How I Manage My Money Today

February 15, 2016


Friends!  Oh, my dear friends. I’ve been quiet on the blog, this year, while working on my book proposal – and I’ve missed you and this space so much. I’d often sit down to write something, but feel this pressure to always produce 2,000+ words and not publish anything unless it made a profound statement of some sort (*ahem* like you weren’t born to pay off debt and die). Bloggers are given a lot of mixed messages re: how often we should publish new posts: either stick to a schedule (I try to write every Monday) or write whenever you have something to say (could end up being 1-31 posts per month!). And the general rule, these days, is long posts are always better.

I agree that all the “rules” have worked – whatever “worked” means. But, my goodness, I’m sick of sticking to them! Sometimes I have an idea for a post that could be summed up in 1,000 words or less, or something happens in my life that I want to share with you… and those freaking rules (that I only put on myself, by the way) hold me back from writing. Fortunately, Sarah Von Bargen came to the rescue, last week, when she reminded me: if you’re the one making the rules and setting the deadlines, you can change them. Lightbulb moment! I’m the boss of this blog – and this week, I’m going to try to write something every day – simply because I can.

When I started this blog, my finances were a mess. I had nearly $30,000 of debt and the only kind of “budgeting” I did involved checking my credit card statements to see what the minimum payments were (because I always paid at least that amount, so I didn’t damage my credit score). Fast forward a few years and I was setting budgets at the beginning of each month, checking in on them at the end and doing ok – although I was still spending the majority of what I had earned and not saving much.

Thanks to the shopping ban, I found ways to cut back and save more, and eventually got to the point where I realized I was spending a similar amount of money every month; that realization is what helped me decide to stop setting budgets at the beginning of the month, and instead just track my spending and tally up the numbers at the end. It’s been a year since I’ve written a formal budget on the 1st of the month, but my budgeting strategy changed yet again when I became a full-time freelancer.

I thought about waiting until I reached my 1-year anniversary of being self-employed to talk about my new budgeting strategies, but I don’t think anything will change between now and June 27th. It took some time for me to get used to budgeting with irregular income (which we are talking about on the podcast tomorrow!), but I’m pretty happy with my little system.

How I Manage My Money Today

One of the things I love most about swapping money management strategies with friends is figuring out how many accounts people have. I don’t care about balances, I just think it’s fascinating to know how many accounts people have and how they use them. For example, I know Carrie has something like 12+ savings accounts. And another friend of mine has closer to 20. That’s so many! But each one serves a purpose, so it also makes sense. I’ve just always taken a more minimalist approach to my finances, and like to have as few accounts as possible. Here’s what I’m working with:

*Note: There are no affiliate links in this post. I’m just sharing information on all the products I actually use.

I have 1 Canadian chequing account.

I’ve been doing all my daily banking with Tangerine since October 2012. I deposit everything I earn into my chequing account, and use it to perform a few transactions, such as pay rent, pay bills and transfer money into savings/investments. The account is free to use and pays a tiny bit of interest, which I only notice because I keep a fairly large cash buffer ($2,500-$5,000) in it at all times.

The cash buffer is new for me; that’s something I only started doing after I quit my job, because it removed any anxiety I might’ve had about having enough money to survive for a few months. I used to keep $9-10,000 in there, but have since gotten more comfortable with having less in my chequing account and more in savings. Cash, in general, helps me sleep at night!

I have 2 Canadian savings accounts.

Since I started working for myself, my #1 savings goal has been to set aside 30% of my income for taxes. How exciting, eh? But, in a weird way, being forced to save (or pay myself first) has made me an even better saver than before. Whenever I get paid, I immediately calculate 30% and move it into one of my savings accounts. (The current balance is $19,430, which I don’t include in my net worth.)

My second savings account is meant for personal savings – and holds money for a number of different purposes. It’s my emergency fund money, my old shopping ban account money is now in there too, and I also add extra money (when I have some) for future travel. Whereas multiple savings accounts work best for some people, I prefer to just have one big pool of cash (currently: $15,000).

If you do the math, you’ll see I’m currently sitting on nearly $40,000 cash – and that might sound crazy – but remember that half of that will (potentially) be owed at tax time. I never, ever look at my tax money and think “sweet, I have $20,000!” Instead, I see a big bill due in the next couple months – and I’m so glad I saved for it, or else I’d be taking that on as debt!

I have 2 Canadian credit cards.

Now, for the fun part! I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I pay for 99% of my purchases/expenses with credit cards. I used to maximize my rewards by putting specific purchases on specific cards. Now that I work for myself, however, I’ve realized how important it is to have a personal card and a business card – and sometimes that means I don’t always maximize my rewards.

I use the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite for all my personal expenses. The best return for me, personally, is 4% on groceries (gas too, but I barely drive anymore) and 2% on recurring bill payments. It also pays 1% on all purchases in other categories. The card has a $99 annual feel, but I earned $340 cash back last year, which means I profited $241. Not bad.

As of right now, I use the WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard for my business expenses. It paid off BIG TIME last year, when I signed up for it and got a bonus $250 WestJet dollars. Sarah and I put that towards our trip, and also used my $99 round-trip companion flight (which I get every year), so our flights to NYC only cost us $250 each. I’ve since earned another $228 (1.5% on all purchases), which I’ll put towards a flight to San Diego for FinCon in September. I’m still not entirely sure I’m going to keep this card… not because it hasn’t been good to me! But I think my business expenses are going to go wayyy down in 2016, so I don’t know if I want to pay $99 for a card anymore. I just paid the annual fee last month, so I’ll use it all year and make a decision in December. If anything, I might cancel my Scotia card in November, make WestJet my personal card and get something free for business.

I have 2 investment funds (1 TFSA, 1 RRSP).

My investing strategy hasn’t changed much, since I last wrote about it. I only put enough in my RRSP to keep me in my current tax bracket (was right on the edge in 2015), and am focused on maxing out my TFSA. Both funds hold my retirement savings – I have zero plans to spend any of it, until then! I’m investing in my future, but want to max out my TFSA first… and that’s going to take a while still, lol.

Finally, you probably noticed I put “Canadian” before most of the accounts listed above; that’s because, as of a few weeks ago, I have a couple US accounts. And, while you might think that would confuse things, I set them up to make things simpler!

I have 1 US checking account (in the US) and 1 US savings account (in Canada).

I signed on to work with a new client in the US, and figured out the fastest way for me to get paid for the work would be to open a US checking account. No, that’s not the same as a US savings account with a Canadian bank – US banks can’t send money to personal bank accounts in Canada – it’s a genuine checking account with a bank in the United States. Fortunately, I didn’t have to cross the border to do this, as a few Canadian banks also operate in the US.

I ended up opening the Direct Checking Account with RBC Bank (US) and got a free US savings account with RBC Royal Bank (Canada). Once/month, I’ll transfer however much I want from my US account to my Canadian account at RBC, and then I can send myself an email money transfer to deposit it into my Tangerine chequing account – done and done. If that sounds annoying, try to imagine waiting 60 days for a cheque to arrive in the mail and another 15-20 business days for it to clear! Now, I can get paid via direct deposit to my US account, then get it into my Tangerine account with just a few clicks (whenever I need the money or am happy with the exchange rate). It’ll cost me a few dollars each month (and I haven’t paid a banking fee in 10+ years, so I was hesitant to start now) but being paid in USD more than makes up for that…

Another bonus: I can use the Visa Debit card that came with my US checking account when I’m travelling in the US! So long, 2.50% foreign transaction fee.

Writing it all out makes things seem so much more complicated, for some reason, but this setup is really simple for me. I don’t need to check anything on a daily basis. I just use my credit cards to pay for things, make payments on them every week or two and, of course, track all of this in my Mindful Budgeting 2016 Planner! And whenever I get paid, I immediately put 30% aside for taxes, save/invest what I can and make sure my cash buffer is above $2,500 at all times. The US stuff is new for me still (I haven’t even been paid yet, ha!) but it should be pretty seamless. And I’ll use my credit cards as-is, but will probably change things up by the end of the year… which is perhaps the one takeaway from this post: change things up whenever you need to! Your future self will thank you for putting in the little bit of work it takes to setup the best system for you and your finances. :)

Have you changed any of your money management strategies recently?


  • Reply Shelly February 15, 2016 at 5:04 am

    WOW!! That was a lot to take in while drinking my first coffee of the morning! LOL I love how you keep no secrets and lay it all on the table. Let’s see what do we do?
    1. All of our credit cards are of the no fee variety. We have CT Mastercard, AMEX, and Value Visa. By we, I mean my husband and I. I have been looking into those with fees to see if they would benefit us in some way. There are so many to from though!
    2. We have RESPs for both our girls, now ages 14(almost 15, gasp!) and 11. We have had those since they were little. Not a large monthly sum, but some.
    3. My husband has an RRSP in his name that we pay a low amount into by-weekly, but are looking to up the amount.
    4. We have a TFSA in my name that now has a little over $3000 accumulated. I’m not even sure what its for yet. LOL But it feels good that its there if we ever need it. But I plan on just depositing, not withdrawing.
    5. We do have a LOC balance and CC balances, but they aren’t outrageous and paying them off with more than the minimum payment.
    6. We paid off our mortgage a few years ago, but still realize that a house does come with bills; renos, heat/light, insurance, etc.
    7. We made the last payment on our SUV(5 years of $670 monthly payments) in October of last year and were strongly contemplating on trading it in last month on a new vehicle because of all the great January incentives. But we liked the idea of no payments for awhile. But since paying it off, we are depositing $650/month into our savings account. Which adds up quickly. Plus that money would come in handy for any repairs that may come up since the warranty is not out.
    All in all, we are in a really good place. We are both in our 40s. We both have government jobs. Mine federal and his provincial. My husband has been paying in to a pension much longer than me. We both have insurance through work. I sleep better at night(except for that darn bursitis in my hip) knowing that if anything catastrophic were to happen; financially we would be okay.
    Oh, and between your shopping ban and The Minimalists, I have been much more conscious about our spending. Needs vs Wants and all that. Before I purchase something (other than groceries) I ask myself, do I really need to bring that into our home?
    P.S. I still haven’t bought any more K-Cups!! LOL

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 15, 2016 at 7:05 am

      Haha! Yes, I thought it might be a 1,000-word post and it ended up being almost 2,000… oops! It sounds like you guys have a good system that works for you, Shelly! And I love that you haven’t bought more K-Cups still, haha. Go you!

  • Reply Maryalene February 15, 2016 at 5:41 am

    I’ve been self-employed for about 5 years and still have trouble figuring out how to manage my money effectively. I did start using YNAB this year and that is helping me keep tabs on my various accounts.

    I’m curious about your taxes. Do you think you’ll actually pay 30%? I’ve always heard the rule is to save 30% for taxes, but I’ve never actually had to pay that much thanks to all my self-employed deductions and child credits (I’m in the U.S.) If you find you don’t owe 30%, will you invest that money or do something else with it? I keep thinking I should save a third for taxes, even though I don’t pay that much, so I’ll have a windfall in my savings account each April.

    Love your blog! I don’t think I’ve ever commented on it before but I’ve been reading it for a while and find it super inspirational. Would love to do my own shopping ban, but I have 5 kids and haven’t sorted out in my head how to deal with kid expenses and a ban yet.

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 15, 2016 at 7:12 am

      Good question! No, I don’t think I’ll have to pay the full 30% – but holy heck, having that money ready if I need it makes me feel so much better about tax time. If I get to keep some of the cash, I think I’ll use it to float my 2016 tax savings? Maybe? I guess it depends on the amount! If it was like $1-2,000, I’ll just keep it in the account. If it was like $5,000, I’d definitely think about investing some of it… could make for an interesting post after everything is said and done!
      And I’m glad you finally commented, Maryalene! 5 kids surely keeps your hands full… maybe you could start by doing a personal shopping ban (just you) and then think about how to incorporate the kids. Like maybe you just stop buying 1 thing they don’t need for a while. Either way, I think the fact that you’re *thinking* about doing a ban shows you want to be more conscious about where your money is going… you can start doing that with every spending decision you make! :)

      • Reply Maryalene February 16, 2016 at 2:12 pm

        I think that’s a good idea. I really need to distinguish between what is a family/kid expense vs. what is a me expense. (i.e. when we order pizza for dinner, is there a legitimate ‘let’s celebrate’ kid event or is it a ‘mom is lazy and doesn’t want to cook’ night). It’s so easy to blame bad spending habits on the kids!

  • Reply Sarah Noelle @ The Yachtless February 15, 2016 at 5:48 am

    Hooray for ignoring/breaking/changing the blogging rules! Also, welcome to the U.S. banking system! ;)

    I feel like I have a lot of accounts for someone who doesn’t have a lot of money. I have a checking account, a high-yield savings account, a Roth IRA and a traditional IRA (both very, very small), a Betterment account, an Acorns account, two credit cards (one is a Capital One Venture card that gives travel rewards and no annual fee and the other is an Amazon card with Amazon rewards)…and I think that’s it. Most of these accounts are ones I’ve opened in the past year, as a direct result of finally starting to pay attention to my finances.

    There’s something psychologically interesting about having my money split among multiple accounts — I think it makes me feel like I have more money than I actually do, haha. In any case, my finances are about to change substantially once I start getting a paycheck again. I can’t wait.

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 15, 2016 at 7:17 am

      I don’t think that’s a lottttt of accounts! Although, I will say, sometimes I hate having multiple credit cards lol. I know it’s “good” to have both a Visa and a MasterCard, but I’d be happier with just 1 card for all things. Yay for getting a paycheck again soon! :)

  • Reply cindi brumpton February 15, 2016 at 5:51 am

    Cait, what % are u setting aside for US taxes for your US income?

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 15, 2016 at 7:22 am

      Good/tricky question! I don’t have to pay/file taxes in the US, because I don’t actually do business IN the US – I do it from home in Canada. When you’re a contractor, you sign a W-8BEN form, which ensures a company pays you the full amount you invoice for (doesn’t withhold any money for taxes) and you promise to pay taxes on the income in Canada. So I do what I always do: set aside 30% and claim the income when I file here. :)

  • Reply holly February 15, 2016 at 6:12 am

    As a freelancer, this was helpful! I’ve struggled over the years to find a system that works for me ( mixing personal + business ). Right now, as checks come in, I cover my spending first, then use the rest to divvy up the rest, but I like the idea of delegating 30% of each check to savings.

    Looking forward to the podcast!

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 15, 2016 at 7:28 am

      Yea, I sometimes think if I wanted to get SUPER serious, I’d deposit all my money into a business chequing account and then “pay myself” (send money to my personal chequing account) from that… but I’m just a freelancer, and I only file personal income taxes – not business taxes – so that’s the one account that is a mix of personal/business, I guess! But I like to keep all the rest separate. And saving for taxes first is SO important! I don’t even think twice about it, anymore. I just pretend the money isn’t even mine (because it’s not!) and put it where it needs to go. I think I mention it in tomorrow’s episode, but I never understood how to adopt that mindset when I had a full-time job – you know, the “pay yourself first” thing. I always covered my spending first, then saved what was leftover. With taxes, it’s just not an option. I wish I’d felt this way back when I was getting steady paycheques, haha.

  • Reply Tonya@Budget and the Beach February 15, 2016 at 6:44 am

    Re: the blogging rules. I agree 100%. Once I stopped feeling like there was something I was supposed to be doing, it felt like a weight being lifted.

    I’m actually working on simplifying my finances more, especially with credit cards. I don’t know how people have a million credit cards going at the same time. I don’t even spend enough to take advantage of all the bonuses and it just seems like a lot of stress to me. But I guess for some people they love it. Different strokes!

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 15, 2016 at 7:31 am

      I still like the idea of posting every Monday! I just don’t want to get paralyzed by the idea that the post needs to be oh-so-amazing before I hit publish… it’s so ridiculous.
      And I feel the same way about credit cards! Two cards is totally manageable – especially now that 1 is for personal and 1 is for business. But anything more would be annoying…

  • Reply Debby February 15, 2016 at 7:13 am

    Cait, I will look forward to reading all of your posts this week. I always enjoy them.
    I have the same budgeting strategy as you do and I find it’s working well. I am currently a Masters student with one last big tuition payment remaining. I look forward to getting back on track with my savings soon.
    My oldest son is discovering money management as a young adult. It is so great to see this happening! I wish I had been as smart at that age. My life would be very different.

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 15, 2016 at 7:34 am

      Congrats on the final payment! Bet it’ll feel good to send that one off, and know you’re done with the money side of things :) and it must be neat to watch your son gain some interest in his money! I know I always love when my sister asks me questions about saving and investing. (My brother is a money hoarder, so I have no concerns about his future, haha.)

  • Reply Broke Millennial February 15, 2016 at 7:33 am

    That’s a nifty US to Canada hack (well, maybe it’s not really a hack, but I’m going to view it as such). I don’t have crazy amounts of savings accounts, but I do have 3. I call them my: “Other People’s Weddings Fund” (formerly known as travel, but these days travel is all to other people’s weddings), “HoneyPot” (which is both my emergency fund and the emergency fund for my dog and his gets tracked in a separate spreadsheet) and the Down Payment savings account (saving for a future downpayment on a house). I put 50% of each freelance paycheck into the down payment account because that one earns 1.00% APY. Then come tax time, I’m ready to pay out of that account and the remainder gets left in for a future house. I too feel like I’m sitting on a lot of cash, but I also have some index funds and a Roth and Traditional IRA through Vanguard as well as a 401(k) through work. Feels like a lot, but spreadsheets help keep track of it all!

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 15, 2016 at 7:40 am

      It might be a hack! Kinda/sorta. I wouldn’t have known it was possible to set all of that up until a friend who works at RBC told me what we could do… and I’m so glad! A few clicks is so much easier than playing the waiting game. Might cost me a few bucks, but saving my time/sanity is worth it.
      And your system sounds great! I love that you immediately set aside 50% – so some is for taxes, but some is also for your down payment. My income fluctuates so much that I don’t feel comfortable saving a full 20% for personal stuff/investing (yet) but I’m getting there. :)
      (Also, isn’t it kind of sad that 1.00% is a good interest rate these days? I miss the old days, lol.)

  • Reply Alyssa @ Generation YRA February 15, 2016 at 8:15 am

    That’s very neat you were able to set up a US checking account for your client here in the states! That definitely sounds like much more of a seamless transaction than waiting for the check, then another 15-20 days to clear (goodness, sometimes checks just drive me bonkers in terms of clearing, etc.). In terms of new money systems, I actually haven’t changed anything for over a year! I took the time to set up everything that it would be an incredibly seamless process as well. One thing I do need to consider is that if I start taking on a side hustle with additional income, is arranging the percentage of my income to be set aside as well for taxes. Right now, it barely crosses my mind when my employer is just taking a percentage out of my paycheck every other week!

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 18, 2016 at 3:09 pm

      Yep, you don’t have to think about it when you get a steady paycheque… but your side hustle will change things, depending on how much you earn!

  • Reply Rob February 15, 2016 at 8:37 am

    “Have you changed any of your money management strategies recently?”

    Nope, Cait, for years I’ve used (to me) the “kiss” principle – keeping things simple, as follows:
    1 joint chequing account.
    1 joint low interest savings account.
    1 joint high interest savings account.
    1 LOC (for emergency purposes, which we’ve never needed to use up to now)
    2 credit cards (one which we use most times and the other because I get an employee discount off the total purchase)
    Then add to the above our various TFSA, RRSP, RRIF and non-registered balanced investment accounts (all of which principle we rarely touch and instead reinvest, taking out only the generated dividend incomes)
    This works best for us and always has.

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 18, 2016 at 3:11 pm

      …employee discount? Where do you work? ;)

  • Reply Catherine February 15, 2016 at 8:55 am

    We bank with both CIBC and Tangerine. I love traveling with my Visa debit, makes things much easier! I cant wait to start contributing to long term retirement savings….it will feel good!

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 18, 2016 at 3:12 pm

      I wish Tangerine had all of these options, so I didn’t have to setup accounts with two different banks, haha. But it’s all good. The Visa Debit will be really nice!

  • Reply Alouise February 15, 2016 at 9:18 am

    This is great. I’m a freelance writer and I’m working at Starbucks and I always pay myself out for taxes (because not enough gets taken off my paycheques). I love banking with Tangerine, but I use them just for my savings accounts, my main chequing account is with PC Financial (also free to use) and then I transfer a regular amount to my savings with Tangerine (after paying the bills). I have an RSP Savings Account, and then an account for taxes, an emergency fund, and a travel saving account (because I love to travel) with Tangerine. It’s nice because the money is there, but because the accounts aren’t attached to my main debit card there’s less of a temptation to use it, unless I really need to.

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 18, 2016 at 3:13 pm

      Yep, that’s one of the best things about having savings accounts with separate banks (specifically, online banks) – the money isn’t so easy to get your hands on! Sounds like you have a good system going, Alouise. :)

  • Reply Tawcan February 15, 2016 at 10:33 am

    I think we need to simplify how we manage our money. We use TD and credit union for banking purposes. Used to use ING/Tangerine as well but no longer have money in there. When it comes to investment, we have TD, Questrade, and Manulife with multiple accounts. Simplification would be nice.

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 18, 2016 at 3:14 pm

      What would you want to simplify? Only use 1 bank, not 2? Or change things up with your investments?

  • Reply Erin February 15, 2016 at 10:34 am

    I’m so glad you shared this!!!! In the last year, I’ve turned one of my hobbies into some freelancing business – and wound up with a Canadian client! I live in the US, so getting paid has been a non-stop headache. Definitely going to look into the banking possibilities in Canada now!

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 18, 2016 at 3:15 pm

      Nice! Check out RBC, TD, BMO Harris… I’m sure there are others, but those are 3 of the big banks here that also operate down there!

  • Reply Kristen February 15, 2016 at 10:46 am

    We added a new account this year. We have my business account, a regular chequing account for our daily, an emergency fund account, a US account (at the time if I added it, I didn’t have to pay fees to bank with them), 2 savings accounts – one for travel and one for taxes. We have 2 credit cards, although we are in the process of changing one of them. It is working for us.

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 18, 2016 at 3:16 pm

      Sounds great, Kristen!

  • Reply Rochelle February 15, 2016 at 10:50 am

    I just changed up my finances, too! I thought I was going to open a savings account for my business; since I am a freelance editor, my business expenses are minimal. I just wanted a place to keep my buffer for taxes and to deposit my PayPal money and checks, so I could give myself paydays. I ended up with a (1) business checking account that earns interest every month (more than 1%!), which is awesome. I now have a debit card for my few work expenses, and I’ve given myself regular paychecks every other week since January.

    Since my husband doesn’t take exemptions on his taxes, and I had taxes taken out of my “real job” paychecks through last April, and we have two kids and a mortgage and student loan debt, I ended up not only not owing anything for taxes, but getting a refund! So now the buffer I built up last year for taxes is there if I have a slow month editing, or anything else. It’s great.

    Besides that change, our accounts are what they’ve always been: (2) joint checking for all regular bills; (3, 4) individual checking for each of us for “guilt-free money;” (5) joint savings, which holds everything and is very empty after quitting my job, putting half down on a very needed new-to-us car, and medical expenses due to having a baby in the U.S.; (5) my 401k (that I still haven’t moved after quitting my job); (6) my husband’s 403b, and, technically, (7) a savings account at the credit union where our car loan is. I use it to deposit money for paying down the loan, and when we pay it off (this year, I hope!), we’ll get the $10 minimum balance back. :)

    No credit cards for us–I own one but haven’t used it in years, and my husband has never owned one.

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 18, 2016 at 3:19 pm

      Sounds like you guys have a good setup! Wow, though – he’s never had a credit card? How does he build credit?

  • Reply Katie February 15, 2016 at 10:59 am

    I’m in the US and have more than 20 accounts between my four savings accounts, one checking, one peer-to-peer lending, three taxable stock accounts, a Roth, a Simple, four credit cards, and more. I should probably minimize a bit, but I’m trying to find what I like.

    My latest changes include a Digit savings and Acorns investment account. I wanted to see where I could squeeze out a bit more money. I do like how Acorns rounds things up rather than Digit’s random withdrawals.

    I’ve also paid off most of my credit cards this month and will be putting an extra hundred toward my car each month. I’ll pay it off more than a full year ahead of time!

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 18, 2016 at 3:21 pm

      Woo hoo! Congrats on the debt repayment progress, Katie! :D And I hear you re: the random amounts that Digit takes out, but I will say, I wish we had something similar here in Canada!

  • Reply Potato February 15, 2016 at 11:18 am

    You may want to speak to Chris from Rags2Reasonable about his recent series on handling US dollars as a Canadian freelancer and minimizing exchange fees. Reading this:

    “Once/month, I’ll transfer however much I want from my US account to my Canadian account at RBC…”

    It sounds like you’re taking the bank’s posted exchange rate when you go from your US account to your Canadian account, which has a hidden fee built into the exchange rate (~2%), on top of monthly account fees. If these are small contracts that’s probably not worth the hassle of other methods, but if that’s real money you may want to look into other routes to exchange back to CAD, or even keep it as USD (esp. if you’re going to buy US-listed ETFs at some point for your investment accounts).

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 18, 2016 at 3:23 pm

      When I said transfer from my US account to Canadian account, I meant another USD account but in Canada. But I’ll be keeping the USD down in the US until I really need!

  • Reply Mike February 15, 2016 at 11:32 am

    Cait thanks for sharing! I personally like to keep a cash buffer, but this year I decided to pay off 40k of debt by the end of this year so my buffer has been lacking, but my net worth still stays the same (I don’t include cash in my net worth as well).

    I like only having 1 – 2 accounts for credit cards and checking accounts for simplicity reasons. I do want to be financially free later in life so I have been budgeting better to travel more which is my passion and my personal promise in life. (Promises are better than goals IMO)

    This year ever since reading up blogs on people who have the same mindset, it really helped me set me up for the future.


    • Reply Cait Flanders February 18, 2016 at 3:27 pm

      I’d love to hear more about why you think promises are better than goals, Mike! Can you write about that, please? :)

  • Reply Marian February 15, 2016 at 11:32 am

    Oh Cait I’ve missed your voice over the last few weeks, I know you’ve been doing a regular blog and the Budget & Cents podcasts (which are super btw), but somehow it feels you’ve not been around as much … you also have a big op coming up next week (gulp – you’ll be fine, you’ve prepared for it so well) which might take you off-line for at least a week? Anyway just wanted to share that I’ve really enjoyed and appreciated this blog and the fact that you’ll write daily this week yay! I also appreciate that you’ve been looking after yourself first and balancing your other commitments after that, a great inspiration for all.
    (Will ‘reply’ to the subject matter of this blog in another comment later today … )

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 18, 2016 at 3:29 pm

      Yes, I plan to take a couple weeks off, Marian! I have a friend writing something for us next week, but I’ll probably take a full two weeks off while I deal with the pain, start physio, etc. Will be back as soon as I can. :)

  • Reply Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor February 15, 2016 at 11:58 am

    Thanks for outlining how you manage your money. In the past 6 months or so, we’ve started churning credit cards, but only 1 at a time because our spending isn’t high enough to get rewards from a lot going at once. This keeps it easy to keep track of, as well. Mostly we use the rewards to help fund our travel. Everything else is pretty simple as we have 1 joint checking and 1 joint savings account, and 3 retirement accounts (401k & IRAs).

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 18, 2016 at 3:30 pm

      Hey, if you guys can make it work, I think that’s awesome! There are so many good bonuses out there. I don’t know when I’ll be able to even apply for another credit card, now that I’m self-employed, because the credit system knows I don’t have a job, haha!

  • Reply Kelsey February 15, 2016 at 12:36 pm

    I love reading your posts and look forward to them in my inbox. :)
    You mentioned you have 2 credit cards as do I and you said you might cancel one. How does cancelling a credit card affect your credit history? Does it take a hit on your credit rating? Thanks Cait and let’s through this Canadian west coast rain together :D

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 18, 2016 at 3:32 pm

      Hey Kelsey! It depends on how long you’ve had the cards (so how much history it holds). I’ve only had these cards for 1 and 1.5 years, so my credit would maybe take a tiny hit for a few months. I should’ve mentioned I technically have 3 cards, the 3rd of which is the same card I’ve had since I was 19… but I never use it. I might pay for 1 thing/month on it, just to keep it active, but only because it holds the longest history (10+ years is huge and would cause a greater ding in my score). I wouldn’t be worried about cancelling 1 of the 2 newer cards, but I’ll never cancel the oldie. She has zero benefits but I need her!

  • Reply NDQ February 15, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    Interesting to read about your system. Sounds like it is working for you and that’s all that matters. You’ve done a great job getting your money under control.


    • Reply Cait Flanders February 18, 2016 at 3:33 pm


  • Reply Abigail @ipickuppennies February 15, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    We’re currently putting everything on our new credit card to make sure we hit $5,000 in 3 months. Every time we charge something, I go into our main checking account and transfer that much into secondary checking. Then I’m just going to start making a weekly payment. That way we don’t end up spending money twice.

    It’s new, but so far it seems to working okay. Fingers crossed.

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 18, 2016 at 3:34 pm

      I’m sure it’ll work great, Abigail! I typically apply a payment to my cards every 1-2 weeks, so that I never get charged interest.

  • Reply allroundbetterme February 15, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. I love hearing about how people have their money organized. We (my husband and me) started getting our finances combined and organized last year, but it still isn’t perfect… One of my goals for this year is to sort that all out before our mortgage renewal in the fall so that we can have a good picture and plan, and I can get away from banks that charge me fees.

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 18, 2016 at 3:35 pm

      Yes! Get away fast! Haha. (I’m teasing… kind of.) But setting up a simpler system before you get a mortgage is smart. :)

  • Reply Maggie @ Creative Clarity February 15, 2016 at 6:21 pm

    Yes yes – it is so fun to hear about how people organize their finances! I have a hard time spending money from savings, so I have long-term savings accounts (RRSP and TFSA) and short-term savings/planned spending accounts (vacation/travel, home and car maintenance, and one other general savings account for items that aren’t purchased often but don’t fit the categories above). By putting them in categories, I can stop myself from feeling guilty when it’s time to take a vacation, or reassure myself that we can afford a new hot water heater, which happened recently.
    A day to day checking account, a business account (where I deposit my cheques + save for taxes) and a Visa are in my wallet regularly, although I haven’t used the Visa for so long that I could just leave it at home.
    Really enjoyed this post, Cait. Glad to see you back :)

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 18, 2016 at 3:45 pm

      You should use your Visa sometimes, Maggie! Helps with credit (unfortunately lol). And I’m glad to BE back :)

      • Reply Maggie @ Creative Clarity February 18, 2016 at 3:50 pm

        I have a few things that automatically charge – Netflix, a donation, my website, and home internet. But no need to show my card for those ones :)

  • Reply giulia February 16, 2016 at 3:33 am

    Like this post and it is true sometimes is better wait and write because you want and not because you must, your post are always udeful, detailed and full of tips, thanks for sharing!!!

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 18, 2016 at 3:46 pm

      Thanks for always reading, Giulia! :)

  • Reply Tyler February 16, 2016 at 5:50 am

    At one point I had 4 savings accounts and I thought that was too much so I slowly got rid of them and now only have 1. I have the capital one 360 though which will allow you to have 20 different savings “accounts” on the same account so if you want to save for a vacation or a house or a car or whatever you can designate that money specific for that.

    I look forward to the podcast today (just downloaded and put on Playlist for drive home from work today) last week’s was AMAZING keep up the good work.

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 18, 2016 at 3:47 pm

      Wow, that’s really neat, Tyler! So it all goes into 1 account, but you can designate savings goals? Is that it? (And I’m glad you’re enjoying the podcast!)

  • Reply Lauren @ Lauren, Etc. February 16, 2016 at 6:56 am

    I had no idea you had a podcast! I listened to the first 2 episodes last night, and I am totally hooked! Since combining our finances, my husband and I have kept our money management strategy about the same. We have 20 total accounts, which sounds like a lot, but 11 of them are CDs. The rest are 2 checking accounts, 2 savings accounts, 3 credit cards, 1 Roth IRA, and 1 401K. I think we would both like to simplify this system, but we’re waiting until after we buy a home next summer.

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 18, 2016 at 3:50 pm

      Ahhh yes! We’re already more than halfway through season 1, it’s crazy! Glad you liked the first 2 :) and 20 accounts, wow! But sounds like a lot of it is savings, which is never a bad thing ;)

  • Reply Tenley February 17, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    Great overview! It’s enlightening to have transparency around other people’s finances — I know it makes me feel less isolated and panicky!

    I just recently started using my Capital One Rewards card to pay for pretty much everything. BUT I’m budgeting religiously and making sure that I have the cash to cover every expense, so that I’m not carrying a balance on the card or paying interest. It feels a little nerve-wracking because credit cards got me into a LOT of trouble in the past, but the cash back has already reached $165 after a month and a half of totally normal, budgeted spending. I’m trying to convince myself it’s okay to use the card! But it still makes me nervous!

    • Reply Cait Flanders February 18, 2016 at 3:54 pm

      It sounds like what you’re doing right now is working, Tenley! Just keep at it. (And is it weird if I say that I love your name? It’s so beautiful!)

  • Reply KC February 19, 2016 at 7:40 am

    It’s your blog. You do whatever you want with it! :)

    I like your set-up. I’m a fan of the “KISS” rule when it comes to finances. Keep 1 chequing, 1-2 savings, 3 TFSA (one is emergency fund, one is short-term and one is retirement), 1 RRSP, 1-2 credit cards (hey, some places may only carry one brand or what happens if the card doesn’t work? That happened to me a few times particularly when it came to tow trucks or repair shops but I was grateful to have the other!). I do have an unused LOC but try to use it once every few months (pay a bill and pay back within a few days) to ensure that I don’t lose it.

    That account where you’ve set aside money for taxes, man, I wish many of my self-employed clients do this but you can only help them if they want to do it! Good on you. In my opinion, it’s always better to have too much cash than none at all. Liquidity is the name of the game here. If you didn’t use the entire amount for taxes and expect to remain the same, why not put some of it into your RRSP since you will still have it working for you? Say, if you’ve got $5000 left over, put aside $4,000 into RRSP and keep $1,000, etc.

    A bit of accountant speak here. Be careful when using the rewards on your business card for personal use. Technically, that is a taxable benefit to you. Obviously, the CRA isn’t going to care about $250 but may raise a few red flags if you’re claiming a lot of it. Just keep that in mind! :)

  • Reply Kristine Davin February 20, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    Just found your page today, got to say that I love it!
    Is it normal to have that many accounts in America?
    I live in Norway, and I have three accounts: one chequing account and two savings accounts. I recently started investing in a couple of funds, but I don’t have any credit cards (I used to have one, but I recently terminated it, since I stopped using it over six months ago.)
    Also have to add that it hasn’t been long since I started putting money in my savings accounts and actually letting them stay there, it’s such a great feeling!

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