl. Unfortunately, I haven’t really had time to do music videos in the last 2 years. The last song I did was 11 months ago and it was at the Financial Blogger Conference as I was the MC for the Plutus Awards.

Well apparently FINCON is collectively tone deaf because they have asked me to come back and MC again for the 2013 Plutus Awards. Yes, that means another song and dance performance. Actually I don’t want to call any moments I make “dancing”, so let’s call it a song and awkwardly move around performance.

I’ve always been willing to embarrass myself in front of large groups of people, and I’m excited to do it again this year. If you are going to the Financial Blogger Conference, make sure you attend the Plutus Awards on Thursday night!

Now onto the more important stuff: there are some incredible websites that deserve to be nominated for Plutus Awards, and that’s where you come in.

If you are a fan of this and/or other personal finance blogs, it would be awesome if you nominated your favorite blogs for awards this year.

In the last year I’ve gone from posting 3-4 articles a week to just 1, and I don’t really feel like I’ve earned a Plutus Award this year so I would actually prefer if you don’t nominate me for anything. However, there are some really great blogs out there that deserve it.

As the MC I don’t want to name any names and play favorites, but you can check out my blogroll for some of my favorite blogs and I’ll definitely be hoping each of them wins something this year!

If you want to nominate blogs for awards this year, all you have to do is go to this link and fill out the nomination form. You can nominate blogs in as many or as few categories as you like, so don’t feel like you can’t fill out the form just because you don’t read tax blogs or Canadian blogs.

So hook a brother or sister up with a Plutus nomination, and then make sure to come to FINCON13 and watch me make a fool of myself!