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How to beer-proof your budget
by FCNB on 

How to beer-proof your budget 

One of my friends and I were talking about how she came to own a machine that carbonates water, despite the fact she barely drinks carbonated water. It turns out she’d bought it on impulse after dinner and drinks out with friends. So, although she rarely uses the machine she keeps it as a reminder that money and alcohol don’t mix. I’ll admit – I love online “window shopping”.  But I’m careful to do it with the right frame of mind. I rarely make a purchase unless I need something that I can find at a great price online, and I keep my credit card away from the computer desk.  I know that online shopping spree with a glass of wine or suds in hand may seem like a great idea at the time, but, along with the credit card statement, I’d also likely be dealing with a hefty case of buyer’s remorse.  Mixing shopping and alcohol can lead to blown budgets, credit card abuse, and even identity theft.

Alcohol knocks down our inhibitions, making us more impulsive and less able to stand up to temptation. We tend to spend more money after a drink or two.  Retailers recognize this and send “happy hour” marketing emails, or they launch online sales later at night to catch the post-bar crowd. To guard against such practices, check out our program “I’m Worth It”.  It’s full of spending and saving information to help you develop your skills as a smart consumer.

Here are some tips to “booze proof” your budget and to avoid waking up with a spending hangover:

Leave credit cards at home or in another room.  If you know you’ll be sipping a little, leaving the cards at home can help remove the temptation to spend more than you have.  Leaving your purse or wallet in another room can also help.  The simple act of having to walk to another room may be enough to deter (or at least give you time to reconsider) the purchase. When shopping online, it’s also a good idea to not leave things in your cart that you could come back to and one-click buy later. 

Make a list and stick to it. If you do have shopping to do, make a list of things you need to purchase.  Put the price of the items on the list for that extra reminder of your budget. That way, even if you do have a little extra “glow” while making purchases, they’re ones you have already included in your budget.  Even though you may get a great deal on an online purchase, if you didn’t budget for it or make a plan to pay off the credit card bill, the added interest charges can end up costing you much more in the long-run.

Shop first.  If you are meeting friends to do some shopping and socializing, and you know there will be alcohol involved, get the shopping done first.  Then relax and enjoy a social drink without worrying about waking up to find out you’re the proud owner of a new cashmere sweater that looks alarmingly similar to one you already own, or a leather recliner for your man-cave that you don’t recall purchasing.  And don’t forget to budget safe transportation home if you do enjoy a social drink or two once the shopping is done!

Always keep receipts.  If you do wake up with a regrettable purchase, you may be able to return the item under the store’s return policy.  But remember, a store does not have to take the item back just because you changed your mind.  Each store sets their own return policy, so know the details before you make a purchase.

These tips can help you this holiday season to ensure you don’t end up with more than you bargained or budgeted for.

More information about smart spending, budgeting and preventing buyer’s remorse is available at   

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After an indulgent summer, here’s how to get back on your financial track
by FCNB on 

After an indulgent summer, here’s how to get back on your financial track

As the cool breeze blows through my window these days, I find myself asking, where did the summer go?

Sure, it’s not technically over until September 22nd, but try telling that to the kids who are back in the classroom and the frazzled parents who are trying to get their families back in to some sort of routine. I bet they won’t be laughing!

Between the longer days, the trips to the beach, the lazy bonfire nights, and vacation days, summertime can feel like such an indulgence. And, before you know it, fall sneaks up on you, carrying a heap of responsibilities with it.

More than likely, you’ve opened your wallet in the midst of your summer fun – and in some cases, maybe you’ve overspent once or twice.

So you got off track

It’s normal to stray from your financial plans, but try not to get discouraged. No one ever said it was easy to do (unless they were trying to sell you something). Now is a great time to make a September resolution, according to life coach Lisa Carpenter in a CBC interview.

Here are some tips to help you get back on track for your financial goals.

1. Identify your most important financial goal

If you have more than one financial goal, you can take advantage of the time that’s passed since you last made them. One will likely be more of a priority than the others – paying down debt, for instance, would take precedence over saving for a nonessential item. In other cases, it could be the opposite – replacing your car before it dies might have to come before paying off debt. Follow your own judgement – there is no “one size fits all” in the financial world!

2. Make a new plan

Ask any pro athlete - a goal is just a goal until you have a plan to achieve it. The plan can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be – and we have a budgeting tool that can help you do just that.

3. Plan for next year

The big expenses that come up around September are fresh in your mind – so plan for next year. Try to start setting money aside right now so that when it’s time to buy school supplies, textbooks, sports registration fees, car inspections – you’ll be ready.

4. Set reminders for yourself

Maybe it’s a calendar reminder on your phone, or a note in your agenda, or even an email that you schedule to yourself in advance. Regardless of how, the why stays the same: you want to stay accountable to yourself on your goals. We lead busy lives – it’s easy to lose sight of your goals, so a little tap on the shoulder can help remind you of what’s important in the long term.

And if you stray from your plan again, no problem. Just go back to step one and try again!

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Life Insurance - The Basics
by FCNB on 

Life Insurance - The Basics

Talking about life insurance can be morbid – there I said it. And, when I sat down with my husband to tell him we were expecting a child and the second comment out of my mouth was that we needed to increase our life insurance, you had better believe that he thought I was being morbid. But, here’s the thing: people don’t buy life insurance because they like thinking about why they need it, rather they buy it to protect their loved ones. As much as I don’t like the thought of dying, I HATE the thought of leaving my husband and two young children without the resources that they need to thrive.

What does it cover?

Life insurance can provide funds that can be used to pay for day-to-day expenses by replacing the income of the deceased. It can also provide funds that can be used for other costs such as the funeral, legal costs, debts or taxes.

How does it work?

Buying life insurance can be complicated; there are many products available in the market from different providers. Each company that sells insurance might have different features and benefits (known as riders, which are outlined in your policy), but the types of insurance products offered by each company tend to be relatively similar. Over the next few paragraphs, I’ll try to provide some clarity on how life insurance works. 

Life insurance is a contract between the policy owner (consumer) and the insurer (company who underwrites the policy). For traditional life insurance, the policy owner will pay an agreed upon premium over a period of time and the insurer will pay out a set amount (death benefit) in the event of the death of the policy owner.

What are the different types of life insurance?

As mentioned above, there are different types of life insurance to cover many different scenarios. Here are the three common ones:  

Term – A term policy pays a death benefit if the insured person dies during the term of the policy. Term insurance is intended to cover temporary insurance needs. For example, someone may decide to purchase a 25 year term insurance policy to cover a mortgage. Terms can range for a period of time such as 5, 7, 10 or twenty year terms, or until the insured person reaches a certain age, such as 60 or 65. During the term, the insured person would pay set premiums, which tends to be lower at the beginning of the term, but may be higher in later years. At the end of the term, the premiums end and the insurance coverage ends.

Whole Life – A whole life policy is an insurance policy that generally has set premiums with both a death benefit and an accumulated a cash value. If a policy holder decides to surrender their policy prior to death, the cash value from the proceeds of the savings component would be paid out. In some cases, policy holders can also borrow against the cash value.

Universal – A universal life policy pays a death benefit if the insured person dies, but it also provides tax sheltered savings in the form of an investment account. As with all insurance, to hold a Universal Life policy, you pay premiums. Part of your premium goes towards funding your death benefit, while the rest goes into a tax-sheltered fund (a reserve account) that earns investment returns. You can choose to increase the amount that goes in to the reserve account and make decisions on how that excess amount is invested. Upon death, in most cases, the company pays the death benefit agreed upon in the policy, and the money from the savings component is also paid to your beneficiary (ies), however there are other options available and it’s important to understand what those options are when you’re establishing the policy.

Before buying in to this type of contract, find out what the surrender charges (fees) are if you want to get out of the policy in the first ten years. If you decide to surrender the policy there may be tax implications as well. Additionally, administrative charges on this type of insurance product tend to be higher than on term products.

What else do you need to know?

In addition to the products mentioned above, there are other individual life insurance policies available, and different companies may have different benefits available depending on the type of policy you purchase. It’s important to understand the type of policy you are buying, any administrative fees as well as any surrender charges if you cancel your policy. Talking about your individual situation with a professional, such as an accountant, about the tax implications associated with insurance policies may also help inform your decision. Make sure your insurance agent is licensed to sell in the province – search the insurance license database by clicking here. As well, have an in-depth conversation with your insurance agent and never sign anything that you don’t understand or aren’t comfortable with.

The Financial and Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC), an independent body that works to protect and inform consumers, has a calculator to help you determine your insurance needs. We also have information on choosing an insurance provider, making a claim and avoiding insurance fraud, click here for more resources. 

Dealing with the death of a loved one is complicated enough without adding in extra stress about finances. In the event something were to happen to me, I want my husband to have the peace of mind knowing that our family’s financial future isn’t in jeopardy so he can be there for my boys emotionally and physically. Knowing we’ve taken care of our life insurance needs gives me the peace of mind today so that I can focus on my family’s day-to-day adventures!

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Question of the Week: What is tenant's insurance and why do I need it?
by FCNB on 

Question of the Week: What is tenant's insurance and why do I need it?

You’ve bought your textbooks, paid your tuition and moved into your apartment to kick off the academic year. But have you purchased tenant insurance? If you’re renting an apartment or house – or have a child who is -  it’s a good idea to get a policy that protects your possessions.

What is tenant's insurance?

Tenant's insurance can protect your possessions in the case of theft, loss or damage. It can cover:

  • damage to or loss of your possessions
  • personal property stolen from your vehicle
  • accidental damage you cause to any part of the apartment building or rental unit
  • injury caused to visitors
  • additional living expenses if your rental unit is damaged by an event covered in your policy, and you cannot live there while it is being repaired

Do I need tenant's insurance?

The short answer is yes. If you are renting your home, you need tenant's insurance, because your landlord's insurance does not protect your stuff. As a tenant, you're responsible for any damage you cause to your apartment, its contents and the rest of the building, as well as any accidental injury you cause to visitors and other tenants. Your insurance should cover the cost of replacing everything in your home if it is destroyed or stolen. It should also cover your liability to others.

When purchasing tenant's insurance, make sure the policy meets your needs, provides enough coverage and fits your budget. Policies differ among companies so always read your policy document carefully to understand how you are protected before buying insurance.

Got your attention? More in-depth details on how to get started with tenant's insurance can be found in this blog post; or, to learn more about different types of insurance, visit the Insurance section of our website. You may also be interested in our series on moving into your first apartment.

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On your doorstep: Protecting yourself from high-pressure sales
by FCNB on 

On your doorstep: Protecting yourself from high-pressure sales

Did you hear last month that the City of Saint John put out a public notice warning residents about door-to-door salespeople making misleading statements about the city’s water quality?

The salespeople were from a private company trying to sell residents water softeners by making claims that the city’s drinking water may be hazardous to their health.

Unfortunately, this type of incident isn’t happening just in Saint John.
FCNB is responsible for the Direct Sellers Act.  This Act requires companies and individuals selling items door-to-door to obtain a licence.  Several companies are licensed in New Brunswick to sell water softeners, air purifiers and heat pumps door-to-door. However, it is a violation of the Act for these companies and their salespeople to use misleading information to try to convince the homeowner to purchase their product.

Earlier this month, Natural Resources Canada also issued a consumer caution about salespeople visiting Canadian homes trying to sell furnaces, hot water heaters and other similar equipment using misleading and high-pressure sales tactics.

Protect yourself

Door-to-door sales are considered high-pressure sales because they happen in the comfort and safety of your own home.  The best way to protect yourself is to be aware of some high pressure tactics that may be used by salespeople. The scenario could look like this.

The salesperson may:
  • Visit your home unexpectedly.
  • Ask to inspect your furnace or hot water heater.
  • Misrepresent themselves as working for your municipality, a utility company, a provincial organization or a heating/water/air purifying company.
  • Make you believe they are backed by your municipal, provincial or federal government.
  • Make you believe they are backed by ENERGY STAR®, EnerGuide or the former ecoENERGY program.
  • Try to convince you they should inspect your equipment, your tap water or your home’s air quality.
  • Tell you something is wrong with your equipment, your water quality or air quality.
  • Try to convince you to buy or rent their equipment.
  • May say it is a one-time offer only available now.

Know who’s knocking at your door

Did you know that someone going door-to-door to sell products or services in New Brunswick needs to be licensed by FCNB? As part of this licensing process, these direct sellers must undergo a criminal record check. This provides a screening process for individuals entering your home.

If you find a salesperson at your door, be sure to ask to see their licence. The licence will include:
  • the date the licence was issued and its expiry date
  • the salesperson’s name and address
  • the business name and address
  • the product they are licensed to sell
  • the signature of FCNB’s director of consumer affairs

For more tips on how to keep yourself safe from scams and frauds, check out our tips on door-to-door sales.

Before signing a contract

Purchasing and installing a heat pump, water softener or air purifier is a personal choice. But before you sign a contract, consider the following tips. Not only will they help you choose the right product for your home, they will also help you choose the right contractor for your install.

Heat pumps: A heat pump is a big investment, starting at about $3,000 for a mini-split and up to $20,000 or more for a central-ducted system. To make sure that a heat pump is right for your home, consider these factors:
  • Keep the heat in. Make sure your home is well insulated and draft-proof first.
  • Not every heat pump works the same. Some are more efficient than others and will do a good job heating a home when outside temperatures fall to -25 degrees Celsius. Others lose their effectiveness once it hits -15 C, and require additional heating sources.
  • Shop around. Get quotes, read up on different available brands and functions, and understand what Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF), Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) and BTU means.  Make sure you understand before you buy.
  • Consider your home’s size and layout. Larger houses will require higher-capacity pumps to heat and cool them properly. For ductless heat pumps, open concept layouts or large rooms yield more savings on your energy bill.
  • Expect some maintenance. You will need to clear snow from the outside unit in the winter and clean or change filters regularly.
  • Understand your financing options. Compare the cost of financing (total cost of credit – interest rate %) with a finance company or your local financial institution. If you plan on leasing, understand the term of the lease (term, rate, cost of borrowing, termination clause, etc.).
  • Understand the warranty and coverage. Many top heat pump brands require the dealer to be certified in order to offer the longest warranties available. Ensure the compressor − the most expensive part to replace − is covered. Also, ask about the warranty on the installation job. Contractors should guarantee their work for at least three months.

Air purifiers: Research the pros and cons of air purifiers before making a purchase. In many cases, you can take some simple steps to reduce indoor air irritants. Some portable air purifiers use either electrostatic-precipitator or ionizer technology that could produce some ozone, a lung irritant. Start your research by visiting the Natural Resources Canada website.

Water filtration systems: Before purchasing a water filtration system, consider having your water tested by a laboratory accredited either by the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) or the Canadian Association of Laboratory Accreditation (CALA). Some Service New Brunswick offices are also designated pick-up and drop-off points for water tests. You can find more information here. If you are connected to a municipal water system, call your local municipality to get more information about your drinking water quality.

Choosing a contractor

Selecting the right equipment to install in your home is very important, but the company you choose to do the install is equally critical. While a company may quote you a price range over the phone, you should be wary of getting an actual quote or recommendation without a home evaluation. Ask for referrals from friends and/or seek references from the company.  Search online for positive feedback from other homeowners by  checking the Better Business Bureau and general Google reviews. Make sure the contractor you select carries liability and workers’ compensation coverage and employs licensed tradespeople.

Bottom line

Before committing to purchasing from a door-to-door salesperson, make sure you’ve done your due diligence in learning about out the equipment and seeking out the installer. Don’t feel pressured by these door-to-door salespeople and sign a contract on impulse.
Before you sign, get a copy of the contract and take the time to read it. Make sure you are purchasing what is right for your needs. Remember, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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