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July 22, 2019

This July/August vacation, do something new and different to build positive financial habits and enhance your savings. Consider taking on a ‘No Spend Vacation Challenge’.


As you would have seen in our recent video: How to own your home by age 30 , there are many items and activities competing for your disposable income, including entertainment. However, developing healthy spending and saving habits can help you realise your dream of home ownership sooner rather than later. The money saved during this challenge could be put toward your down payment or other associated mortgage costs. Let’s dive in and explore this ‘No Spend Vacation Challenge’.


Needs versus Wants

Start by listing the costs that are needs versus those that are wants. Having this written out can also add clarity and awareness of where the money ‘disappears’ to each month, and inform heightened control of your spending. Cross-reference your bills, receipts and credit card statement to identify things you may have forgotten, and categorize them on your list into the ‘Need’ section or the ‘Want’ section. Be honest with yourself here. For example, things like rent, groceries and utilities would be ‘Needs’ whereas things like eating out, clothing and expensive phone plans would be ‘Wants’. The goal is to eliminate or reduce the spending on ‘wants’ for the duration of your challenge.


Commit to a time period

To clearly define success, it’s important to have a specific time period that you’re engaging in this challenge.  Do whatever feels right for you and your circumstances. It could be something as simple as selecting a timespan like “the next 15 days” or if you’re open to it, for the remainder of the July/August period,  this allows a solid span of time for you to give this a go. Once you try it out, then you can extend the challenge to a longer period.


Here are some challenge ideas referenced from the Debt Free Forties blog:

  • “Weekend Challenge: This focuses on finding free activities to do with family or friends. It’s perfect for anyone who finds themselves spending too much on activities, especially with kids.
  • Week Challenge: This challenge entails making changes to your daily habits – whether it’s getting a coffee or grabbing lunch with coworkers.
  • Month Challenge: This challenge can be a bit difficult, but the rewards are greater. This is about starting to make a permanent lifestyle change, rather than just for a week. It’s about replacing poor spending habits with them with other cheaper (or free) activities.


Create the Challenge Rules

Define the rules for the challenge so you can have clear boundaries of what’s acceptable. For example, identify which purchases are permitted and display this list where you and your family can see it.  Decide whether you’re locking away your credit card for the duration and if so, consider setting aside cash for anticipated needs such as groceries. Then don’t be shy to share these rules with your family and friends so they can help keep you accountable and maybe they will even join in!


Set yourself up for success

Brainstorm which things will be the biggest temptations and plan for them. For example, if you anticipate being swayed by your friends when they are in the mood to go out and lime, research free activities you can put forward as alternatives, or suggest a potluck instead of eating together at a restaurant.

We hope this challenge can helps you grow your budgeting muscle. Let us know if you give it a try!





May 28, 2019

Building your own home is a meaningful milestone that may well be one of the most expensive investments you’ll make in your lifetime. To help keep the budget in check, consider taking on achievable DIY projects. We’ve put together a list of projects to get your creativity flowing and help you save!


  1. Tiling your shower and floors


For those with a high dose of patience and care for precision, tiling your shower may be the perfect DIY project to take on. You’ll need to prep the walls, plan your surface area and tiling fit carefully, determine the specific layout, then apply the thinset, tiles, spacers and grout. Have a look at these resources outlining how to tile your shower for more details.  When you’re done with your tiling project, you’ll enjoy your handiwork for years to come.



Tiling the floors may sound like a daunting task but once you learn how to do it, it can be quite straightforward. Install tile flooring by diligently following the steps of preparing the subfloor and substrate, laying out the pattern, making the tile cuts, applying thinset, laying the tiles then applying the grout. Like any project, make sure you understand the steps to install floor tile in detail before starting.


  1. Installing your kitchen cabinets and hardware


The kitchen is one of the most used and loved rooms in the house, so why not contribute by installing the cabinets for this core gathering place in your home? Start by researching your ideal cabinets and then sourcing the cabinet parts and necessary tools. Kitchen cabinet installation guides can be a big help so you’ll be doing tasks like setting the cabinet height and hanging doors in no time. Don’t be shy to ask questions to the cabinet supplier and your other resources as well, so you have a wealth of cabinet knowledge before you start.



Just like with fixtures, learning how to install cabinet hardware can put you in an excellent position to take this work into your own hands and have a beautiful array of knobs, handles and pulls installed in your home. This skill is applicable to a wide number of rooms in the home, from the kitchen to the bathroom to any storage rooms.


  1. Easy to Install Fixtures


Fixtures truly add an impactful visual finish to your home. You can learn how to install a light fixture, for example, and then be equipped to add beautiful lighting details to your house. Installing bathroom fixtures such as a decorative towel bar or showerhead can also make a considerable difference. By focusing on achievable projects, you can not only save money but proudly be a part of your home’s transformation.



  1. Painting your door and external features


Painting your home’s front door as well as external features like balusters can dramatically change the look and feel of your property. You’ll personally see the difference every time you walk into your home; changing the color of the door can make it feel like you are entering a whole new house!



  1. Add a new backsplash


A new backsplash in your kitchen can give it a more updated look and is surprisingly affordable too, not to mention one of the easier tasks for DIY-ers to handle. Peel and stick tile backsplashes can be applied without the need for expensive or hard to use tools, making this kitchen upgrade one the best bangs for your buck in terms of cost and effort required.



  1. Add removable wallpaper


Most people hear the word wallpaper and flashbacks of tacky, messy, hard to apply sheets of pure frustration spring to mind. Modern removable wallpaper takes all hassle out of it and it’s relatively affordable. For those with commitment issues, when you’re ready for a new look, simply peel it off and you’re good to go!


DIY projects are a great way to learn new skills and save on the cost of labor. We encourage you to explore the guides linked above as a starting point to mastering your own DIY home projects. Good luck and enjoy!


May 1, 2019

There is a lot that you can do to keep your house safe. The options range from purchasing homeowners insurance to installing a security system, to minimizing your risk exposure from natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods. We’ll go into more detail below so you can make sure you have your bases covered.

Homeowners Insurance

There are several circumstances which can put your home at risk. It be an act of nature such as a flood, hurricane or earthquake, or an accident such as forgetting to turn off the stove. So it is important to protect yourself and your home ahead of time. There are several Homeowners insurance options available and they cover different things based on the specific insurance policy (for example Property Insurance is very different from Content Insurance). Assess your home situation and be particularly mindful of areas where you might be highest at risk (for instance if your neighborhood is prone to flooding). Take these factors into consideration and research insurance providers and packages. Review the policy documentation fully and don’t be afraid to ask questions so you can ensure you understand exactly what you are buying and what you are covered for.

Home Security

It’s important to be proactive and safeguard your home from burglars and potential intruders. Ensure that all points of entry to the home are sturdy and in good repair. In addition, consider getting a dog or installing a security system. Home security systems aim to secure entry points including doors and windows. For those that are more tech savvy, you may be able to purchase and install your own system, or you may choose to hire an expert to set everything up and walk you through how it works. There are also options to have your security alarm connected to a security company that will check on your safety in the event of a breach. Teach your family what to do in the event of an emergency and it’s wise to have a home drill so everyone is familiar with what to do. Other helpful ways to improve the overall security of your home include keeping your property well lit (so there are fewer dark corners for intruders to hide in) and having features such as motion sensor lighting and surveillance cameras. Take the time to determine which of these options may be a fit for your home.


Plan ahead so that you are ready for seasonal weather patterns such as the rainy season when your home may be more at risk. In addition to researching your insurance options, there are precautions you can take to help minimize flood damage. For instance, investigate any changes you can make to your home such as raising electrical sockets to at least 1.5 metres off the ground. It also is important to look at lawn and drainage management to regularly clear debris and modify drainage options. For more information, have a look at this article with tips on reducing flood damage.


Trinidad and Tobago is no stranger to earthquakes so it’s prudent to be on top of earthquake preparation as well. Take a look at your home and identify any structural defects such as: cracks in walls and ceilings, structures which are not anchored to their foundations or weak crawl space walls, unbraced pier-and-post foundations and unreinforced masonry walls and foundations and seek to have them repaired. Secure furniture and heavy items that may topple over and safely store breakable items so they pose less threat. Prepare an emergency kit and ensure your whole family knows the plan of action and how to turn off gas, electricity and water. For more tips, check out this article on earthquake preparation.


Educate yourself and your family on what to do if there is risk of a hurricane. Some good resources include the Red Cross’ article on hurricane preparedness as well as FEMA’s article with hurricane safety tips. You can start with these sources to learn tips about protecting your property including installing mechanisms such as check valves in plumbing, determining which room may give the safest shelter and making other preparations such as gathering at least 3 days’ worth of supplies.

Fire hazards

As FEMA shares in its lessons on fire safety, “in just two minutes, a fire can become life-threatening. In five minutes, a residence can be engulfed in flames.” Never underestimate the risk of fire and take the time to make a fire escape plan with your household. However, simply making a plan is not enough. Rehearse it diligently so that everyone knows exactly what to do in the event a fire occurs. Install and test fire alarms regularly and replace older models according to manufacturer recommendations and also learn ways to prevent home fires such as never leaving the stove unattended while it’s on, and replacing worn appliance cords immediately.

While these items above are just some of the steps and measures you can take, there’s a lot more research you can do and it’s your responsibility to educate yourself and your family.