A Money Coach in Canada

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2573957186_147bb0cae8_o1.jpgA guest post by Dawn Bowles, Founder and CEO of DreamBank.
Photo Credit: Techvibes

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A tremendous amount of waste is incurred during the holiday season. Garbage from festivities, unwanted or disposable gifts, packaging and wrapping, in addition to the vast over-consumption, threatens to reduce the enjoyment–and usurp the true intention and meaning–of the season. As we approach the holidays, many of us are keen to reduce our yuletide impact on the environmental. Many of the proposed changes won’t reduce the enjoyment of your festivities – or the pleasure of spending valuable time with those you cherish:
1. Send E-cards Rather Than Paper Cards. Sending online invitations (such as evites or MyPunchBowl’s swank new eCards) not only reduces waste but also makes it easier to plan and keep track of invitees and attendees. It may also be preferable to send greeting e-cards, rather than a physical cards which often promptly wind up as trash. (While, we all have that one parent/sibling/friend who actually saves every single card, they are the exception rather than the rule). If you think an e-card isn’t exciting, consider sending from a site that has amusing ones. One of my favourites is someecards (whose slogan is “when you care enough to press send”). They have an amazing selection of snarky messages sure to get a good laugh.
2. Choose a Virtual Gift Registry. One of someecards cards reads, “Thanks for getting me a gift I don’t actually have to return”. I understand that sentiment well. I founded DreamBank.org, so you could do just that–no waste involved. DreamBank is a kind of virtual gift registry which enables you to give and get the perfect gift. How? We’ve created an “everything registry” where you can start a fund for yourself or for someone you care about. Then you invite friends, family and fans to the “dream”. It could be a musical instrument, sports equipment, even a trip. The waste involved with discarded gifts and shipping and wrapping is reduced, as is the hassle of shopping for and returning gifts. Plus, we give 10 % of all net transaction revenue to charities. So your holiday gift results in someone else’s gift as well.
Of course, if you’re feeling particularly charitable, there are plenty of great sites that can help you organize a giving campaign or send a laptop to a needy child in the developing world.
3. Reconsider Plastic. Bring cloth bags to stores to avoid getting plastic ones and eschew disposable dishes. While plastic plates and utensils may seem more convenient, these disposable items can last 10,000 years in a landfill. No one enjoys washing dishes, but perhaps you can organize the cleanup with your guests. After all, guests frequently offer to help–why not take them up on the offer? In fact, if you like the person (and we hope you do) it could give you more time to chat. Or you could plan the cleanup ahead, asking for assistance before the party, so everyone knows what they’ll be doing. Plus, you’ll gain some peace-of-mind.
4. Be Mindful of Food. Remember that your eating habits affect the planet’s health so try to purchase ingredients locally and be aware of how and where your food is produced. The gift of food doesn’t have to be limited to your guests. There are those whose holidays could be made more festive by your donation to a local foodbank or by organizing a food drive to support a soup kitchen.
5. Think About Meaning. Is the holiday about the myriads of gifts, or about connecting with your family? Does your house really need to have the most lights? What’s really important to you? Connect with nature by talking a nature walk or by putting extra effort into making environments hospitable for local birds. Make some gifts rather than purchasing them (edible gifts are a good bet–who doesn’t love cookies?). You can even volunteer with family to help those in need, and create an experience that might be more memorable than the gift of new Ugg boots. Vancouver and Toronto both have volunteer sites for their city and “Do-it!” offers online information on opportunities in the UK. Many other areas have similar sites.
It doesn’t take all that much effort to make a difference. And making these changes will probably reduce your stress level and the holiday energy drain as well. So you’ll be free to enjoy the festivities knowing that you’ve embraced the true sentiment of the season.

2400813685_104605aeb6_m.jpgMy bro and his family have pretty much everything they want, and more, and they know it.  Their son, my gorgeous nephew, is thoroughly indulged and adored by his grandparents and similarly has everything he could want, and more.

So a couple years back, my brother put the halt on excessive gift-giving at Christmas.  Actually, not just a halt on excessive gift-giving, but on gift-giving period.

I haven’t fully observed my brother’s edict (and I don’t mean to overstate it, either – he’s just saying, “Look, we have enough.  Christmas doesn’t have to be about boxes and boxes and boxes) but it creates a challenge.  I’m one of the dying breed who truly enjoys both searching for, giving, and receiving gifts at Christmas.  I also think that, despite its excesses, having a holiday about giving is counter-cultural and good for us!

What to do?  What to do?

Last year, I gave some chickens and hens to a needy family, via World Vision.

This year, I’m giving and asking-to-receive only Used Gifts.  I’m looking forward to this, actually – spending a couple days in antique shops on Main Street, sifting through those weird little shops crammed with curios, and of course browsing UsedVancouver.

My own wish list includes books from Abe (online used bookstore), or used jewellry.

The trick is to find the hidden gems – items still in good condition, that will (I hope) delight the recipient and deserve to be reclaimed rather than landfill.

Readers:  any suggestions of particularly good used-anything?  And frankly speaking, if you were a friend of mine and received a used gift, would you think that was cool, or would you be secretly dismayed?

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Photo  credit: TheTruthAbout

I bet you receive irresistible visa balance transfer offers from time to time.

They go something like this:

BIG PRINT:   BALANCE TRANSFERS 2.9%

Medium Print:  for the first 6 months, then….

Fine Print:  I’ll get to that, but first,

 

These can be a good deal, but you do need to read the fine print. Be savvy.  You could stand to win, or to lose.

Watch for the following in the fine print:

  1. Balance transfer fee.  Sometimes you will pay a percentage right up front on whatever you transfer.  Factor that in – is it still a good deal?
  2.  Dramatic rate increase if you’re late on a payment.  One of my friends transferred a large balance, was a bit disorganized and missed a payment, and suddenly the low balance deal was canceled and the new rate was over 20%.
  3. Payments applied to low-interest portion first.  This is fair, but watch that it doesn’t bite you.  Here’s how it can.  Let’s say you transfer $5000 to the new card.   Then you go out for dinner/drinks and put the $100 tab on your visa.  That $100 is at the high interest rate, since it’s a new charge, and you can’t pay it off til the entire low-interest $5000 portion is paid off first. Do that a few times (go out to dinner, buy books, purchase plane tickets) and you could end up with $2 or $3K or whatever at the high interest, and again, it’s impossible to pay off until the original $5K is all paid off.

Again, transferring balances can work in your favour;  just keep your wits about you and read the fine print.

Readers:  Any fine-print that I missed?   Or any stories to share on the topic?

OK, I really want to know:

1.  Do you think most people really do hate banks? Or do we just lash out from time to time?   Do credit unions have a better reputation, or are they the same as banks?

2.  Is it possible that a bank could be more than just a financial-transactions-kinda place for you? (eg. you get get your haircut, or, you can have this fabulous aesthetic experience.  Could a bank do the fabulous experience?)

3.  What do you love most about your bank, and what drives you nuts?

Readers:  Have at it!

One of the most aesthetically pleasing, and intellectually stimulating blogs in Vancouver, hackd,  posted this.   I repost in its entire perfection (heads up:  a bit of cussing):

People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you.

You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity.

Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.

You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.

update:  thanks, ineaquitas, for pointing out that this is a quote from grafitti artist banksy.

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