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Can’t pay your bills this month? Here’s what to do

Caroline Cakebread | posted Thursday, Jun 26th, 2014

We Canadians owe a ton of money — a collective $1.4 trillion of it in fact. It’s money we’ve spent at the mall, the car dealership, at the local pizzeria. Trying to keep up with all the payments can be pretty tough if you’ve overspent, or if you suddenly find yourself unemployed.

Having to face bill payments when you know you don’t have the funds, can be stressful. But the worst thing you could do is shove those unpaid bills in a drawer and hope there’ll be money next month. Instead, take these steps to empower yourself and turn things around.

1. Don’t wait for the problem to go away

If you don’t have enough money to cover all your bills this month, don’t just avoid the stack of bills  and tell yourself you’ll deal with it next month. Face the situation head on and make a plan to get back on track now.

2. Lay it all out

Take all your bills and lay them out in front of you. Write down how much money you owe on each bill (is there a minimum payment you can make?) and when the payment is due.

3. Figure out which to pay first

Now that you’ve figured out what needs to be paid, consider the consequences of missed payments for each one. If you miss a phone bill payment, you’ll likely rack up a late charge; miss a rent payment and your landlord could possibly use it against you in eviction proceedings. There’s also your credit score to consider — missing more than one credit card payment can affect your score and make it harder for you to get credit down the road. While missed utility bills aren’t reported to rating agencies, according to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

4. Consider those interest rates

If you’re paying high interest rates on your debt, then you might want to consider moving those payments up the list. A credit card with a 19.5 percent interest rate is going to cost you big time if you miss payments. And those interest charges will make your bill harder to pay next month…and the month after that.

5. Pick up the phone

If there’s absolutely no way you can pay a particular bill on time, call up the company and explain what’s going on. A nice proactive phone call is a lot better than remaining silent. In the case of your mortgage, for example, your lender might be okay with you missing a payment, as long as they know when they can expect the next payment.

6. Do not avoid collection agencies

If you don’t pay your bills for awhile then pretty soon the company that lent you money might hire a collection agency to get the money back. If you’re getting calls from a collection agency make sure you don’t ignore them! Here’s a good article from the Globe and Mail that gives tips on how to talk to a collection agency.

7. Get better at budgeting

If you’re coming up short every month, it might be time to revisit (or make!) a budget to help you stay on top of your spending. Especially if you’ve had a change in your finances, such as a job loss or a big unexpected expense like a health crisis, then you need to adjust your budget to reflect your new reality a bit better.

8. Consider counselling

If it’s looking next to impossible to pay all your bills back, then you might want to consider credit counselling. That’s where you sit down with a credit counseling bureau to figure out how to pay your creditors back. They can lend you their expertise and help you get a grip on the problem with your creditors. Here’s some more on that topic to get you started.

Dr. Oz’s secrets to aging beautifully for every decade

Chatelaine | posted Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

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Growing old is a natural part of life, but you have the power to do it well. Here’s how to keep looking and feeling your best, decade by decade.

Bone up in your 20s.

You body builds new bone density until about age 30, so now’s the time to bolster bone health and lower your risk of osteoporosis. Eat plenty of foods rich in bone-building calcium, such as spinach, fortified orange juice, dairy products and fish. Aim for 1,000 mg of calcium from food each day (a half cup of spinach gives you 154 mg, while a half ounce of salmon will give you about 200 mg).

Save your skin in your 30s.

Protect your skin with sunscreen — applied generously and frequently, no matter the time of year. Look for products that contain retinol/retinoids and alpha-hydroxy acids. (Topical retinoids help improve skin texture while alpha-hydroxy acids even out skin tone.) Be sure your product of choice has an SPF of at least 45 for best protection.

Strength train in your 40s.

Your metabolism can really take a hit in this decade, which is when you may start seeing a loss in muscle mass. Stay strong with simple weight-bearing exercises — you don’t need a gym or a stack of weights to do it! Plank pose is great for toning arms and abs, while three sets of 10 squats a day can build your leg muscles and also strengthen your core.

Make friends in your 50s.

Social networking is critical to your health, and studies show people with strong friendships have a better sense of well-being. So schedule a daily phone call with a friend or get a workout buddy. And don’t forget sexual intimacy either: Sex has many health perks, including some bonus calorie burning.

Prioritize your beauty rest in your 60s.

Retirement can be a freeing experience, but work sometimes helps structure our lives, and if you’re not careful, a reduction in daytime activity and an inconsistent morning wake-up ritual can make it harder to get a good night’s sleep. Always aim for seven to eight hours of shut-eye and try to set a consistent schedule so that your body takes full advantage of the restorative power of rest.

Stay flexible in your 70s — and beyond.

Exercise is as important in your 70s and 80s as it was in your 20s, so try adding regular bouts of tai chi to your fitness routine. It’s a great form of slow-moving exercise that’s easy on joints and improves balance, which can help prevent dangerous falls. It also builds flexibility and knee strength. Aim for 20 minutes each day.

Read more from Dr. Oz:
Dr. Oz’s four-step summer skin Rx
How Dr. Oz stays healthy: His seven daily health rituals
Dr. Oz on sound sleep, less stress and better sex

Six tips to help you stay on top of your email

Chatelaine | posted Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

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Sabrina Geremia is manager, integrated solutions, for Google and heads up its initiative to bring talented girls from around the globe into the tech industry.

1. Separate business and pleasure

I have three different email accounts: Work, personal Gmail for friends and a third I share with my husband (it’s where we keep our family calendar to manage appointments and travel plans). Without having different inboxes I’d find it hard to keep track of who I’ve responded to and who I haven’t.

2. Try face time

If an email thread becomes too long, includes too many people or is delivering bad news, it’s probably not the right medium. This is the moment to get up from your desk or pick up the phone and actually have a conversation.

3. Weed out the clutter

I get over 100 emails a day so I have to have a system. When my inbox is full of unread messages, the first thing I do is delete or archive the ones I don’t need to read — I can usually tell from the subject line. The second step is to prioritize (star or label) the most important ones, then deal with them.

4. Email etiquette

Emails should be short and punchy, not essays. I often use bullets, or I bold key messages to make it clear what the purpose of the email is. Also, I don’t care how short it is — that’s no excuse for sloppy grammar, spelling, salutations or language.

5. Stop the deluge!

I regularly take a few moments to unsubscribe from unwanted emails. Simple, I know, but it really makes a difference. I’ve also found that the less email I send the less I receive.

6. Schedule screen time

Every Friday I sit down with my assistant to look at the week ahead and prioritize my time. Then we slot in blocks of work time. I use it to catch up on my emails. When I’m with my family I make sure I spend real time with my children instead of being distracted by my phone. The same goes for my team. We’ve developed a culture of not sending work-related emails on weekends unless it’s incredibly urgent.

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