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Financial Guidance in Uncertain Financial Times

I first met Sherry Andrew when I hosted a unique open house here in town with a beautiful home I had for sale on Ingersoll Ave. I invited a local stager, lender, inspector and brought Sherry in to offer any budgeting help that potential Open House visitors may need. I went on to use her services for myself. As a busy agent it can be difficult to stay on top of your budget and the details of your business when you are hyper focused on the needs of your clients for buying and selling. She really helped me understand my spending for both personal and business. I was able to separate the two and be become better organized with my finances. I used her budget tips and continue to follow Sherry with all her helpful information. Sherry has offered some insightful tips to be mindful of your budget during the pandemic and beyond.  

I encourage you to reach out to her for any questions you may have or if you need help trimming your spending right now during this very unusual time we are in.

Her website:

We are over a month into so many changes related to the COVID-19 virus. It is impacting our lives in so many ways. A big impact for many of us, is the financial impact. Job loss, reduced hours, or loss of business for self-employed individuals has many of us worried about the future. Although there are many things out of our control, there are things we can do to reduce the financial impact to your household. Let’s dive into some proactive steps you can take!

The #1 financial tip at anytime really, but even more so now is to pay attention to your money. How much is coming in and where is it all going. When I start working with my one-on-one clients this is the most important step.

Action: Look back through your bank and credit card statements for a few months and identify where your money is going. Break it down on categories that make sense to you. A key area to focus on is what I call day-to-day expenses. Items that we purchase regularly and that the amounts can vary significantly (groceries, restaurants, misc spending—like Amazon). You must know where you are starting to identify areas you want to change.

The biggest impact to financial success, especially during uncertain times is to have a plan for your money each month. If you were going somewhere you had never been before, you would put the address your phone or your car to get directions to your destination. You would make sure you had a plan to get you there, yet so many people do not have a plan for their money each month. The word budget brings up thoughts of restrictions and no fun…ever. I believe the opposite, having a budget allows you to align your spending with your goals and dreams. If you have big plans to travel when the dust settles, you need to include it as part of your budget.

Action: You can probably guess what is coming…build a budget, or two. If your income has been impacted, I recommend building a ‘normal’ budget with your pre-COVID income and an emergency budget for right now. When I lost my job very unexpectedly in 2017, going through
our budget and cutting back everywhere we could allowed me to focus on building my business. Use the information you gathered above to start your plan. Use what works for you, it could be a notebook, a whiteboard or if you are a lover of spreadsheets, you could go sign up to receive my free budget template at

Some potential areas to reduce your expenses:
Where should I start?

  • Credit cards—call your credit card companies to request a reduction in your interest rate. Even before this pandemic, this is something my clients had success with, now credit card companies have even more option to help.
  • Communications bills—contact your communications providers and ask them what they can do for you to help to reduce your monthly bill. Using FB messenger is a great option if available, especially if you have kids running around making lots of noise. Our bill used to be over $400, it is now ~$250! Utility Bills—many of you may be working from home which will increase utility bills. Having your home office set up on a power bar that you can turn off or unplug at the end of the day will help. Unplugging anything that you aren’t using will also help. You’re not going to get rich doing this, but every little bit helps.
  • Insurance—if you are working from home, you can contact your insurance provider to check into options about reducing your car insurance premiums.
  • Grocery spending—Our hand is being forced in this category, being home so much makes this a great time to start meal planning. Planning out your meals for the next few weeks and shopping only once will help you spend less and give you the peace of mind to know you have a plan. If you are worried about expiry dates, lots of staples can be frozen, bread, milk and meat are all regulars in our freezers. If you’ve got kiddos at home, involving them in this process can be a great experience for them.
  • Online shopping—this is a category that is likely starting to add up these days. Being at home so much and increased stress and emotions can increase our urge to spend. To help keep you on track with your spending here are some tips:
    • Remove your credit card numbers, actually having to get up and get your card could be enough to make your rethink a purchase.
    • Unsubscribe from promotional emails, these used to be a trigger for me to spend. Now that they don’t hit my inbox, that temptation is not there.
    • Make a commitment to yourself, to have a cooling off period for online purchases. Waiting 24, 48, 72 hours, or even longer can help you to evaluate if you really do want to make the purchase. The higher an item costs, the longer I recommend the cooling off period should be.

If your income has stopped or is significantly reduced, contact your lenders to explore options.
They are here to help you. Deferring of payments or pausing interest can be a huge help to you. If you are looking into these options be sure to understand the full impact of these temporary deferrals.

Learn from this situation-and know that you don’t have to do it on your own. As we are all experiencing right now, life can throw you curve balls. If you feel unprepared right now, you can take action to be more prepared next time. Having your emergency savings in place can help to reduce your financial stress when the next curve ball comes. When I lost my job, we were not prepared financially and that scared the crap out of me. We made so many changes to our finances and today I am thankful that we have a cushion to help us in crazy financial times—like a pandemic!

If you need some guidance please reach out, you can drop me
an email at

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COVID Mental Health Tips

Amanda Prokopwicz, Psychiatric Nurse Woodstock General Hospital offers a wealth of experience and professional advice. I first met Amanda as a client. Both her and her fiance trusted in me to assist them with their first home purchase. I am happy to say they have decided to make their first home in Ingersoll in a beautiful older century home that will easily accommodate them plus Amanda’s son. After meeting and getting to know Amanda I learned that she was a Psychiatric Nurse and worked locally at the Woodstock General Hospital.

Amanda was easily a great fit to give some wonderful tips and suggestions to help us all cope during this very unprecedented time. Social distancing is something new to us and our communities across the globe. This time may be causing many uncertainties, emotions and anxiety. I reached out to

Amanda to provide us with some helpful tips to keep ourselves feeling more balanced and aware of how we are coping. I hope you find her information as useful as I did. Sometimes its the little things we do that keep us feeling somewhat “normal” in and “not-so-normal” time. 

Ensure you are maintaining regular routine. Whether it is maintaining a working from home schedule, travel to work, home-schooling schedule, or adapting to life with young children in the home. Ensure you attending to a regular schedule of work, play and home routine, along with self care. If you find yourself stuck in a rut in terms of motivation to maintain routine, research behavioral activation tips and examples online.

You owe it to yourself to freshen up each morning. Shower, take a hot bath, use a hair mask, moisturize, try on those outfits that you “never wear”. Spend time on a new self care routine for yourself with this extra time.

There is truly nothing more refreshing than taking in some good ol’ vitamin D. Make a routine to ensure you are getting outside for an hour a day. If you are high risk, or unable to access the outdoors at this time, sit near a open window, or opt for a “sun lamp”. Vitamin D is crucial not only for bone health but for proper brain development and functioning. Low levels of vitamin D are associated with depression, anxiety and seasonal defective disorder.

Spend a few minutes a day moving your body- whether it’s dance or exercising. An activity such as dance or exercising increases your heart rate and causes a release of feel-good endorphins into the bloodstream. Exercise also releases cortisol, which is a stress hormone. Shake what your mama gave ya! If you are unsure where to start, there are many exercise videos such as Zumba, and dance routines uploaded onto Youtube.

During this time, it may be easy to find yourself stuck in poor eating habits, forgetting or avoiding to eat. Research has shown links from poor diet including high levels of saturated fat, refined carbohydrates and processed food products to depression and anxiety. Seek a diet rich in Omega 3, Fruits and Vegetables- and support local if you can and challenge yourself to that recipe you have been dying to try! Lastly, be mindful of your fluid intake, the 8 cup a day rule still applies, but I’m sure you can challenge yourself to 10!

Keep in touch with your support system! Frequency is more important than duration, regardless if it is a quick visit with your grandparents through their front window, Facetime with wine with the girls, a Friday night zoom chat with the boys, a phone call to your niece to say goodnight, or a conference call with your colleagues. That friend from college that you haven’t spoke to in years? Reach out to her, chances are she sees your Facebook posts of your kids, and is wondering how you are doing as well! There is truly no time like the present. Stay connected, and don’t be afraid to be raw with verbalizing your emotions. Although struggle looks different for us all at this time, change of routine, and isolation will impact even the strongest link. And lastly, don’t forget to keep dating your partner! Whether you are quarantined together or apart, make a habit to engage in simple, home based (or virtual) date nights together.

Self care! We hear it over and over again, but do we really have time to practice it as much as we would like? We owe it to ourselves to show our bodies extra kindness right now! Studies have shown, successful, and simple self care start with a sensory component- you know, the stuff you were so focused on researching for your toddler. Engage with something you can see, hear, smell, touch, or taste! Whether it’s a photo of
your vegetable garden from last year, your favorite podcast, lavender essential oil, a soft blanket, or an ice cream cone. Studies have further shown cold sensations can aid anxiety, reducing overwhelming feelings or impulsive actions.

Find your space! This cannot be stressed enough. Allowing yourself a comforting space to unwind and unload and practice self care, especially during this time where space is of the essence can truly make an impact on your mental health. These spaces can be as simple as a cozy corner of the couch, or a backyard hammock.

Spend time with your children; expect behavioral issues and respond gently and effectively. Just as you, children thrive on regular routine, and prediction to feel safe. Continue to check in with your children, and allow for a “safe place” to unload emotion. Children historically struggle to endorse emotions verbally, therefore pay extra attention to behaviors. Provide reassurance and validation to their concerns, aid with homework as you can, and stick to a schedule. Provide as much certainty in this uncertain time as you can.

Be good, and see the good. Help others as you can- support small businesses, front line workers, reach out to assist the elderly, isolated, and those with poor supports at this time. Understand the struggles of co-parenting and parenting at this time, and develop a parenting schedule while rotating duties and emotionally checking in to ensure the physical and emotional load of isolation is well managed at this time. A kind reminder that this may be the times where your parenting partner requires extra support, and roles may fluctuate from 50-50. Remember, we cannot control the
circumstances, but we can control how we respond and manage.

It seems news articles are being issued hourly, and information changes rapidly. Find a trusted resource to relay on for a daily update, and set a daily time limit on how much you consume.

Utilize your supports! Many doctors, counselors, psychiatrists and several community based supports (such as Canadian Mental Health Association, Walk in Counseling of Oxford County, Narcotics anonymous, Alcoholics anonymous) are offering support by phone or video call. HERE 24/7(Waterloo Wellington) 1-844-437-3247 and REACH OUT (Oxford) 1-866-933-2023 are local mental health, crisis and addiction services to access or explore options for support for yourself or a loved one. Other helpful mental health supports include Bounce Back Ontario and Big White Wall – which can both be accessed online for free. Parents- continue to connect with each other to share home schooling successes and failures. Local food resources can be accessed through Salvation Army or Inn out of the cold.

Although we are distant, oxford county has ensured the community remains more supported now than ever.

The uncertainty of this time can cause heightened anxieties, frustrations, and confusions. It is important to focus on what we can control, live in the moment while slowly preparing for the future, and reflect on what we have learned from this experience and how we can utilize that knowledge to promote change. A kind reminder that this pandemic is temporary, but growth is permanent.

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Overburdened with debt during COVID-19?

Julie Brenneman is a local Financial Mortgage Broker and owner of The Mortgage Centre-Hometown Financial. Julie has several offices in various cities and towns and has the ability to shop you the best rates as a broker specialist. She has a great local team at her home office located at 395 Dundas street who are helpful, friendly and dedicated to your mortgage needs. Julie is very involved in the communities she serves and has a great website and social media presence offering additional free information to Oxford County and surrounding areas.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can get help with how you can defer your mortgage payments or if you need some refinancing advise, I would definitely give this blog a read and reach out to her direct for more information based on your personal situation. Several of my clients and other Real Estate Agents have put their trust in Julie and Hometown Financial.

Check out her website for more details at

During this time, debt can seem overwhelming, and trying to figure out how to spend your money wisely can be a challenge. We have come up with 5 ways to keep yourself afloat and relieve some stress.
1. Prioritize your Debts
Housing and related shelter costs should top the list on this one. Failing to pay your mortgage [if you haven’t deferred payments] during this time can result in foreclosure on the property. Most lenders do have programs in place to help support you during this time and allow a skip-a-payment option for the time being. Utilities are ranked up there as well, as you may accrue fees during this time. If you are facing financial hardship – contact your providers and see how they can help you out.
2. Consider Refinancing to Free up Some Cash
Refinancing now is another strategy to pay down high interest debt, or other bills and lump them into one mortgage payment that may save you hundreds of dollars monthly! You may have enough equity to pull out some extra cash as well to help you out while regular pay checks are not coming in. Consider talking to a mortgage professional (me) and see what your options are right now.

4. Talk to Your Credit Card Companies
Most companies are allowing deferred payments on more than just your mortgage. Reach out to your companies today to see if this is an option for you. Credit cards, lines of credit, personal loans and auto loans are all things you may be able to save on while you are off.
5. Talk to Your Auto Insurance Companies
Your auto insurance premium may drop as well if you are working from home or not working at all. As you are using your vehicle less and not using it for work travel, this may change the monthly/annual payment on your insurance. Talk to your insurance agent or company today and see what options you have.
6. Seek Advice From a Professional
There may be even MORE ways to save you money or help you out – consider talking to a professional financial advisor to see how they can guide you in the right direction. The government offers support in multiple different ways right now, and you may not be utilizing it to your full advantage.

If you are considering refinancing, or just need mortgage advice, feel free to reach out to me anytime at 519-539-6153.

Julie Brennerman, The Mortgage Centre
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Tips for listing your home

We all seem to have a bit of extra time on our hands right now, and we are staring at the walls around us – which is likely our homes.

What if you had planned on selling your home this season? Or what if you find yourself with the need for something to do …anything…to keep you busy. Either one needs an answer and that is invest time and some money into your home.

With budgets being carefully considered we put together a list of projects that are affordable and will increase the value of your home. We also invited Interior Designer Patrine Frey of Patrine Frey Creative Design to give us some tips.(

List of simple tasks to invest in:

  1. Paint fresh new colours ( neutrals best)
  2. Update cabinet hardware throughout house
  3. Street appeal matters – cleaning up the front lawn, placing coloured cushions on a chair or bench, hanging a seasonal wreath, clean driveway and sidewalk etc.
  4. New lighting or clean existing hanging lights.
  5. Updating the electrical covers and light switch covers throughout the house.
  6. Organizing linen closets and all closets to make them more organized and spacious.
  7. Wash the windows inside and out. Don’t forget the screens!
  8. Paint front door for a fresh new look

Another great idea is to tour your home and check off these tasks before selling:

  • updating the panel with an certified electrician and update the breaker labels if necessary
  • test the breakers
  • change out the furnace filter
  • clean out dryer vent inside the dryer and the venting outside
  • check the gas fireplace for the pilot light.
  • Make sure the attic is getting proper ventilation.
  • Turn A/C on to check its working.
  • Hard water can erode your faucets and shower heads so consider giving them a clean.

From our friend Patrine Frey

If Listing Your Home this Spring – Here are my thoughts!

Step 1
Emotionally detaching from your home may be difficult. It’s hard to realize your house is just a structure that will be filled by other people but you made it your home by living there. Your next house will be your next home.

Step 2
Lighting makes a huge difference in how a home looks to a prospective buyer. It’s really important to upgrade dated fixtures. Letting the light in for example really shows off your fixtures. You need to look at every room in your home and ensure the lighting is doing the work for you.

Step 3
Get all your paperwork ready regarding utility bills, renovations details, warranties, rental contracts etc. This will be important for your real estate agent as potential buyers will want to know the details of these.

Step 4
Start de-cluttering – one room at a time, starting with the bathroom.
Remove all toiletries you have visual. Put them in a basket & bring out when needed. Buy some white towels, put them in a basket, bring them out and hang them in place of your daily ones, for a showing or when photos are getting taken. Look around with a critical eye – would an upgrade of faucets make the space more appealing, is the space hyper-clean. Even if you can’t upgrade your bathroom make it super clean and with a minimalistic style, it will appear so much better.  A real quick fix is towel racks and toilet paper holders.

Step 5
The kitchen is the number one space most prospects are interested in. De-cluttering the countertops is so important. Only decorative items or two in these spaces. Do a spring clean inside the cupboards and wipe down the outsides.
Have a hard look at your appliances, are they good shape, are you keeping them? If you plan for these to be part of the sale then, they need to look great, no items stuck on the fridge.
Look at your facets could they be upgraded?  Could your kitchen walls use refresh paint? Always a neutral colour.
Is the floor in great shape? Are the counter surfaces in great shape? This space is where you could do a mini-renovation with a good return on investment. If you can manage it the best place to spend money is counters and floors.

Step 6
Living/dining rooms/great rooms
All of these spaces fall under the same view. It’s important that these spaces look spacious.
Remove extra furniture and furnishings, then leave what you believe is the “prettiest” and most useful. Take down personal pictures & the cluttered artworks.
Make sure the windows are clean and window treatments are in good shape.
Refresh walls with a neutral colour if needed.
Add fresh flowers as a decorative touch. Have a real discerning eye for the shape of the flooring. This is another space where an upgrade would return the investment.

Step 7
Every closet in the home must be de-cluttered. Every prospect opens closet doors. The storage space must look ample enough. So leave them half empty. You are moving so packing away what you do not need is smart.

Step 8
Your entrance to your home sets the tone for the buyer. They say a prospective buyer will form an opinion within 15 seconds of entering a home. You will want the initial reaction positive as soon as anyone enters. Make sure the space is open and clean – no clutter. The walls are freshened up with a neutral paint colour, the flooring is in excellent shape. The coat closet should be attractive & inviting. The lighting is bright & attractive.

Step 9
The lower level of your home, finished or unfinished needs to as de-cluttered as possible – the idea is to have the spaces as open visually as possible, the lighting perfect, the walls if painted in excellent shape. Flooring clean & I’m good repair. Remember prospective buyers will see your home first in pictures. What they are looking at is the space not your furniture, remember it is the shape of the structure that matters.

Step 10
The bedrooms – make sure the bed coverings are beautiful, simple & always made. Decorative pillows would be amazing. The bedrooms always look better with a made bed. The rest of the space only needs minimal furnishings, night stands & dressers cleaned off with only light fixtures or flowers. Windows clean & window treatments in excellent shape.  Lighting needs to be bright to show the space.

Step 11
The curb appeal matters. Take a real look from the street view of your home. Make sure your front door is in amazing shape, paint wise. The door handles are in good repair. Clean up your garden area, no matter what season. Your front door landing needs to be inviting, a simple pretty container plant is preferred, makes the space look uncluttered.
Your real estate agent will always be there to help you with getting for a home in selling shape. They may suggest a home stager, but always remember the professionals who you are working with are there to help you realize the best value for your home.

When you are ready to list, be sure to contact me for more help as we navigate this unprecedented time together. Also, check out my Virtual Services page on my website where I showcase how I showcase your property Virtually.