Thursday, December 11, 2014

Use Direct Deposit for Canadian Federal Government Payments

Direct Deposit or Cheque

Our family is a one car family. My husband works Monday - Friday 9-5, and I work shift work, typically evenings and weekends. With one vehicle, this can make running errands difficult!

Thankfully, going to the bank is one of those things that we don't have to do very often, thanks to a combination of direct deposit and e-transfers of money.

Most of my clients from my self-employment work now pay me either using cash or e-transfer. Many don't even own cheques. They are becoming obsolete. I still use them, but more rarely than I did in the past.

Government Cheques

Growing up, "baby bonus", now known as Child Tax Benefit, would be received by cheque monthly through the mail. As a teen, my mother would occasionally sign the cheque over to me to deposit. I'm pretty sure I had a debit card before she did, and I was able to deposit the cheques into my account after regular banking hours using the new-back-then "bank machines", that we all now are very well accustomed to using.

Most people get paid by their employer by direct deposit, The federal government is in the process of changing over payments to direct deposit as well. Tax refunds, Child Tax Benefit, Universal Child Care Credit, Employment Insurance, Canada Pension and more.  Make sure to sign up soon, to not miss any payments, because they are eliminating cheques on April 1, 2016.

It currently costs the government 83 cents for every payment they make by cheque, and only 11 cents for every payment made by direct deposit. The government estimates that the switch to direct deposit by Canadians who have not done so yet will save taxpayers $17 million each year.

How do I sign up for direct deposit?

1) If you have someone do your taxes each year, they can set you up for direct deposit if you ask them to. Just provide them with a voided cheque.

2) Online If you are registered for Canada Revenue Agency's My Account, you can sign up for direct deposit now. If you aren't registered, look into it. It can be a useful tool!

3) By mail. Fill out the Direct Deposit Enrollment Form and mail it in.

4) By phone. To sign up for direct deposit, or change your banking information, call 1-800-959-8281


Sunday, October 19, 2014

2014 Federal Fitness Tax Credit: Increased From $500 to $1000

According to CBC, the Federal government announced that the Federal Fitness Tax Credit will be increased from $500 to $1000 pet year for each child.

For those who can afford to put their children into sports, and have taxable income, this is a good increase.

Even better though, is the announcement of changing it to a refundable tax credit starting in 2015. This will make a difference to more families, particularly those in lower income brackets who don't have taxable income.

Make sure to gather up your receipts from this year to put into your tax files when filling your 2014 returns!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Niagara Food & Wine Expo 2014

The Niagara Food & Wine Expo was happening at the Niagara Convention Centre on the same weekend that I was down in Niagara on a girls weekend!

We went just after opening on Saturday, and stayed for 4 hours! From noon until 4pm.  None of us needed supper afterwards!

If you are looking for a fun afternoon or evening with some friends, this would be something to look into for next year.

Admission at the door was $15, but I scored us some tickets at $10 by using a discount code and buying them weeks ahead of time.

We each bought $20 of tickets to use within the show, so it cost us each a total of $30.

I think our favorite part of our time spent there was attending a wine tasting by Hernder Estate Winery.  The winemaker Lydia Tomek herself gave the presentation, and we tried 6 different wines.  The fact that she was a young, hip, woman was very cool in and of itself! It cost 4 coupons ($4) each to attend this tasting.

Wine tasting from Hernder Estate Winery at the Niagara Food & Wine Expo
My favorite was the one on the far left, which was a Sparkling Riesling.

Both friends agreed they loved the next one in, which was a Riesling.

I stopped by their booth after, and the Sparkling Riesling is the one in the opaque green bottle in the next picture.  

Hernder Estate Winery Selections at the Niagara Food & Wine Expo

We also attended an "All You Need is Cheese" cheese tasting put on by Dairy Farmers of Ontario. 

There were two cheeses that were amazing. The first was a very smooth ricotta, that was served with a dollop of honey.  

The second was a Maple Cheddar, that was so delicious that I had to buy a block to take home!

I had some delicious food too!  I had a lobster grilled cheese, (YUM!) and I experimented by trying something new.  Asian Fusion Rice Balls, by Me.N.U. Food Truck (who had a booth there, and not a truck.) and they were so delicious I ate them and forgot to take a picture! Both of my friends went to buy some, and the other four people that we didn't know at the table we had sat down at all thought my rice balls looked so good, that they all went to buy some as well.  Everybody loved them!

We sat at a table to eat while listening to music by Cory Cruise, and followed by Blair Franklin, who were both fabulous musicians!  

A fun afternoon!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

CRA Income Tax Deadline Extended to Monday April 5th

It's April 30th, 2014 which is normally a day when many people are scrambling to get their income taxes filed and paid.

This year, however, the deadline for filing, and paying your amounts owing on your 2013 income taxes, has been extended until Monday April 5th, due to the Heartbleed Bug.  CRA shut down their online system for 5 days earlier this month due to this computer bug, and therefore extended the deadline by the same number of days.

Also, if you are self-employed, even though your deadline to file is June 15th, you still owe any amounts payable by May 5th.  Yes, this is weird.  It's just the way that it is!

If you don't file by May 5th, and owe money, CRA will charge you an automatic 5% of what you owe as a late filing fee.  On top of that, any amount that you don't pay by May 5th, will be charged 1% interest each month that it is not paid (up to a certain number of months).

I hope you are able to file and pay before May 5th.  Even better, I hope you get a refund, and therefore don't have to worry about the deadline, since there is no penalty to late filing if you are getting money back.

Beginners Yoga Adventures

I recently started taking a weekly beginners yoga class at the local YMCA.  I'm enjoying it more than I thought I would.  I've never taken yoga before, and I wasn't quite sure what I was signing up for!

The movements are all done very slowly in this class, and you hold them for a seemingly long time.  It's probably not that long, but my muscles are weak and unused, and it feels like forever holding some of these positions!

The teacher said that she would be concentrating on different parts of the body each week, in order to give us a good balanced introduction.  She was right!  Every Wednesday, after my Tuesday night class, I am SORE!  The first week my back cracked, cracked, cracked during the session.  Last week, my legs were wobbly when I left class.  And today, my hips and upper arms are feeling it.

The first week of class had 6 women, but three of them seemingly disappeared after the first week.  I can't actually fathom paying for three months of classes and then not attending. What a waste of money!  Since the first class, one of the women has also had her father and brother sign up.  There is an intermediate yoga class offered as well, but I'm pretty sure based on the soreness factor that I may need to do the beginner class another session before contemplating going up in levels.

I did notice a tattoo on one of the class members the other night.  I knew I recognized the symbol, but wasn't quite sure from what.  I was intrigued enough that I did a google images search for "symbol with red M", and immediately the symbol popped's the Ironman symbol.  I see a Red "M" with a dot on top, but I think you are supposed to see a person's head and torso.  And yes, I was familiar with it because I visited Mont Tremblant a couple years ago a few days before their Ironman competition, and the signs with this symbol were everywhere there!

Ironman Logo - Even Athletes Take Beginners Yoga!

So, I guess beginners yoga is for a wide variety of people, from unathletic people like myself, to past Ironman competitors!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Upcoming Travel to Niagara Falls and Ottawa

I have a couple of trips on the agenda this month! This weekend, I'm heading to Niagara Falls for the weekend with a couple of friends, K & A. We were hoping that going the first weekend of May would still be "off season" for hotel prices, but we were wrong. Although great deals can still be found during weekdays, the prices have gone up for weekends already for the summer tourist season.

I was able to use Hotwire us a deal. (I love Hotwire!) For $88/night, we will be staying at the Ramada Niagara Falls Fallsview.  Prices on the hotel website for the Saturday night in particular are $300 a night. Yikes! Who pays that?

We will be going to the Niagara Food and Wine Expo while there. Perhaps this event is what is so popular that the hotel prices have jumped for the weekend? I'm looking forward to trying some fun food, and having my first food truck experience that sells more than burgers, hot dogs and fries. Doesn't everyone drool when you see the food trucks on the food network?

I think we'll also be heading to the Bird Kingdom, which despite having been in Niagara Falls many times, I have never been to.  Maybe I'll designate $15 for going to one of the Casino's as well, since we won't have any kids with us!

Later in the month, we are doing a family trip to Ottawa for some R&R.  We'll be staying at the Ottawa Marriott, which will be a new place for us.  Right downtown and close to everything.  I love visiting Ottawa! I will be checking out The Bay at the Rideau Centre for some new clothes, and one of the museums that we havn't been to is The War Museum, so we might head there as well.  We also have family in Ottawa, so some of our time will be visiting with them.

The income tax deadline has been extended until May 5th for this year, so I expect to have a busy workweek of filing taxes before heading to Niagara Falls!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Search for A Summer Camp to Match Your Child

Oh, summer camp. I loved summer camp as a kid! Every summer from the age of 8 or so, I would head of to an overnight camp for a week or two, and then my grandparents would pick me up for two weeks before my parents should pick me back up.

I loved overnight camp so much that I even went back and counselled for a few weeks after my summer job ended one year. And on a side note, counselling at camp is hard hard work! It's exhausting!

My brother on the other hand, hated summer camp. He tried day camp a few times, and I'm not sure that he ever finished the week out. It just really wasn't for him. Fortunately for him, our mom was a stay at home mom, and he was able to live out his summers in peace, playing with kids in the neighborhood.

Fast forward 25 years. Times have changed. Most families are dual income, and don't have the luxury of a parent staying at home. Which means that kids can't stay home on their own until responsible enough. And even if they did stay home, there aren't other neighbourhood kids for them to play with, because they are either away at camp or on holidays.  Even for families that have a parent at home, sending the kids to camp for a week is a nice and well deserved break!

Once my daughter became school aged, summer vacation became a mishmash of childcare, piecing together days that worked.  Vacation days for parents, grandparents stepping in, and... Summer camp.

Over the years, we have tried many different types of daycamp within our city. Art camp, karate camp, YMCA day camp, soccer camp, camp at the local university...  Some were great, others not. Many of these are not full day, and so you still need to figure out drop off and pick up. The art camp ended at 3:30. Luckily for me, I finished work at 3 at the time, but many people work later! The YMCA had a program that I could schedule days of camp instead of by the week, which worked really well for my bizarre work schedule.

Here I am again, at the beginning of April, finalizing summer camp plans. Although our daughter is old enough to stay home on her own, and has even just begun babysitting, I don't want her home alone all summer. Last year, we did two weeks of sleepaway camp, two weeks of day camp, and four weeks at home. During the weeks at home I tried to adjust my schedule so I was home more.

The day camp she went to last year is one she has been attending for 5 years, but she doesn't want to go back this year as she feels too old for it. She's one year too young for the LIT leaders in training program at the YMCA. And so I'm back on the hunt again for daycamps that fit her personality, fit out schedule, are affordable, and that we can get to on public transit for the days my husband is called out of town with our one family vehicle. Sigh.

Here are my tips for finding a good day camp!

1) Ask friends, family, neighbors and acquaintances about camps!

We recently found out about a basketball camp through friends that our daughter plays basketball with! Unfortunately she is already booked that week for overnight camp, but I have written it down as a possibility for next year!

2) Check your local paper for camp advertisements.

It was from a paper ad that we find out about the art camp.

3) Check your local sports complexes, and the city/township.

Most YMCAs have programming, and often cities hire camp counselors to run programs as well.

4) Check your colleges and universities.

By looking into daycamps offered by our local educational institutions, I found a computer programming daycamp that I've registered our daughter into this summer.

5) Have your child go with a friend.

I'm still on the lookout for one more week of camp this summer, but I've let some of her friends and their parents know this.  I'm hoping that a camp comes along that might be a little bit out of her comfort zone that she'd be willing to attend if a friend went along with her.  By going with a friend, you can arrange carpooling too!

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