Tuesday, April 28, 2009

CBC Radioactive - tax time! 10 Ways to Cut Your Tax Bill and more!

Yesterday on CBC Radioactive, Peter and I discussed the often stressful time known as tax season. Fear not. CRA might seem like a scary tax monster, but armed with the right knowledge, you too can sail through your tax return without raising your blood pressure!

The deadline for filing your personal tax return is midnight on April the 30th. If you're self employed, you have until midnight on June 15th. However, if you do owe money to the government, you'll have to pay interest on that amount from April 30th. If you fail to file on time, get it in as soon as possible. The penalty for late filing is 5%, plus a whopping 1% per month (assuming you owe money).

If you do in fact owe money this year and wonder what can be done, well, nothing really. However, start planning this year for next. Here's a few things to keep in mind that may generate a refund or axe your tax bill for next year:

1. Invest in your RRSP. Even a small amount of $20 a week can add up to over $400 in deductions for the year and plus, you're investing in you!

2. Donate. The charity and you win with a tax credit!

3. Education. Investing in yourself can save you on taxes!

4. Private health plans. Get covered and get a tax break too.

5. Start an investment portfolio. Outside of an RRSP, investments are taxed differently. Look for investments producing a capital gain or dividend and keep those interest bearing investments in your RRSP as they're taxed at the highest rate.

6. Start a business. A little moonlighting and a home office could make some of your normal expenses tax deductible.

7. Consider rental income. With Edmonton's garage and basement suites initiatives, you could earn some extra monthly income while writing off a percentage of your household costs. Remember to use up the Home Renovation Tax credit this year too! (See the end of this post for resources.)

8. See if expenses on the job are deductible.

9. Consider giving assets to a lower-income dependent - but be sure to consult a pro for advice.

10. Last but never least, get a tax professional on your site. The money that you could potentially be leaving on the table or paying to Revenue Canada is well worth the investment in their advice.

Source: www.ptccanada.com

For more tips on understanding your taxes and even more money saving tips, check out this link on my website - http://www.kelleykeehn.com/financialresources(New).html

Thursday, April 23, 2009

CTV April 20th appearance - opulence on a dime & simple home renovations during recessionary times

On Monday, I offered CTV viewers some ideas of how to be the depressed feeling many Canadians have during these recessionary times.

I like to call it opulence on a dime. Okay, it may cost a little more than that, but with a little creativity, you too can indulge in some simple luxury without breaking the bank.

Idea #1: Turn your bathroom into a spa

Consider adding fresh flowers, the best toilet tissue, new fluffy towels and anything that reminds you of a spa or great hotel. I love folding the tab of my toilet tissue and sealing it with a sticker. It makes me think of the best hotels I've stayed in (see pictures below.)

Idea #2: Simple pampering

Can't afford a trip to the spa for a pedicure or facial? Book a spa night with yourself and do it at home! The products needed for multiple treatments won't set you back nearly what one visit to the pro's will and you'll have enough for months of indulging. Or, if you need the real thing, try visiting a local beauty school. The students get a chance to practice and you'll get your treatment at a fraction of the price.

Idea #3: Don't skimp on the small stuff

When it comes to chocolates, ice-cream, wine and the like, ensure to indulge on the good stuff. Save money on your large purchases, but treat yourself on the small ones. Instead of buying a dozen of roses, why not buy two and tear the petals off and put them in your bath and scatter them on the floor leading to your tub?

Idea #4: Feng shui your way to prosperity

Whether you believe in the concept or not, creating a lovely environment in your home feels good, especially when the world out there is a little rough. Candles, a relaxing CD, a small water fountain or a fresh coat of paint are all low cost ideas for bringing luxury home.

Here's a few ideas for your home:

This only takes a few minutes and spells luxury to me! Plus, that floor you see was a weekend project of mine. I ripped out the existing linoleum that was old and lifting and replaced it with this simply to install stick tile that cost me less than $23 for the entire floor!

New, crisp towels make a powder room special!
I purchased the little basket from London Drugs for $2.99 and like rolling up the towels for the spa-like effect. And these gerbs only set me back $4 and have lasted over two weeks.

Fresh flowers are a delight to see in a bathroom. As a design element for this wall, I painted diamonds vertically. Last year, I painted stripes along the wall. Not only is paint simpler to change than wall paper, it takes a fraction of the time, effort and cost. To paint your own, simply trace out a square with a tile and use painter's tape to tape off the outside of the diamond and give the inside two coats of paint. Voila!

This was a very old door in terrible shape. I thought of replacing it, but tried sprucing it up first and am delighted with the results. As you can see, a fresh coat of paint, some diamonds for fun and a new handle ($20) saved a great deal of time and money by not having to purchase and install a new door.
This last picture truly doesn't do my window justice. This window faces north and right into my neighbour's house. Instead of cutting off the much needed light for my dining room and to save on purchasing a blind, I found this fantastic product that gives the look of frosted glass and with this particular one, frosted with etched lace. The entire window treatment cost was about $20. I found it at my local Home Depot.
Have fun this spring indulging and be sure to send me your cost saving ideas!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

CBC Radioactive - improving, selling, renovating your home and avoiding scams

Yesterday on CBC Radioactive, Peter Brown and I discussed what many Canadians consider to be their most valuable asset - their home. And whether one considers it an actual investment or not (to be used to fund one's retirement), we can't ignore that it's still an asset to be managed and potentially for profit or at the very least, increased enjoyment.

If you're thinking of renovating your home this spring, consider asking yourself why? Is it to sell, simply update for your own pleasure, to increase it's value or all of the above? If you're selling in the near future, your reno's should be focused on what will bring maximum value to a potential buyer. For example, installing a hot tub typically isn't a selling point but if you're staying in your home and it's something you'd enjoy immensely, go for it.

Here's a great article on things to consider if you are in fact wishing to sell: http://www.saratogian.com/articles/2009/04/13/news/doc49e29cf41d008902815323.txt

If your dilemma is to move to a newer home or renovate your existing one, keep in mind the costs of moving which experts estimate as high as 10% of the current value of your home, not to mention the stress of the experience. Here's another timely article on the subject: http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/10093

Obviously, the least expensive and simplest improvement is a fresh coat of paint. Keep in mind too if you're selling, there are things that are assumed to be part of your home and what's called an "upgrade" which can be used as a marketing or selling feature. For example, a decent floor, shower, etc. is expected in your home. But hardwood, ceramic tile or a steam shower would all be considered upgrades.

If you're renovating and contracting the work yourself, consider the following carefully to avoid schemers and unscrupulous companies:
  • Use only contractors that have WCB (Workman's Compensation Coverage), liability insurance and possibly are listed with the BBB (Better Business Bureau). Ask to see proof. If a company doesn't have this coverage and a fall or injury occurs by a worker on your property, you could be personally liable.
  • If Bob's Roofing stops by your home offering a "must buy today" sales pitch, ask for his brochure and do a little research. Never pay for work up front not matter how good the offer seems.
  • Look for a company with a store-front if possible. That way, if you have any problems in the future, there's a physical location to visit. Also, if a renovator skips town and isn't reputable, your warranty might not be valid. For example, if the shingles you purchased for your new roof have a 35 year warranty but weren't installed properly, a future problem may not be covered.
  • When asked for a deposit once you've agreed to a project, a reasonable amount to expect is 25% - 33% and the company must be licensed for taking a deposit. If after your research you're still unsure, pay the deposit with your VISA or MasterCard. That way, if they skip town or don't show up, you're backed by the guarantee of the credit card companies. And if the reno guy doesn't accept credit cards, consider dealing with someone else.

Source: www.therenostore.com

Lastly, if you'd like to save a few bucks by doing some of your reno's yourself, go for it, but be honest about your ability and time constraints. Labour is usually 50 - 100% of the cost of most projects. But don't waste good materials (such as hard wood or ceramic tile) if you're unsure. It could cost you much more to fix your mistakes. Consider tackling simpler projects such as painting for a start. And if you're replacing your kitchen floor for example, you might desire to remove the existing floor yourself, saving quite a few dollars of labour, but bringing in the pro's to install the tile. If you need help with your project past that of the home shows, try www.Youtube.com for a plethora of videos on most home improvement projects.

Tune in next Monday when I'm back on my regular day on CBC Radioactive. Happy home improving!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Housing grants for Canadians and Albertans

Last week on CBC, I covered a number of municipal, provincial and federal housing grants, incentives and tax credits. Check out my site at www.kelleykeehn.com and click the CBC logo for all the resources covered.

Catch me tomorrow on CBC radioactive at 3:40pm (due to the long weekend - I'll be back next Monday) for part two on housing - renovating, protecting yourself from scams and more.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

What would you do with the last 10 minutes of your life?

The Keehn On Money blog is more than about just money. It's about financial empowerment and more importantly, it's about quality of life, thus I wanted to share a life perspective story I was fortunate enough to catch the other day.

I was listening to CBC Radio in the car earlier this week. There was a national program on which had featured Dr. Wayne Dyer as a guest last week. In the spirit of inspiration, the host asked listeners to call in with their own personal stories. One truly touched my soul.

The caller was a woman that said she became extremely ill after the birth of her child. While still in the hospital, she started to hemorrhage with many other complications. As a nurse, she knew the procedures that the hospital staff were administering meant she had about 10 minutes to live if they couldn't save her with the current protocols.

She recalled what went through her mind thinking that might be her last moments of life. She said, she didn't think "why me God", or "Jesus save me" or "I wish I would have told so and so and so I loved them". She thought in those last moments, "I wish I would have had more fun".

She also went on to state (obviously she made it) that if you truly believe in a Creator, in God, then all that happens, is happening or happened is perfectly designed. It is how it should be and why not have some fun and celebrate in that perfection?

Great question, and with that, I'm off to find some fun in life today. Wishing the same for you this perfect Thursday.