It was supposed to be simple.
Go to reddit, and sift through all of the information to find the best answers to the best questions for the week.
What I had at the end of all of my research was 152 pages of raw data: questions, answers, jokes, repeated answers from people who had not read the rest of the comment thread ‒ it was a mess.
Plus a travel bonus worth another $150.
Only 300 gift cards available.
Then, after spending the week going through that information, I did it all again and condensed what I found into the following questions and answers.
But first, let’s talk about reddit...
How reddit works
If you are looking for particular information, you can post and ask your questions, and sometimes? You will get more information than you can handle.
So, when I set out to write an article about reddit and personal finance, the idea was to take what is ultimately an endless conversation, and distill it to only the most focused and useable sections ‒ like maple syrup.
What you will find here is the most common, most pressing questions of the week or month, curated with condensed, easy to parse answers. The plan is for me to do all of the reddit reading, and sift out all of the repeated comments, and inane babble.
You just get the good stuff. Maybe it will be information you didn’t even know you needed. That’s what happened for me.
The most useful questions answered
I sifted through the questions posted in the PersonalFinanceCanada subreddit to find ones that many people were asking. There were lots about this tax season, RRSPs, TFSAs, and a host of other tax related issues. There were others, too, about what to do with lump sums of money, and things like that.
Each heading below is a topic in question, followed by my attempt at providing the shortest possible summary of answers.
1. Canada Child Benefits and Income Taxes
There was a recent change to the Universal Child Care Benefit ‒ it no longer exists. It’s now called CCB. This confused my wife and I, and apparently at least one other person on the internet. We have two kids and receive an amount from the government…so do we claim it? Is there a form we need?
Related: 5 Ways Families Can Get a Tax Break
Summary of answers
No need to worry ‒ because unlike UCCB, which was taxable, the CCB is not. CCB is a refundable tax credit. It isn’t income, so there is no need to claim it.
For more information, just check out the CRA info page on the CCB.
2. Tax scams
I have gotten the same calls, like this recording. I don’t fall for them, but someone might.
Summary of answers
Two things that come to mind:
- No need to be nice and Canadian about it. Don’t politely wait for your turn to speak. Tell these people that you are calling the police and hang up. It may not help. They may change their number and try again, but at least you don’t have to listen. Then…
- Alert the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center, by calling this toll-free number: 1-888-495-8501
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Center is aware of these calls and texts. They have a whole webpage on tax scams.
Or if you want to be funny…
This guy “trolls phone scammers” until…they asked him to stop.
3. Proactive scam avoidance
Over the years, slowly but surely, we’ve become tech dependent.
We use our phones as bank cards, credit cards, matchmakers, and as little virtual stores. We find new and used goods, and then we arrange for delivery, or to pick them up.
It is always a risky move to buy something on Kijiji if you don’t follow a few simple rules. Fortunately, this guy figured it out and summarized quite nicely, so I will give you his estimation, then follow up with a few important keys to safety.
Summary of answers
A few more tips about buying used things from people on Facebook, Kijiji, Craigslist, or any other service that does not have consumer protection:
- Do not pay in advance. Do not use e-transfers, or e-gift cards, or anything that they can use to take your money and not give you anything.
- See the thing you are buying in person. Test it if you can.
- Meet in a safe place with lots of people around, during the day.
No one should be taken advantage of, or robbed ‒ so take some proactive measures.
4. Investing Podcasts
If you want to learn about investing, this post is about finding the best podcasts on the topic.
Summary of answers
Here is a list of recommended podcasts, with brief description.
- Making Money ‒ this is Ron Hiebert of ScotiaMcLeod giving money advice. Sounds like a good place to start.
- Radical Personal Finance ‒ listen to Joshua Sheats’ interview with “Jacob Lund Fisker and his episodes on the ‘Doubling Penny’ and “The Shockingly Simple Math.”
- The Tim Ferris Show ‒ this is honestly my favorite podcast. It is American, but let’s not hold that against it. Tim Ferriss offers so much more than financial advice, he also offers life advice.
- Build Wealth Canada ‒ you can find all sorts of topics about investing. Most seem pretty in-depth.
- Canadian Couch Potato ‒ you get topics like bitcoin, robots, bonds and hedge funds.
- Mo’Money Podcast ‒ this is a big place with a lot of information about things like pre-paid cards, and home foreclosures.
- Animal Spirits ‒ American deep detail discussions of the markets, the Fed, etc. This one is for people who are looking to understand investing on a deep level. This is not for beginners.
5. Money Habits
This post was just fun to read and lots of good humor if you want a little laugh.
Summary of answers
“Ask myself, ‘do I really need this.’” by lilfunky was the first post. And I nearly dismissed it as a joke until I thought about it. It’s exactly what I do when I’m standing in Winners with a pair of shoes and a new pair of jeans, a new turntable, and a painting of Superman.
I ask myself “do I need this?” ‒ and my answer is always no.
So, I put it all back, and walk out the door, with my head hanging low.
I am a runner and I learned early on that smiling and repeating positive statements could help me overcome difficult moments in a run. The same is true with spending. The point? Terry Crews is pretty intimidating.
Use a 1-in-1-out system: When you buy something new, donate, sell, or throw away something old.
Use automatic deductions for bills, and track spending with an app like Mint. It will help you track your spending habits and compare your monthly transactions to see if you are on track.
All of that was nice, but there was one issue that comes up quite often in the comments though: Luxury versus savings.
How much should we give up, in order to make our savings grow? Should we allow ourselves those little luxuries?
The answer was diverse ‒ from ascetic to hedonistic. People said everything from “give up everything pleasurable, in order to make your retirement savings grow” to the pleasure-seeking, “What is $1,200 in my account, compared to my trip to the West Coast?”
After reading all of the comments, here is the sensible middle ground:
Have your luxuries at home.
- Invite people over for a meal, instead of eating at a restaurant. Potluck for more savings.
- Buy and play board games with family and friends instead of going out to the movies. For a list of great board games, here’s a curated list.
- Make your coffee at home, and you could save around $75 per month. Don’t use a Keurig either, french press is better ‒ it’s as simple as boil water, pour over coffee grounds, wait 4 minutes, push the plunger down and drink your coffee.
- Plan your meals for the week and buy your groceries accordingly.
There is a lot of advice floating around on reddit. Some good, some...needs additional research.
What I found amazing is that there were a lot of educated voices expressing ideas I had read in other books and sites.
I think this was good way to round up all sorts of information in an eclectic way. And maybe do another round with a focus on a particular theme.
So, what do you think?