Meet Janine, she’s a tax specialist by day, a personal finance blogger by night and a member of our Smart Buys Wine Club. She gives her two cents on making (and keeping) financial resolutions, and how to budget for life’s little luxuries, like wine!
VS: By day, you’re a tax specialist, tell us more about that.
JR: Well I always tell people it’s more interesting than it sounds! People just think all I do is sit there and crunch numbers, that’s definitely not the case. I get to work with a variety of different companies, all the way from start-ups to public companies in the Calgary area. I get to help them figure out how strategize their taxes, pay less tax, efficiently structure their business. Sometimes we get to act as consultants for businesses on how to run more efficiently so I really enjoy that piece of it!
VS: In your spare time, you’ve started a blog called ‘My Pennies, My Thoughts’, how did it get started?
JR: It’s an interesting story. I don’t think my parents ever really talked to me much about money, they always said you should save some but that’s about the gist of my financial literacy from them. I started working in between university years and I was super bad with money – I would spend everything I made and had nothing to show for working a pretty good job. I knew then that something wasn’t working, I should have more money than this! The blog kind of started as a way for me to document what I was spending my money on, and to try and figure out what a TFSA is, and it suddenly snowballed into how to live a balanced life – which is where it’s kind of gone. (Find her blog here)
VS: What does your average day look like?
JR: There are no average days in my life! I go to work in the morning, but PWC is pretty flexible with when you come in and leave as long as you’re around for core hours. I didn’t start until 10:30 this morning but there are other days when I start at 7:30. It’s pretty dependent on the work I have going on. My ideal day would be the gym or barre class after work, and then going home and having dinner (and wine) with Andrew – my husband. I often have events in the evening, or I’m writing. I don’t stop!
VS: What have you learned from blogging?
JR: The biggest thing I’ve noticed is that I’ve definitely improved as a writer, when you start to write professionally and you’re paid to do it, it changes how you write. I’ve learned the importance of network and community, it’s definitely about who you know, not necessarily what you know. Blogging has pushed me to ask for more, if you don’t ask the answer is always no. It’s uncomfortable at times, asking businesses or bloggers for things, it’s definitely taken me out of my comfort zone which is good!
VS: Who should read your blog?
JR: Everybody! It’s geared more towards millennials, but I think there is information on there for anyone. I remember being in high school and not knowing what I wanted to do, I thought I wanted to be a doctor, but I’m scared of blood so that didn’t really work. I wanted to be a doctor because I wanted to make a difference and help people, it took me a long time to figure out that I could do that with money. So anyone who is stressed about money or wants to better their financial situation, that’s who I want to help.
VS: You’re obviously passionate about finance and taking control of your wealth – how did your journey begin?
JR: I started my university career in Engineering – which was a horrible mistake for me! My Mom and Grandpa are both Chartered Accountants, it definitely runs in the family. At the time, I didn’t want to go to university for a degree I couldn’t get a job with, so I went into sciences. I wanted to be a nutritionist, it’s a very tough program with a lot of chemistry, which I don’t mind, but it’s not my favourite. By this time it was second year so my mom suggested I take an accounting course, begrudgingly I agreed. When I took the class a light bulb went off – I couldn’t believe my mom was right! Everything just took off from there, more accounting and finance, the personal finance side came with the rest and now it’s spiraled out of control and taken over my life, in a great way!
VS: Many people make financial New Years Resolutions, if you could give 3 pieces of advice to anyone with a financial resolution, what would they be?
- Automate your finances! The harder you make it to manage your money, the less likely you are to do it. It’s just like the gym, if you lay out your workout clothes the night before, you’re definitely more likely to go!
- Build a budget you can live with. So many people have the conception that budgets are limiting. But I like to look at them as a way to allocate your resources. Spend where you get the most value. If that’s wine or Starbucks, build it into your budget. If you don’t, you will be depriving yourself and you won’t stick with it.
- Start investing. It’s a challenge but the sooner you do that, the sooner you have compounding interest and compounding returns on your side.
VS: Sticking to a budget is like a new health regime, they’re difficult to stick with! How do you recommend people stay on top of their financial goals?
JR: Sticking to any new year’s resolution is tough. So the easier you make it the more likely you are to stick to it. For me and my husband, we get paid on the 15th and 30th so on the 16th and 1st, all of our transfers happen – our bills get paid, and some money goes into savings, investing, travel etc. We don’t have to think about it, it’s already done.
We bank mostly with Tangerine. Our chequing account is totally free – which is such a great benefit. Actually they pay you interest on your chequing account which is even better. From there you can set up probably 10 savings accounts (we don’t have 10!). We have an account for tax, for travel, emergency fund, a big purchase fund (like a large piece of furniture) and so on.
Once you see it separated, the separation factor makes you work towards a goal harder. Oh! And Christmas presents is another account. On January 1 we start putting money aside for the next Christmas, even if it’s just $50 every paycheque, but then we’re not stressed in January when the credit card is due!
VS: So even though you set yourself a budget, you’re still a firm believer in enjoying life’s little luxuries, like wine! How do you build something like wine into your monthly budget?
JR: When it comes to budgeting, like I said earlier, you should have a ‘Fun’ category in your budget, whether that’s going out for dinner or you put money aside for alcohol because you host a lot of parties because that’s what gives you joy and pleasure from your money, do that! Figure out a way to negotiate your rent lower or spend less on groceries, stop drinking Starbucks twice a day so you can enjoy the things that actually add value to your life. Take a step back and ask yourself, “does Starbucks twice a day give me value or does enjoying a nice bottle with my husband while watching a movie giving me more value”? I’d argue it’s the quality time – but it’s different for everyone! Budgeting needs to be based on your needs and what you enjoy!
We enjoy wine, trying new bottles with friends who enjoy wine gives us pleasure. If enjoying an expensive bottle of wine once a month is what you want to do, then make it work for you! We’re also members of the Smart Buys Wine Club so that helps us keep our ‘Fun’ spending in line.
VS: You and your husband, Andrew, are relatively newly-weds (congrats!), when it came to your wine budget and selection, do you have any tips for those planning their nuptials?
JR: Compared to most people, we’re definitely wine snobs. We wanted to find a balance between expensive wine, that most people wouldn’t appreciate, but also still wanting people to enjoy the wine. We tried to find a wine that most people would enjoy, that was still quality and reasonably priced. We put different wine on the head table, and the table of bridal party’s spouses because most of them are good friend and appreciate good wine. We had more expensive wine for those tables and the others got three bottles for each of the other tables, we went with Grey Monk Latitude 50 – we got married in Vernon so we picked it up from the winery the day before which definitely saved us money!
VS: Are there any tools, apps or websites you can recommend to help keep people on top of their spending?
JR: Mint.com is a pretty decent resource. I use Money by Jump Soft, it’s for Macs. I’m a great fan of Excel, if you go to the Templates tab on Excel they have a bunch of pre-populated budget templates. You should obviously read my blog! Oh – and another source, Leslie-Anne Scorgie, an author of 3 financial literacy books (and my mentor!), she is really good at breaking finance down. If you’re looking for a new year’s book to read, that would be the one. They are easy to understand and she is fantastic, and she’s from Alberta.
VS: What is your most memorable wine moment?
JR: We went for dinner at my parents when we lived in Edmonton, my dad was cooking a roast. My mom had told him to add some wine to it. My Dad fussed about the roast all day, it smelled so wonderful and he was so proud, it was delicious. So, we asked what he put on it, he proudly walks to the wine cabinet and pulls out a bottle of Auditors Port. My Mom is PWC alum, every year PWC purchases grapes from a vineyard in Portugal and get them to make a limited release port for them that is certainly not cheap. My mom’s face dropped – she gets one bottle a year, we always open it on Christmas Day to share with the family and he had gone and used half the bottle on this roast! A $40 roast turned into a $250 roast! Always check the bottle!
VS: What are you looking forward to most in 2017?
JR: We’re going to Europe in May for a friend’s wedding – that’s what I most looking forward to. So we’re doing the UK, Ireland, Paris, Amsterdam and home. We’ll be gone just over two weeks and I can’t wait! I’m also just looking forward to a better year, 2016 was not one for the books!
VS: Of our wine styles, which one represents you best, and why?
JR: I asked my husband about this one. He said, ‘Elegant’, I don’t think that’s me at all, I would go ‘Bold’. I have a bold personality I like to challenge people on their opinions, whether or that’s money or not. I want people to stop and think critically and ask themselves the tougher questions with money or life!
Visit Janine’s blog at http://mypenniesmythoughts.com/
Answers have been edited for clarity & brevity.