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!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Free Tax Preparation & E-Filing Giveaway! Peterborough! Contest!

I have a giveaway for you today!

With tax season starting, I'd like to give you the chance to win two regular income tax preparations and filings! 

Although I live in Peterborough, Ontario, you can still win and use these gift certificates if you live in Ontario and are willing to send me scans of your documents.  I can then send you your finished return by pdf.

Or... you are welcome to pass along the gift certificates to someone else.

Enter via the Rafflecopter application below.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Take Transit & Get a Deduction on Your Income Taxes

This past summer, I increased my 11 year old daughters independence.  She attended a local daycamp at which my husband dropped her off in the morning, but then I had her independently take the city bus home from camp.  I got home from work around the same time that she got home from camp on the city bus.  She has taken the bus with me many times, and knows how the bus system works and knew the bus route ahead of time.  No transfers, just a direct route. 

She LOVED it.  She loved having the independence of doing it on her own.

In order to do this without having to find the correct amount of change every morning, I bought her a monthly bus pass for the month of July.  I had hoped that I would have time to teach her how to get to the library as well, but unfortunately I didn't have have a chance to teach her this route.

As a result of buying the bus pass, I can now claim that expense as a deduction on my taxes this year.

Does anyone in your household take the bus, train or ferry to work or school on a regular basis?

You can claim a deduction on your income tax for Public Transit Amount (line 364 on your income tax return) if you have any of :

1) a monthly pass
2) a series of shorter passes that show that you took public transportation for at least 20 days in any 28 day period
3) an electronic payment card (like Presto) used for at least 32 one way trips in any 31 day period

The passes can be for yourself, spouse or kids under 19 years of age.

Does your teen buy passes to get to their part time job? Do you take the GO Train to work?  Remember to keep your receipts to claim this fabulous deduction!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Income Tax Season for Canada Begins in February.

It's February 1st, and tax season officially begins this month. Canada revenue agency (CRA), will officially start processing income tax returns on February 10.

I'm going to post some income tax tips here over the next month that I hope will help you in either doing your own taxes, or in gathering your info to pass on to your tax preparer.

I love tax season! I've been spending the last couple weeks getting prepared for the season... I've purchased my software, stocked up on office supplies, and signed up for a seminar put on by CRA specifically for professional income tax preparers. I decided to stay with the software I've been using for the last couple years, although I was tempted by a piece of new software on the market. Professional preparers have a different selection of software than what you will find in the shelf at Staples, and it's much more expensive!

Do you have any specific questions you would like answered in my posts over the next month? Let me know!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mattress Warranties: Are They Useful? Or a Scam?

A week and a half ago, I took the sheets and mattress pad cover off our bed to wash them.  Upon removal, I discovered three small holes, where it was evident that springs had come through.  One of the holes went all the way through to the underside.

When we bought the mattress, I was really happy to have been able to purchase a product from a Canadian manufacturer.  At that point in our marriage, it was probably the third most expensive item we had purchased.  Only our car and couch had cost more. It wasn't a purchase we took lightly.

 I had a vague recollection of our mattress having a 10 year warranty, so I looked through my filing cabinet to find the information.  Yes, we did.  A 10 year warranty on manufacturer defects, and we were still within that time frame at 9 1/2 years in.  The warranty stated that they would repair or replace.

I contacted the store where we purchased the mattress from, and they were great to deal with.  They provided me with the warranty claim forms, as well as an email address for the representative of the mattress company that they deal with.

I had everything that the warranty said I needed.  These included:

Original receipt of purchase.
Correct frame type for bed.
Manufacturing labels still attached to mattress.

Proper rotation of mattress through period owned.
I had purchased both mattress and boxspring together. If the mattress was purchased on its own, the warranty timeline is cut in half.
No stains.

I filled out the claim form, attached digital pictures of the damage and sent it along to the email address I was given.

Within a couple days, I had a phone call from the representative.  Yes, the pictures showed that a coil had probably come loose, and yes, they would pay for it to be repaired.

But only if *I* paid for shipping of the mattress to their manufacturing centre near the Toronto airport.

WHAT?  Yes, it is in the small print of the warranty that the customer must pay for the shipping, no matter where they live. Ridiculous.

So really, if the customer has to pay for the shipping on a mega sized item like a mattress, what use is the warranty in the first place.

As much as I would like to support Canadian manufacturing companies, when it's time to purchase a new mattress set, I unfortunately won't be purchasing from this Canadian company.  I'm not sure if I should just consider a mattress/boxspring purchase to basically not have a valid warranty due to this experience, or if I should research the warranty info on other manufacturers.

Have any of my readers had any experience, good or bad, with mattress warranties?

Edited to add that I am contributing this post to: *Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on Femme Frugality and Eve of Reduction

Friday, December 13, 2013

2013 Contest Winnings Totals

As a follow up to my post in July on my 2013 Contest Winnings at that point, I thought I should post the winnings for the rest of the year.

In July, I had won a total of $940 worth of prizes.

2013 Winnings (2nd Half of Year)

Google Nexus 7 Tablet x 2 (both my husband & I won one)  Kitkat Contest  Value $450
Google Play Codes from Kitkat Contest Value $30
$100 VISA Giftcard from Royal Bank Small Biz Twitter chat  Value $100
$100 Giftcard to Glamagirls from Tweenhood  Value $100
2 Books Muse & Secret Shared from @BookaliciousCA Value $30
$10 iTunes Giftcard from @PTPA  Value $10

2nd Half of Year Total: $710

Total for 2013: $1650

Monday, November 18, 2013

Giving to Charity: Donor Super Credit 2013-2017

People tend to be generous with their money at this time of year.  Canadians are generous people, but it's often in donating a few dollars at a time, and people don't tend to ask for donation receipts for these small amounts. 

If you havn't claimed charitable donations on your or your spouse's income tax return in the last 5 years, you qualify for the First Time Donor's Super Credit (FDSC).  You are able to claim this credit once, anytime between 2013 and 2017.

This is a great time to be generous!  It would mean a big difference to whatever charity you decide to contribute to, and in the end, it won't cost you as much as you are actually donating, since you'll get a credit for it when doing your taxes!  This is, of course, assuming that you have taxable income to claim it against. 

Remember it can only be claimed once though, so it might be worth your while to save your receipts until they reach the maximum of $1000.  Charitable donations receipts can be saved for up to 5 years, so even if you donate $200/year for the next 5 years, you could claim all $1000 in 2017.

The credit is only valid for monetary donations.

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