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How to budget for the holidays

Bruce Sellery | posted Tuesday, Dec 9th, 2014

Dear Bruce

I overspend at Christmas every single year. How much should I budget for the holidays?
— Julia Graham, Burnaby, B.C.

Dear Julia,

Every family’s holiday budget is different. What you want to spend over the holidays, and what you have in terms of disposable income and pre-existing debt, are unique to you. I’ve found that the amount of your holiday budget matters less than just sticking to it — simply being conscious of your spending makes an enormous difference. That said, create a budget that’s as inclusive as possible: gifts, of course, plus food and liquor if you’re entertaining, gas if you’ll be driving to visit far-flung family members, donations to charity, tickets to holiday shows and maybe even some money to pay for a new outfit if you absolutely need one for the big holiday party. Total it, then decide what you could add or subtract to get to a number you’re comfortable with. Plan ahead to ensure you’ll have that amount in your bank account when the bills arrive in the new year. If you know you’ll be carrying debt, figure out how you’re going to pay it off well before the next holiday season rolls around. And, unless you put yourself on your gift-giving list, watch out for the “one for you, one for me” pitfall, no matter how tempting the sale is.

Dear Bruce

I backed our van into a lamp post a few months back and had to put $8,000 on my credit card for repairs. What is the best plan to pay off the debt quickly and avoid high-cost interest charges?
— Vivienne West, Calgary

Dear Vivienne,

Sorry about your van — but good for you for getting on top of this after a few months, instead of a few years. I would start with a reality check: Create a chart that lists each lender, outstanding amount, interest rate, due date and minimum payment for all your debts, then total it (see chart below). Next, choose a payment approach. Mathematically, your best option is to pay off the highest-rate card first, and pay just the minimum on the others. But some people choose the “debt snowball” method, which is to pay off the card with the lowest balance first to give them a feeling of accomplishment. Next, you need to devise a plan for how you will cut spending and/or increase income to eliminate the debt. Be specific: Are you going to transfer the balance to a lower-rate line of credit, cut eating out for three months or work extra shifts on weekends? Will those things do the trick by the deadline you set? Write the plan down on paper, then share it with at least one other person to give yourself some accountability. Best of luck.

Calculate your total debt


Dear Bruce

I want to switch my current no-frills credit card to one that rewards me with each purchase, especially since the holiday-spending season is here. I plan to pay off my purchases entirely each month. Which rewards card offers the best value?

— Anna Fraser, Halifax

Dear Anna,

My five-year-old, Abby, loves the bunny stamp she gets at gymnastics — a nice little reward for a great class. If you pay off your credit card in full every month, you deserve a reward too. MoneySense magazine has a simple online credit-card selector tool to help you find the one that’s best for you. First, the tool will ask you a few questions, like whether you would rather have cash back on your purchases, retail rewards at a particular chain or travel points. Then it’ll ask how much you spend every month on things like groceries, restaurants, clothing and gas. Finally, from your answers, it will generate a list of cards for you to choose from (based on an exhaustive analysis of each rewards program). Before you make a selection, do a gut check. For example, if you don’t fly the airline or shop at the store associated with the card, take it off the list. You will then be left with a curated list of cards best suited to your lifestyle. But remember, rewards credit cards, like gymnastics, can be dangerous, so take the proper precautions to reduce your risk of getting hurt.

All-door boarding to be allowed on the King Streetcar

Winston Sih | posted Monday, Dec 8th, 2014

Relief could be on the way for Toronto’s busiest surface route, the King streetcar.

Mayor John Tory is expected to announce a new policy allowing all-door boarding on the route, the Globe and Mail reports.

Tory will be joined by newly appointed TTC Chair Josh Colle and TTC CEO Andy Byford for the announcement.

The move could cut about six minutes off a trip of the length of the route, according to a TTC staff report published in the summer.

All-door boarding, or proof-of-payment, is already allowed on the Queen and Spadina streetcars — the second and third busiest lines.

The TTC staff report released in August recommended the policy be rolled out on streetcar routes across the network.

Tory was skeptical of the plan at the time, saying the financial implications of the nine-point plan needed to be addressed.

The King streetcar handles 57,000 passengers a day, more than the Sheppard subway.

The development of condos along the line, including Liberty Village, has led to a surge in ridership along the line.

Transit users along the crowded line took to crowd-funding a pilot project for a private bus to run during rush hour.

The new policy is expected to come with new enforcement.

As when the Spadina line started accepting proof-of-payment, the new policy would be accompanied by more fare enforcement officers.

With files from Sarah-Joyce Battersby, CityNews.ca

WATCH: ‘Calgary’s Worst Driver’ caught on camera

BT Toronto | posted Sunday, Dec 7th, 2014

Police in Calgary are searching for the star of a new viral video, but for all the wrong reasons.

After seeing this surveillance video posted to YouTube — which as of Sunday morning had more than 861,000 views — officers have started a hit-and-run investigation, and are looking for the driver of a silver BMW involved in the following painful parking job:

So what do you think: Is this the worst driving you’ve ever seen? Share your worst driver stories or videos for your city in the comments below!

Week of Dec. 8, 2014

BT Toronto | posted Sunday, Dec 7th, 2014

Coming up on Breakfast Television this week:

On Monday, Canadian pop-rock band Neverest catches up with us in studio.

Later on Wednesday, Nia Vardalos stops by to chat about her latest endeavours and what you may be seeing on the silver screen in the not-too-distant future!

We celebrate our annual BT Tree Sale with proceeds going to the Daily Bread Food Bank! Grab a tree for a great deal, while supporting those in need. Join us at Yorkdale Shopping Centre Thursday morning.

And to end off the week, we are live in St. Catharines to celebrate Rogers Hometown Hockey–tune in as we join the celebration Friday.

Be sure to watch BT weekdays 5:30 to 9 a.m. on City, right here at BTtoronto.ca, or on our Breakfast Television mobile app for iOS and Android!

Hockey Night in Canada Cheat Sheet: Dec. 6

Jeff Simmons | posted Saturday, Dec 6th, 2014

Get ready for a busy day of hockey on Saturday.

The action kicks off this week with an early game before a impressive five-game lineup that will be shown across the country, including four Canadian teams.

In the Cheat Sheet each week, we’ll provide everything you need to know for Hockey Night in Canada:

Note: All games below are listed in Eastern time.


Philadelphia Flyers at Los Angeles Kings (Sportsnet)


Vancouver Canucks vs. Toronto Maple Leafs 
Channel: CBC
Broadcast crew: Jim Hughson, Craig Simpson, Glenn Healy
Game notes: Canucks, Leafs split their two regular season matchups last season…Vancouver has won 11 of 15 road games this season…Leafs forward Phil Kessel has eight points (five goals, three assists) in eight career games against Vancouver.

Montreal Canadiens vs. Dallas Stars 
Channel: City
Broadcast crew: Paul Romanuk, Mike Johnson
Game notes: The Stars are in last place in the Central Division with 23 points in 23 games…Jamie Benn has never registered an assist against the Canadiens in his career…Canadiens goalie Carey Price started Friday night so he isn’t expected to start Saturday.

Also on Rogers at 7 p.m.:
New York Rangers at Detroit Red Wings (Sportsnet)
Chicago Blackhawks at Nashville Predators (FX)


San Jose Sharks vs. Calgary Flames 
Channel: CBC
Broadcast crew: Dave Randorf, Greg Millen
Game notes: Flames have won eight of their last 10 games…Sharks forward Joe Thornton has 39 points (seven goals, 32 assists) in 44 career games against Calgary…Karri Ramo beat San Jose in his last matchup against Sharks, registering a 32-save shutout on Nov. 26.

5 things to do this weekend: Magical forest, Brick Works on ice and making moccasins

CityNews | posted Saturday, Dec 6th, 2014

Dec. 5-7, 2014

Magical Christmas Forest: Take a walk through the woods north of the city — alive with lights and elves and other Christmas characters. Also check out Santa’s workshop and partake in crafts, carolling and treats by the fire. Kortright Centre for Conservation, 9550 Pine Valley Dr., Maple. Adults $25; children/seniors $18; three years and under free. kortright.org

Corktown Holiday Market & Social: A festive night with local artists, designers and bakers peddling everything from handmade cards to skincare. Redline Coffee & Espresso Bar, 354 Queen St. E. Friday, 7 p.m.-11 p.m. Free; non-perishable food and toys accepted for charity.facebook.com

Skating in Don Valley: The Brick Works’ outdoor skating rink — which encircles winter gardens and strings of lights under an exposed-beam roof — opens this weekend. Evergreen Brick Works, 550 Bayview Ave. Friday, 12 p.m.-6 p.m; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Free. evergreen.ca

Bob Marley and the Railers: A live band pays tribute to the late reggae star and his band, The Wailers, in the Junction neighbourhood. 3030, 3030 Dundas St. W. Friday, 9 p.m. No cover. facebook.com

Shoemaking workshops: Learn to make ballet flats, pumps or moccasins from a Toronto-based shoe designer who has heeled the likes of Cameron Diaz, Anne Hathaway and Rihanna. Ryerson University, 40 Gould St. Friday-Sunday, various times. $245-$475, including materials. artandsoleacademy.com

If you have a suggestion, email us at torontoweb@citynews.ca or submit it online atCityNews.ca or via our mobile apps.

Join the fun at the BT Christmas Party

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Dec 5th, 2014

Join the fun at the annual BT Christmas Party Friday, Dec. 19 at the Sheraton Centre Toronto hotel lobby from 5:30 to 9 a.m.!

If you want to join us bright and early on the 19th, you can book a room at the Sheraton on the night of the 18th and wear your pajamas to the party for our Spirit of the Season rate starting at $139/night!

$10 from each room night booked will be donated to Daily Bread Food Bank.  The rate will be offered from Dec. 5 through Dec. 30, so even if you can’t make it to the show, you can still get a room at the Sheraton for a great rate and a great cause.

Book online at  www.sheraton.com/tospecials and use the promo code: BTXMAS

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