Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Have You Started An RESP Yet? Make Their Dreams For Someday A Reality. #RESPwithRBC #Sponsor

 Grow your RESP with RBC Contest. Participants have a chance to win 1 of 4 prizes of $500 to put towards their won RESP.  Contest ends October 4, 2015. Get more information here.

The #RESPwithRBC Twitter chat happened on September 17 and it was a great time to ask questions, which @RBC_Canada provided information about Registered Education Savings Plan's.  I already had one opened for my daughter at age four (by her Aunt) but still didn't understand all the terms and conditions.  The information gathered at the Twitter chat was helpful and here are the two main questions I had answered:

1) What happens if your child doesn't go to university?
If they don't use the money for university, the money can be transferred to a sibling or into RRSP savings. 

2) How can low income families get started?
Low income families may be eligible to receive up to $2000 without making contributions.

Ask questions and learn more about RESPs from your local RBC branch or visit the RBC website to learn more. 
Have you read my previous post about nearly falling into financial ruin with student loans? Help your children plan for #someday.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post with specific information provided on behalf of RBC. Please consult a financial advisor to get up to date information to guide your financial choices.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Would You Like to See My Vacation Photos? Our Budget Family Trip To Niagara Falls.

I arranged my favourite photos into bundles to sum up our fabulous long weekend. Our journey began on Sunday, it was a two hour drive to the hotel. The day was very wet and cold but we walked down to the Falls and used the Incline Railway to get back up. This was not something we had budgeted (it was $2.50 each) but worth it to save some walking in the rain with a small child. Here are a few more things we did to make the best trip possible on a tight budget. We were honest with the Incline Railway Operator when they asked if our girl was under four years (she is petite). They let her ride one way for free anyway.

Marineland was a long dreamed of trip for me. My hubby hadn't been since the 1980's and I have never been there. The admission prices ranged from $38- $45, children under 4 years old are free. There was the option to top up your day pass with another $5 charge and make your day pass into a seasons pass. This is a great option if you are going to be staying in the area for more than one day or able to plan another trip during the regular operating season (May to October). We didn't top up our day pass but paid to have an up close visit with the Beluga's in Arctic Cove. The money we saved by bringing our own lunch helped offset the $30* cost.

Budget Travel Tips

Plan ahead and shop around- We planned this trip for the last three months by shopping around online for hotel deals and best days to travel. We learned that most travel bundles give the best deals on a Sunday to Thursday schedule and planned accordingly. We booked our dates for half the regular price by staying on a Sunday and Monday night, which was nice since we got to stay two nights and stick to our budget. There were cheaper hotels with better nightly rates, but we chose one with a good view of the Falls, with a central location to the attractions that interested us. We chose an online travel bundle offered directly from the hotel, it gave us more perks (free breakfast buffet, coupons for local restaurants, valet parking, etc). Don't be afraid to call the hotel and ask if they can give a better deal than what is listed online. We got upgraded to a falls view room and our daughter stayed for free after a direct conversation with the the guest services (she was going to be turning six right before our stay so no longer free).

Make a budget and stick to it- After looking at the travel packages available we started to crunch the numbers, adding up our hotel charges, and planning a budget for meals. Hotel rates and meals are money grabbers.  Even an all inclusive package may have pop up charges, remember to plan for taxes, gratuities and leave a little extra cash to fall back on. We researched the attractions that interested us and looked for coupons. We had to encourage each other to walk away from items that didn't fit our budget (Ahem, a $25 stuffed moose and $6 coffee on every corner). Don't worry, we weren't completely stingy, our girl got $30 to spend on souvenirs at Marineland and I set aside some money for Outlet Store shopping before we headed home.

Don't be afraid to bring a cooler- Because we have a van, we packed for all weather options so we wouldn't be stuck purchasing rain gear at tourist prices. FYI-The average price of a disposable trash bag style poncho at the falls is $3.00. While browsing the guest shop in our hotel and seeing that a bottle of water was $3.50, I quickly got over my sheepish attitude about bringing a cooler to a nice hotel.  I packed our favourite sandwich/wrap fixings, fruit, water, juice, and snacks to take care of three days of lunches. Bringing a case of water saved us a lot of money! This helped with our trip to Marineland on Monday.

Disclosure: This post is not sponsored nor endorsed by any of the brands mentioned within. All opinions remain honest and my own. All prices were listed from my own experience please 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

School-Safe & Dairy Free Oatmeal Cookies.

A friend of mine gave me the simplest oatmeal cookie recipe ever! It is easy for little ones to get their hands into and help in the kitchen too.

Basic Recipe:

2 mashed, ripe/brown bananas
2 cups of large flake oats
2 TB honey

Mix ingredients, let sit in fridge for 15 mins, drop by teaspoonful on a non-stick baking pan.  Bake for 7 minutes. Makes 12-18 cookies depending on how big you make them.

Flavourful additions:
1/2 cup of chocolate chips,
1/2 cup chopped apples or 1/4 cup applesauce and a pinch of cinnamon.
Substitute maple syrup for honey, add raisins plus a pinch of pumpkin pie spice.

Hints: After making this recipe twice, I have made a few changes to suit our preferences. I used non-stick baking spray on the pan because the cookies can be hard to remove when baked.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Young Savers For Future Dreams: Stopping the Cycle of DEBT #RESPwithRBC #sponsor

I remember my last years of High School as ones filled with hope and excitement. I knew which college I hoped to attend but was stuck in a financial jam. I had no savings, no RESP, and no one to help me with college tuition. After investigating my financial aid options, I realized my best option was to leave home and go to another province to study. There were more support opportunities for out of province students because we were no longer dependant on our parents once out of arms reach so to speak. It was a hard decision and hind sight is often filled with "I wish I had known".  I ended up setting in motion a 15 year battle with debt.

Before setting out to Ontario, I chose to work for two years after High School and saved enough for travel expenses and some savings. Every semester I lined up in the college financial aid office and signed over my student loan money order and signed a little piece of my future away. After 4 years of working hard towards a Bachelor's Degree, I graduated in 1999 with more than $30, 000 debt. I got married to my college sweetheart a week later so we now had a combined student loan debt of $65,000. Doesn't that sound like a great way to start a marriage?

Don't get me wrong. I don't regret going to college.  My college years were some of the best years of my life, I was oblivious to the struggle to come after my Grad and lived the full college experience making life long friendships.  I wish someone had helped me plan for my future....

Fast forward to 2009, we had a lovely baby girl and by the time she was a year old I was still paying for my student loan.  By the time she was five, our student loans were finally paid off and we opened a high interest savings account for us and a family member opened a RESP for our girl.  I am fanatical about stopping the cycle of debt. This is modelled in having a debt free life.  I only use my credit card to get points on purchases I already have the cash to pay for.  I want my girl to realize her hopes and dreams and make life long friendships in college without a cloud of debt hanging over her future.  You can download your free RESP Booklet today or book and appointment with a RBC RESP customer service professional.

Did you know that $25 a week can change your child's future?

"Even small contributions add up quickly with an RESP-Matic: Set up regular contributions and see your savings add up! $25/week can add up to $50,911 in 18 years" 
RBC RESP Infographic

RBC “Someday” TV Spot

There are many reasons to open an RESP.  It is easier than ever with the option to do automatic contributions.  There are also free top ups available for your RESP. The government will give up to $7200 in grants towards your RESP depending on how much you contribute.  I encourage you to make an appointment to discuss your saving options. Even if you don't have $20 a week to spare, setting a savings plan in motion can make a big difference in the lives of your loved ones later on.

Coming Soon!

 RBC RESP Twitter party

 September 17th at 9:00pm

 Participants of the party can win one of six $150 Visa gift cards

 Follow #RESPwithRBC

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All opinions and personal anecdotes remain honest and my own. Images are owned by RBC CANADA and are used with permission.

Friday, August 28, 2015

A Mother's Prayer: To My Daughter On Her Birthday.

Dear Princess G;
This day ties us together forever. It is YOUR special day but it will always be remembered as the day you were gifted to us. As this year has raced past us, I am stopping to think about all the milestones you have crossed. This was your first year attending summer camp. You are swimming without a life jacket. You are going to grade one, that is "real school" according to you and I know you have mixed feelings about it. Your enthusiastic creativity inspires me and has changed the way I approach creative projects of my own. You are a force of nature and have a strong will that is buffered by your big heart and warm smile. You have changed my heart and and I never knew how much love one person could feel for another, even when they have given them weeks of no sleep. You offer "I Love you's" more than any other person I know. Your love for music and dance make my heart sing. Our favourite movie quote is recited daily and you always want to be the first to start it so you can be the one to finish.

"I love you.  I love you more. I love you most." (Tangled, 2010)

The night before your birthday you asked Daddy if you would be too old to pick up when you were a six year old. This question sat heavy on our hearts and made us cry a little after you went to sleep. I can tell you are growing up and starting to think of the things that will change as you move from being a little kid to a big kid. I pray that you will always feel love as you move through this world and know that you will never be too "old" to be carried by God's Love.

 My lovely girl is 6 years old.
Romans 8:39 "No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." Holy Bible, NLT 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Big Day Out 2 Event is Coming September 12 & 13! #Giveaway {Greater Toronto Only} @CorusPR @TreehouseTV

"Taking place at the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre in Toronto on September 12 and 13, 2015Treehouse Big Day Out will offer two separate ticketed events each day – a morning event starting from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. with stage shows from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and an afternoon event from 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. with stage shows from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.  This special event also will be televised on Treehouse this Fall. Tickets for Treehouse Big Day Out may be purchased at Ticketmaster, beginning on Friday, June 12. Visit for more details." (Press Release)

We have been fortunate to see The Wiggles once in concert.  We saw the last tour with Sam, Anthony, Murray, and Greg.  The Wiggles have made TORONTO their first stop in the newest tour featuring founding member Anthony Field (Blue Wiggle), Emma Watkins (Yellow Wiggle), Simon Pryce (Red Wiggle) and Lachlan Gillespie (Purple Wiggle).  They will sing songs from their new DVD/CD called "Rock n Roll Preschool".  I have never seen a live show with Splash N Boots but have heard some of their songs while watching Treehouse with my girl. They seem to be fun and engaging.  Both of these singing groups will be performing during the BIG DAY OUT 2. You will also have a chance to participate in many activities because the events run approximately four hours-with show times taking up about half of that time.

"In addition to all the live performances on tap, Treehouse Big Day Out will feature an array of fun-filled family activities, including meet and greet photo opportunities with fan-favourite Treehouse characters and a Nelvana digital play station featuring free WiFi to download the new TreehouseGO app, and much more. All attending kids will also receive a festival program full of activities and colouring pages for even more BIG fun at home! (Press Release)"

I think this will be a really exciting event for your kids. I'm a little bummed that we will be missing this event but our family trip to Niagara Falls has already been planned and booked.  So, one lucky blog reader will be receiving my four tickets to one of the four shows (September 12 AM or PM show, September 13 AM or PM show). This prize will give you tickets only, all travel expenses will be the responsibility of the winner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I did not receive money for this post. I was offered tickets to attend the event but am choosing to give them away instead.