Tag Archives: Bridget Eastgaard

Aug 8: Best from the Blogosphere

8 Aug

By Sheryl Smolkin

And just like that, it’s August! The days are getting shorter and families are starting to think about getting the kids back to school and getting serious about the upcoming round of fall activities.

Those of you sending your kids off to college or university will be interested in The Business of University Fees by Big Cajun Man aka Alan Whitton on the Canadian Personal Finance blog. Did you know if your child is still in school he/she is probably still covered under your group medical plan at work and most universities will allow you to opt out of the university’s plan?

If you have received your first child benefit cheques and haven’t already spent them on back-to-school supplies, here are 3 Great Ways to Use Your Canada Child Benefit Payment  by Craig Sebastiano on RateHub. RESP contributions, TFSA deposits or charitable donations, anyone?

And talking about TFSAs, take a look at Robb Engen’s TFSA Dilemma and Solution on Boomer & Echo. Like many of us Robb has a ton of TFSA contribution room ($50,500) He plans to turn his $825 monthly car payment – which ends in October – into future TFSA contributions, starting in January 2017. That’s $10,000 per year to stash in his TFSA, which at that rate would catch-up all of his unused room by 2027.

Have you reviewed your life insurance lately? Are you and your partner adequately covered so if one of you dies, the other can continue to pay the family bills? Bridget Eastgaard from Money after Graduation says Cash-Value Life Insurance Is For Suckers, Buy Term Instead.

And finally, Should you work part-time in retirement? by Jonathan Chevreau on moneysense.ca includes an analysis commissioned by Larry Berman, host of BNN’s Berman Call and Chief Investment Officer of ETF Capital Management. It illustrates the powerful impact of earning just $1,000 in part-time income each month between the age of 65 and 75; or in the case of couples $2,000 a month between them.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Jul 18: Best from the Blogosphere

18 Jul

By Sheryl Smolkin

We recently posted the blog Rent vs Buy: A Reprise, but the subject of when, or even if millennials will ever buy homes seems to be a continuing theme in both the blogosphere and the mainstream media.

Its not surprising that issue is still a live one, particularly in cities like Vancouver and Toronto where housing prices have gone through the roof and only young people with great jobs and a hefty gift from the Bank of Mom and Dad can get their foot in the door.

Several months ago BMO published the report Rent-Weary Millennials Not in a Hurry to Become Home Owners; Need to Save Accordingly. In the prairie provinces, people age 19-35 gave the following reasons why they are delaying home ownership:

  • 27%: Don’t feel comfortable making such a large purchase at this point in my career
  • 46%: Other priorities take precedence (such as traveling, continuing education or starting a business)
  • 33%: Don’t want to be left with no disposable income
  • 40%: Not sure where I want to settle down
  • 27%: Have to pay off debt first

In a Huffington post blog, Jackie Marchildon asks Are Millennials Choosing To Rent, Or Just Choosing Not To Buy?  She argues that renting is its own lifestyle and although currently dominated by millennial city dwellers in Toronto and Vancouver, it is not unique to this generation, nor to their respective cities.

On the Financial Independence Hub Helen Chevreau (daughter of well-known personal finance guru Jonathan Chevreau) says she is  Young, saving, and hopefully one day will buy a house. She critiques an article about “Tony” in Toronto Life who would rather spend his generous pharmacist’s salary on exotic trips and lavish spending than be shackled by a mortgage. She advocates for a happy middle ground: “somewhere between throwing down $1,500 on a meal and stealing toilet paper from the bathroom of the bar to save a few bucks.”

Another perspective comes from a young married couple who is saving up for a cottage because “they don’t want to invest their money in a shoebox.” They are also paying off student debt ($700/month) and spending $300/month on dog walking for their new Labrador mutt puppy.

Rent to Own | Option to Purchase is an interesting article by Saskatoon lawyer Richard Carlson. “There is no such thing in law as a ‘rent to own agreement.’ The idea was made up by people who wanted to sell to someone who did not qualify for a mortgage,” he says. “There is a good chance it will lead to a problem and a dispute.” He also distinguishes “rent to own” from an “option to purchase” which comes with its own set of challenges. Bottom line is, get independent legal advice before you enter into one of these questionable arrangements!

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Jul 11: Best from the Blogosphere

11 Jul

By Sheryl Smolkin

The world was shocked to learn that the UK voted to exit the European Community. Nobody really knows what will mean for investors yet but Robin Levinson King at the Toronto Star suggests four ways Brexit could affect Canadans. They are fewer exports, lower returns, a stronger U.S. dollar and a continuing white hot real estate market if interest rates stay low in this country.

Do you have a special skill set or do you own something that someone else wants? Trade it for something you need writes Marie Engen on Boomer and Echo. Bartering for goods and services instead of paying cash is a concept that is alive and well today. It can also save you a bundle.

For many people, paying off debt is one of life’s biggest challenges. Jessica Moorhouse blogs about four women who will inspire you to crush your debt. For example, Amanda D. from Ottawa paid off $64,000 in seven years. She consolidated all her debt with one bank, negotiated a lower interest rate and accelerated her pay down by doubling monthly payments and making periodic bulk payments.

How to purchase life insurance and what kind you need is a potential minefield for many people. On Money after Graduation, Bridget Eastgaard says buy term life insurance and avoid cash-value life insurance at any cost. That’s because cash value life insurance is much more expensive. Also, even one missed payment can void the policy which means you will lose both your insurance coverage and your premiums paid to date.

And since some of you still may not have planned a vacation for the summer or the balance of this year, take a look at Barry Choi’s blog The cost of travel: How to pick a vacation destination. He says daydream a little bit and pick your destination but be realistic if you can’t afford it or it really doesn’t make sense to go to Thailand in typhoon season. The easiest and most cost effective destinations may be locations where you have friends or family.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Jun 20: Best from the Blogosphere

20 Jun

By Sheryl Smolkin

After several weeks of “theme” issues it’s time to check in with some of our favourite bloggers to find out what’s on their mind.

On Boomer and Echo, Marie Engen asks the perennial question RRIF Or Annuity? Which One Is Right For You?  She suggests combining both so an annuity covers your basic retirement expenses together with with your CPP, OAS, and any other pension income you may be receiving to give you a guaranteed income stream for life. This allows your RRIF to provide you with investment growth opportunities and easier access to your money for your more enjoyable lifestyle expenses.

Tax Freedom Day 2016 happened June 7th this year. Retire Happy’s Jim Yih says it’s another reason to celebrate summer. He explains where all of your taxes go because once you realize the severity of tax on your lifestyle, it is your job to investigate legitimate ways to reduce your tax bill. “I’ve often said that good tax planning is the foundation to any financial, investment or estate decision,” Yih concludes.

Bridget Eastgaard lives in Calgary where due to the drop in oil prices the rental market is very soft. On her blog Money After Graduation she shares One Simple Shortcut To Put More Money In Your Budget. Her research revealed a similar unit renting for $250 less in her building plus a half-dozen comparable apartments renting nearby for less. She succeeded in lowering her rent by 20%, saving hundreds of dollar a month that will be redirected to accumulating a down payment on a house.

Sean Cooper thinks Millennials Should Save Their Down Payment and Not Rely on the Bank of Mom and Dad. He says by showing your millennial child tough love, you’re teaching your kids a valuable lesson: not everything in life will be handed to them on a silver platter. Just like you did, he says they should to work for it.You won’t be there to help them forever.

And the Big Cajun Man Alan Whitten reminds readers to keep an eye on their bank account to make sure automatic withdrawals are being processed properly on an ongoing basis. When he checked on his son’s RESP recently, he found that TD Bank mysteriously stopped depositing in November of 2015. There has been a problem ticket opened on this issue, and someone will be getting back to him.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

 

Rent vs Buy: A Reprise

12 May

By Sheryl Smolkin

Last year when I wrote about the buy vs. rent dilemma which most of us have confronted at some stage of our life, the five questions I suggested that readers consider were:

  1. How big is your down payment?
  2. How much house can you afford?
  3. Is your job secure?
  4. What are your family plans?
  5. What if interest rates go up?

All of those things are still important, but in the last year dramatic changes in both the Saskatchewan and Alberta rental and housing markets due to the drop in the price of oil may influence your decision.

For example, a report released at the end of last year from the real estate company Re Max says house prices in Regina and Saskatoon have dipped compared to a year ago because there are more properties on the market.

In Saskatoon a recent flurry of construction activity “has created market conditions modestly favoring the buyer,” the report says. “Currently, there are four months of inventory on the market and inventory is expected to increase as more of these new builds come to market next year.” The study also notes that the average sale price for a home in Saskatoon was $361,000 last year. However, by December 2015 it was $354,000 — a two percent drop.

Moreover, the report found similar market conditions in Regina, where there has been a lot of new construction taking place. “High inventory kept Regina in a buyer’s market throughout 2015,” the report says. Prices also dipped in Regina, by about three percent compared to 2014. An average Regina home was $329,000 last year and that figure has now dropped down to $320,000. For 2016, Re Max predicts that in both cities average prices will likely remain the same as for the previous year.

Recently interviewed on Breakfast TV Calgary, blogger Bridget Eastgaard said, “Assuming house prices stay down as long as oil prices remain low and layoffs continue to happen [in Calgary] which is unfortunate, it will give you more time to save and invest so you can accumulate the down payment you need to get the house you want.”

With Saskatchewan experiencing a similar downturn, her advice will also resonate with savewithspp.com readers. “If you are uncertain about your own job security now is a good time to wait it out and see what happens in the next year,” Eastgaard said.

Fortunately, if you do opt to continue renting in the short or long-term, the Saskatoon Landlord Association says it’s a tenant’s market with vacancy rates doubling in the city over the last year. According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the vacancy rate went from 3.4% to 6.5% from October 2014 to October 2015. Chandra Lockhart, executive officer with the landlord association attributes this glut in rental properties to the large number of new, unsold houses and condominiums that have been flipped into rentals.

That means renters have lots of leverage Eastgaard says. “You can pick and choose. You also have the bargaining chips to negotiate perks like parking spaces, utilities included or even ask for the first month rent free.”

So how do you decide?

If you have already saved a 10% or 15% down payment, it may be an ideal time to buy your first home or trade up. But if you are not quite ready, don’t be in a rush. Lots of great rental stock means you can find a nice place to live and you don’t have to worry that you will be priced out of the market in the immediate future.

 

May 9: Best from the blogosphere

9 May

By Sheryl Smolkin

Selecting a career is one of the most important challenges all of us have to deal with, and it doesn’t only happen once when we graduate from high school. I went to law school and embarked on an initial career as a family lawyer. However, nine years later I moved into pension and benefits law, and as a retiree I have a new career as a journalist. My husband has degrees in electrical, biomedical and software engineering, but spent most of his career in software design.

That’s why I think Bridget Eastgaard’s blog The future you are saving for does not exist on Money After Graduation is a “must read” for you and your kids. She says, “One of the most dangerous things you can do for your finances (and your happiness) is to plan your life under the assumption that everything will remain as it is. It won’t. I think we intuitively understand this, but you don’t know what you don’t know, and that makes imagining anything different extremely challenging. But these perspectives and biases can hinder us by limiting our flexibility to adapt to an ever-changing world. ”

So if you or your child are picking college or university courses or even if you are graduating from high school or with an undergraduate degree, how do you know what skills are in demand now and will still be highly sought four or more years from now?

The truth is none of us has a crystal ball. But you can check out Canada’s Best Jobs 2016: The Top 100 for a start. I’ll bet you’d never guess that the top three jobs on the list are: mining or forestry manager; urban planner and pharmacist. And construction managers, police officers and nurse practitioners are also highly ranked.

Heidi Grant Halvorson in the Harvard Business Review writes that The key to choosing the right career is to find a career that fits well with both your skills and values. She characterizes people in two ways. Those who primarily see work and life goals as opportunities for advancement, achievement and rewards have “a promotion focus.” The rest of us are mainly prevention-focused. We see our objectives as avoiding danger, fulfilling responsibility and being someone people can count on. Halverson believes that understanding our dominant focus can help with career selection.

In How to choose a career that you’ll love, New York Times bestselling author and founder of iwillteachyoutoberich.com, Ramit Sethi says, “The smart approach is to explore ALL the careers you’re interested in, test each to see if you’d really enjoy doing them, and move on to other jobs if they’re not a good fit. It’s kind of like window shopping at a mall. A shirt or pair of jeans may catch your attention. You might even try them on, but you wouldn’t just pick any random thing off the rack and say ‘I guess I’ll wear this for the next 10 years,’” he says.

Getting the chance to try different careers and work environments on for size is one reason why co-op co-op programs including one or more paid work terms are so valuable. An interesting blog on myuniversitymoney.com explores the pros and cons of co-op programs. Author Mr. Harvey is a former co-op student and he says the job hunt seemed to be an endless cycle of applying and interviewing for jobs which was a lot of work and stress on top of his studies. However he agrees that co-op students get lots of experience and many students are offered permanent jobs.

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Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Apr 18: Best from the blogosphere

18 Apr

By Sheryl Smolkin

We’re back and there is more than ever to share with you! We took a two-month break, but our favourite bloggers were still hard at work. So we have lots of great stories to tell you about in the weeks to come.

The Liberal government’s first Federal Budget was tabled last month. It eliminated some measures enacted by the Conservatives and others will be phased out over time. On the Financial Independence Hub, Paul Phillips from Financial Wealth Builders gives a financial planner’s perspective on Budget 2016. One surprise he notes is the elimination of the tax deferral on fund switches within a mutual fund corporation.

The significance of not having a great credit rating may not hit until you apply for a credit card or mortgage and are either turned down or not approved for the amount you need. Blogging on Money after Graduation, Bridget Eastgaard discusses five easy steps to build good credit. Because 18% of credit reports contain errors, she regularly checks her credit report to ensure her student loan payments have been properly recorded, no credit cards were opened under her name through identity theft, and that companies have complied with her requests to close credit accounts.

Robb Engen is a well know blogger at Boomer & Echo and over the years he has shared lots of ideas about how to more effectively earn and save money. While he does not encourage calls from his office on evenings and weekends, he says it is a fair trade off because his employer covers his cell phone bill. In fact, he estimates that he has saved more than $9,500 over the last 12 years (144 months x $66 per month) because in a series of jobs over that period he has never spent a dime out of his own pocket on a cell phone plan.

As the balance in your RRSP grows over time, it can be hard to resist the temptation to tap into your nest egg in an emergency or just because you “need” something that is above and beyond your current budget. Retire Happy’s Sarah Milton gives three good reasons why withdrawing money from your RRSP before retirement is not a great idea.

And finally, personal finance maven Gail Vaz-Oxlade recently announced she has written her last blog. While we know from personal experience that blogging week in and week out can be challenging, her fans (myself included) will miss her consistently great advice. Fortunately, most of the archived blogs are timeless.

So for those of you who are considering buying a home this spring, we are linking to one of her better articles. She makes a great argument for spending a little time saving for a down payment rather than locking yourself into a mortgage payment that strangles your cash flow while you pay exorbitant amounts in interest and insurance premiums.

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Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Entrepreneur Bridget Eastgaard is her own boss

7 Jan

By Sheryl Smolkin

Click here to listen

Click here to listen

Today I’m interviewing Bridget Eastgaard for savewithspp.com. Eastgaard blogs on “Money after Graduation,” her financial literacy website for college students and new graduates. She writes about paying off student debt, learning to budget, saving money, and investing for the future. 

She has a B.Sc. and an MBA in finance from the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary. For the last year she’s been a product strategist at Uncommon Innovation. However, in late October she resigned to devote herself to creating new products she plans to sell on her website. Other projected future sources of revenue include speaking engagements and brand partnerships with financial institutions and service providers. 

Thank you for joining me today, Bridget.

Thank you for having me Sheryl.

Q: You live in Calgary, you just quit your full time job in the middle of a provincial economic downturn to devote yourself to developing a risky online business. What made you decide to take the jump?
A: It is pretty dismal here in Calgary right now and it feels a little crazy to take a risk like this, but in all honesty, switching to my own online business isn’t as risky as it looks at first glance. Watching my friends and family members being laid off from jobs – some of them after fifteen or twenty years – I think what’s really risky is relying on a single source of income where your employer can decide, “We don’t need you anymore,” and you’re gone.

Q: So tell me about your blog “Money after Graduation.” When did you start it and why?
A: I started it in 2011 because I graduated from my Bachelor of Science degree in 2010 and I owed almost $21,000 in student loan debt. At the time that was just an astronomical amount of money for me. I never earned more than $10,000 in a year so I couldn’t even fathom how I would pay off that debt. So I started the blog to really track repayments and keep me accountable. 

Q: What do you think are some of the most important lessons about money that young people coming out of school need to learn?
A: How much debt really holds you back. I think I didn’t realize when I borrowed for school and many people don’t realize when they borrow for school how much money that really is. When you’re taking out 20, 30, $40,000 in student loans, that’s 20, 30, $40,000 of your net future income. And I thought, “Oh, well if I just make $50,000 a year, if I make $60,000 a year it will be really easy to pay this off,” and of course I wasn’t accounting for things like taxes, and living expenses. So I think that’s just the general lack of understanding of how little money there really is when you have a lot of financial obligations in adulthood.

Q: How long did it actually take you to pay off that loan?
A: It was pretty fast actually. I was debt free within 22 months.

Q: Terrific. You write about earning more money, paying off debt, and investing to build wealth. How often do you blog and how many hits do you typically get?
A: Now I’m kind of on a pretty relaxed schedule, I’ve taken it down to about once per week. I’ve been crazy busy lately. I got married last month. On days when I post I’ll get as many as 3,000 hits per day, and on days when I don’t post the blog probably gets 2,000 visits a day.

Q: Tell me about some of your most popular blogs.
A: I wrote one that just went viral and it still remains the most popular post on the website. It’s called, “30 financial milestones you need to reach by age 30.” I wrote it at 11:30 one night because I just felt like I needed to get a post and I was in the middle of my MBA and it took off like crazy – totally unexpected – but it’s just a list of financial milestones that you should have in order by the time you turn 30.

Q: What were some of the milestones on the list?
A: Be debt free, check your credit score regularly, start an investing portfolio. Some were really general, some were more specific like I suggested you should save at least $25,000 for retirement by age 30, so it’s a mix of big and small goals.

Q: I see you’ve just completed a 90-day shopping ban. Why did you embark on this project and how has it changed your perspectives about money?
A: So that was actually inspired by my friend Cait Flanders who is the blogger behind BlondeonaBudget.com and she did a one-year shopping ban I was so taken by how much this really changed her – changed her perspective, changed her behavior – it really had a profound effect on her. 

I had done like one month shopping bans in the past and I thought, “Well I’ll try three months this time.” I knew I couldn’t do a year. Part of it is also because I had been planning to leave my job and it’s easier to do that when you have some extra money in the bank. 

And it was also to teach myself to live on a reduced income; because I am pursuing my own online business now, I’m expecting my income will probably go down for the next three to four months.

So it was kind of a test run to teach me how to live with less. It actually had a much bigger impact on me than I expected because I really found that after the first two weeks it was just very easy to live with less and I really don’t need to buy as much as I typically do.

Q: So you have several courses on your website already. The Debt Crusher course is free. Tell me a little bit about it.
A: It’s an eight-module program that I created just to help young people get out of debt. I start with setting a budget, determining your loan repayment, negotiating with your creditors, and actually walk through all the steps that you need to take to pay off your debt. It works if you have a small balance of $5,000 or it works if you have a huge balance of $50,000. I just wanted to create a really solid financial plan for young people who are struggling under the weight of student or consumer debt, so they could have help and a method to get to debt-free.

Q: How has it been received? Have you had a lot of downloads?
A: Oh yes. I think are almost 500 by now. It’s been very popular.

Q: Your “Master Class Money” course is priced at $379 and has twelve modules. What are the goals of the course and how is it structured?
A: That course is the resource I wish I had had when I started investing in the stock market when I was 25 years old. We’re lucky because it has been kind of a bull run for the past almost seven years so I didn’t lose anything, but I didn’t have a strategy. 

There weren’t a lot of resources for young people who want to learn how to invest in the stock market and there are still not a lot of resources for just your average retail investor. It’s really up to the professionals to decide how your money is invested, but a lot of people do want to manage this alone and it is something, I think, everyone should learn and should do. 

So I created the course using my MBA in finance. It really walks the average retail investor through everything from the basics like “What is a stock? What is a bond?” to creating a portfolio based on your investment goals and risk tolerance and it even goes into some more advanced technical analysis. It’s basically a comprehensive resource that gives you the tools you need to start investing in the stock market.

Q: Is it geared only to young people or can people of all ages benefit from the course.
A: Everyone can benefit. I design it primarily for people in their 20s and 30s because they have the longest term investment horizon, but it’s the perfect resource for all ages. 

Q: So how you do market the course and are you pleased with the response to date? Are you on target for projected sales?
A: I haven’t done really aggressive marketing with the course. I’m lucky that I’ve established a presence online over the past almost five years and I have a pretty strong e:mail list so, thus far, I’ve really only pushed it out to my e:mail list and my regular readers. The response to it, honestly, has been so amazing. It was more than I expected. It really what has inspired me to quit my job and go do this full-time.

Q: What other courses do you have on the drawing board?
A: I have a few in mind, but they’re not set in stone yet. I definitely want to develop some resources for people negotiating their salary in their careers because that’s definitely something I feel really passionate about and it’s something that people just don’t know how to do and it’s really scary. I have some other kind of financial boot camp tool kit in the works that I’m developing as well.

Q: What’s your goal in terms of time for generating revenue for your new business comparable to your last full time position?
A: I haven’t thought seriously about that yet. I mean, I’d like to be back to my full-time income within six months and I essentially would love to double my original income with a year. That might be an ambitious goal, but I’m optimistic that if I hustle and work hard it can happen.

Q: What advice do you have for people who want to take control of their own employment and start a business but think they can’t afford to take the leap?
A: Just be sure that taking the leap is not hugely detrimental to your finances. I would never suggest anyone leave their job without a plan. Start your business, make sure it’s generating a little bit of revenue, create a big savings cushion, learn to live on less, and then when you take the leap it’s not going to be as big of a risk.

Q: And where does saving for retirement and a home and all that stuff fall into this business plan?
A: I just set up a fixed amount of savings every month and it’s really important to me to always meet those savings goals regardless of where my income is coming from. You never want to sacrifice your savings to take a risk. I feel that if you set your goals and then you stick to a regular payment plan, it doesn’t really matter where your income is coming from as long as it’s going to the right places.

Q: So are you saving in an RRSP or a TFSA or both?
A: I do both. So I have TSFAs and RRSPs and I’m trying to max out the RRSP but that just seems like a really hard journey when you’re in your 20s.

Q: Thank you very, very much for talking to me today Bridget.
A: Thanks Sheryl.


This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted in September 2015.

Nov 9: Best from the blogosphere

9 Nov

By Sheryl Smolkin

A traditional job trajectory has been for young people to finish school, get a job and then trudge up the corporate ladder, one step at a time. But some young people who have seen family members laid off and struggle to get new positions are taking a more entrepreneurial approach to career development.

In Why I Quit My High-Paying Job During a Recession To Work For You, Bridget Eastgaard explains why she recently resigned as a consultant to early-stage start-ups to grow her blog Money After Graduation and develop revenue from online courses, speaking engagements and brand partnerships. Watch for a podcast on savewithspp.com in early January where Bridget answers questions about her past and future career decisions.

For several years Sean Cooper has blogged extensively in various forums about his goal to be mortgage-free in just over three years by age 30. Well he did it! In a blog on MillionDollarJourney, he explains how at age 31 he has a net worth of $667,064. His income includes $55,000 (day job for pension consulting firm); $18,600 (rental income from first floor of his house); $40,000 (approximate freelance income). To celebrate, he had a mortgage burning party, bought a new wardrobe and he’s planning to travel more. But he doesn’t plan to fall victim to increasing his lifestyle to replace mortgage payments.

Tim Stobbs figures he’s about two years away from Freedom 45 and recently he wrote about The Plan for Getting Out. He says it’s not practical for his employer to keep him on for less than 80% or 90% of a full work week. Therefore he plans to keep his current 90% schedule and use his existing flexible benefit equal to 3% of his pay, to fund a further reduction of his working hours starting in 2016. He calculates that he actually has a pretty good deal because with the holidays and leave programs available to him next year, he will only work 182.3 days.

Cait Flanders, the Blonde on a Budget recently opened some fan mail and a cheque  for $100 left her speechless. The reader who sent the cheque said Cait had a profound influence on her life. This made her realize that she does not want her writing to simply document her personal journey to a debt free and minimalist lifestyle. She says, “There are more free resources I want to create, social media campaigns I want to launch and topics I want to discuss. Despite enjoying ‘life with less,’ I want to do more here.”

And finally, if you are shopping for an engagement ring so you can pop the question at Christmas time, Kyle Prevost and Justin Bouchard at Young and Thrifty suggest you Have the Money Talk Before the Marriage Talk . They report that Business Insider has a great primer on how to have the talk about money with your future partner.  Part of this money before marriage talk includes asking about your partner’s money philosophy, assets (and debts), and whether both of you should get a pre-nuptual agreement.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.