Smart Ways to Use Your Credit Card on Black Friday


I am writing to you direct from NYC today.  I’ve been here since Saturday to partake in all the holiday festivities and pre Black Friday sales.  I am happy to say thanks to good ol’ New York City I am officially DONE my Christmas Shopping.   Yes that’s right, I’m done!

This is unusual behavior for me, but thanks to the wonder of online shopping and all the stores for their awesome deals I am done my shopping  before December 1.   However I know that some of you probably haven’t even started.

Last night I had the pleasure of joining other personal finance experts Barry Choi, Vanessa’s Money and RateHub for the #cdnmoney chat.  It’s a weekly Twitter chat where experts answer questions and share their favorite money tips.  Last night it was all about how to use your credit card wisely while #BlackFriday shopping.

Here are some of the great tips for all you savvy shoppers out there from our Twitter chat next week:

Always watch where you swipe

More shopping means more credit card transactions and believe me when I say your fraud radar should be on high alert this time of the year.  Thieves are out in full swing during the holidays so make sure to always keep an eye on your credit card when using it in stores.

Look for sales

Your favorite items are probably on sale this time of the year, but that’s no reason to buy at the first store you visit.  Check flyers and online stores to compare prices and make sure you get the best deals possible.  If that means lining up tomorrow at midnight then so be it.

Check for bonus points promotions

Having a great rewards credit card comes in handy this time of the year.  I am happy to say that all my holiday purchases were put on my credit card.  It was enough to put me over the next rewards level and I exchanged in all the points and ordered myself a Starbucks gift card – Merry early Christmas to me.  If you’re looking for a new credit card use this tool to find the best credit cards in Canada.

Don’t be afraid to ask

If you don’t find what you want don’t walk away.  Find a sales associate to help .  It never hurts to ask them to check the back store for more items.  At the end of the day they are there to help and  you are there to shop.  You don’t want to wake up early and wait in line only to find your item is sold out.

Check your inbox for promotions

Before you head out and hit the stores check your inbox for email promotions and deals.  This is especially helpful if you’re not sure what you want to buy for everyone on your list, but know you need to get something.  I always get great gift ideas from being on a mailing list.

When using your credit card for holiday shopping don’t forget to spend within a limit and pay off the balance to avoid excessive interest charges.

What’s on your wish list this Black Friday?

Photo from Pixabay

Should You Have a Credit Card as a Student?

money-256319_1280When you are in college, it may seem like you have mountains of debt to deal with. Your expenses probably greatly exceed your income, thanks to all the school fees, the cost of books, rent, food and various other expenses. That’s why many college students are tempted by the numerous credit card offers they receive.

Now these cards can be beneficial, but they also come with their disadvantages. We’re going to look at the pros and cons of having a credit card as a college student.

Let’s start with the positives. The big benefit to having a credit card is that it will help you defer a lot of your debt. Your daily, weekly and monthly expenses can add up, and the card allows you to put a lot of it off and just pay on the interest. That’s a good short-term solution, and it may actually help you survive college on a low-paying job. After all, most people don’t get very good jobs until after they have graduated from college.

Your card can also allow you to carry out transactions you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. If you were just using cash, you wouldn’t not be able to make purchases online. By using your card to purchase online, you can find the best deals on books and other essentials. You can also make payments quickly without having to pay for transport or to risk getting your payment in late.

The card also allows you to make payments for things you need before your check comes in. It’s kind of like payday loan in a way. You can put the expense in your card and then take care of it later once your check arrives.

Of course, there are downsides to having a credit card in your college years. The big one is how much it is going to cost you. Yes, it helps to put your debt off for a while on the card, but the interest rates may really cripple you later.

Most college students are not being offered credit cards with very good interest rates, and a personal loan may be a more cost-effective option if you need finance. If you are still using the same card you got as a student for years after you graduate, you may want to examine the interest rates and try to find something cheaper.

Because you put a lot of your expenses on your credit card, you may have trouble paying them back on time. You may start to miss payments or you may end up paying less than the minimum. This is going to hurt your credit score, which will hinder your chances for taking out a loan, getting a better credit card or even opening the kind of bank account that you want.

Getting a credit card while you have little money to spend can also be a big temptation. You may feel like you can just put your frivolous expenses onto your card and not worry about the cost until later. This is going to catch up with you quickly though. If you max out your credit cards, you will lose your leeway and you may not have the money you need available when you actually need it. It can also hurt your credit score, as overspending on credit cards can make them hard to repay on time.

As useful as credit cards can be to college students, they also pose some dangers. Make sure you know what you are getting into before you sign up for one.

Don’t Fall Into These Holiday Money Traps


The holidays are a time to spread joy, spend time with family and friends as well as celebrate all of our accomplishments from the year.  The holidays are a happy time but unfortunately they are also a time when people throw out their money rules and get themselves into financial ruin over travels, gift giving, celebrations and parties.

During the holidays from Black Friday to New Years thieves tend to take advantage of all the holiday shopping.  Not only that, but as a Financial Planner I can tell you that shoppers are their own worst enemy during this time of the year.  We tend to adopt bad spending habits and our judgement can get thrown out the window.

Here are some money traps to avoid during this holiday season:

Accepting credit card offers for holiday shopping

It may seem every time you answer the phone, check your inbox or open the mailbox you may be getting a new credit card offer.  Banks and credit card companies know that people need money this time of year and they are happy to offer it in the form of a new credit card.

However don’t be fooled.  Money borrowed has to be paid back and this can lead to tight budgets come the New Year.  If your expenses are close to or equal your income now factoring in new credit card payments can be very stressful.

Start saving now so you can spread out your holiday shopping and avoid using credit cards.

Keep your information safe and sound

If you’re planning on making a list and checking it twice consider leaving your credit card at home during the holidays.  Credit card fraud is extremely high during the holidays and who wants to deal with having your personal and financial information stolen while  you’re celebrating with family and friends.  Not me.

Consider paying with cash for your holiday shopping and if you choose to use credit cards keep up to date on your activity.  Checking your account daily to ensure all transactions are legit is a good way to help spot any fraudulent transactions as soon as they happen.

Overspending to make others happy

This is a major financial faux pas that I used to make when I was in my 20s.  I used credit to pay for all my holiday shopping because I couldn’t actually afford to buy gifts.  I knew I didn’t have the money, but I wanted to find the perfect gift for all my family members.  Come January I found myself with a lot of credit card debt that I couldn’t afford to pay off.

I ended up making only the minimum monthly payments on several credit cards and after years of making the same spending mistakes over and over again I found myself over $50,000 in debt.  That was a mistake I stopped making and won’t go back to ever again.

Now I start my holiday shopping in mid November and spread out the expenses over several paychecks.  I would like to say that I put all my spending on a credit card to take advantage of the rewards points and then pay off the credit card in full each month, but unfortunately I just don’t trust myself when it comes to money so I pay for everything with cash.

Photo from Pixabay


Why I Don’t Regret Declaring Bankruptcy


Not too long ago I found myself in the deepest, darkest place I have ever been.  The market had just crashed, I was unemployed and I had over $50k of debt.  In September of 2009 I found myself sitting in the waiting room of a bankruptcy office ready to sign the papers to wipe out all my debt.  Ah if life was only that easy.

As a financial planner I knew the long lasting effects of declaring bankruptcy, but at 29 years old and more debt than income I didn’t see another option. I was prepared to wipe everything clean and start over, but bankruptcy doesn’t exactly work like that.

After talking with the bankruptcy councilor I decided that declaring bankruptcy was not the right option for me.  I wasn’t ready to have such a long lasting mark on my credit report and decided that I got myself into this financial mess so I was going to get myself out of it.

Four reasons why bankruptcy was the best thing that ever happened to me:

Bankruptcy gave me options

If I didn’t hit rock bottom that sunny September day (oh yes I remember it like it happened yesterday) I wouldn’t have learned about the options I had to help get out of this financial distress.  I thought I had to go about it alone, but the truth is there are a lot of resources out there for people who are having financial troubles.

You can talk to your bank about interest relief programs, call credit card companies to explore debt forgiveness options and talk to a councillor about how filing bankruptcy will affect your financial life for years to come.  When you have all the information you can make an informed decision about what’s best for you.

I’m not sad about what happened

The day I visited the bankruptcy councillor was the day the tears stopped.  Even though I was still $50k in debt and in the exact same situation that I was in the morning before my appointment I felt relived.  It was nice to know that with a plan I could pay off my debt.

I thought I had no options, so to learn that today was the day I start making changes and the fact that I finally got help were a big relief.

Helped me get my financial life in order

I knew the next few years wouldn’t be easy.  I had to cut expenses, get rid of credit cards, find both full time and part time jobs (extra income equals more payments) and start being disciplined with money (something I had never done in the past), but it was all going to be O.K. because I was on my way.

Taking that first step towards becoming debt free helped me learn how to properly manage money.  I’ve learned how to say no because in life we can’t always get what we want, I’ve learned how savings can help you feel financially strong and I’ve learned that having multiple credit cards doesn’t make you responsible.

All this to say I learned my lesson – a $50,000 lesson – but nevertheless lesson learned.

Photo from Pixabay