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Five years later, Calgary couple close to repaying $215,000 debt

ROMA LUCIW

January, 2015, will mark a joyous new beginning for Steve Finley. That’s when, at long last, the Calgary man and his wife Melinda expect to finish repaying $215,000 (U.S.) in debt.

Yes, you read that right. Five-and-a-half years ago, this couple owed a seemingly insurmountable $215,000 in student, credit card and medical debt.

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Indebted Ottawa couple says "I do" to saving for their $25,000 wedding

ROMA LUCIW

Sonja Frohberg and Matthew Kitchen’s February wedding will cost $24,646.06, a large amount for a young couple already wrestling down $35,000 in consumer and student debt.

“It seems crazy to spend that much money on this one day,” said the 27-year-old bride-to-be, who works for the federal government in Ottawa. “But I have it budgeted down to the penny. We are saving for it and ... our plan is to have every dollar of our wedding paid for by May.”

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B.C. woman repaid $26,000 student debt load in 15 months by tree-planting

ROMA LUCIW

Andrea Barnett left university at 22 with an undergraduate degree in political science and philosophy. She was also saddled with $26,000 in student-related debt.

Because her parents earned too much money, Ms. Barnett did not qualify for government student loans. Instead, her parents co-signed for her to get a student line of credit with a big Canadian bank and agreed to pay the interest until she graduated. Unlike with government loans, where students don’t pay anything until after they have completed school, banks require monthly payment on the interest while in school, although repayment of the principle amount of the loan does not start until after graduation.

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How this 23-year-old grad tackled $53,349 in student and car loans

Roma Luciw

In the fall of 2011, shortly after finishing university, Jordann Brown realized she owed $53,349.

“My story isn’t one about spending with abandon or being irresponsible,” says the 23-year-old, who works in marketing and provides content for a mortgage rate comparison website. “I did what every millennial is told to do after high school, and that put me up to my eyeballs in debt.”

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B.C. couple revamp lifestyle to start repaying $52,200 debt load

Roma Luciw

On Jan. 1, Louise Wallace took her first step down the long road toward debt freedom: She drafted a budget.

“Nothing fancy. Just a list of my revenue and my expenses so I can see where the money comes in and where the money goes out,” she said in a post on her blog, which launched New Year’s Day.

Every day since then, she has updated 365 Debt Defying Acts with various ways she has found to curb her family’s spending and chip away at their debt. “I’ve made a daily commitment to something that was once so overwhelming.”

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What qualifies as a good credit score?

Claire Neary

My partner and I have always been competitive. When we met and started dating in university we compared grades and drinking skills. Now that live together we spar over things more mundane, like who’s the better chef, gardener and cellphone-contract negotiator.

So when we recently ordered credit reports to aid in our apartment hunt, I was dismayed to learn that Don’s credit score was higher than mine. He, of course, was thrilled to one-up me in a financial matter. (To find out the difference between your credit report and credit score, click here.)

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This 27-year-old repaid $28,115 in debt - in under two years

Roma Luciw

Cait Flanders reached the end of a tough two-year journey last week when she made the last payment on what was once a crushing $28,115 debt load.

“I thought it would feel anti-climactic but instead I can’t stop smiling. I used to lose sleep over how much debt I had… I don’t have to do that any more,” she said. To celebrate, the 27-year-old Vancouver-based manager of a mortgage rate comparison website grabbed a coffee and drove to see the ocean with a friend.

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How one Victoria family is coping with soaring food prices

Dawn Walton

After a long cold winter, I love this time of year in Calgary when the price for fruit and vegetables no longer make me gasp at the checkout counter.

But my discounted – and finally, delicious –strawberries belie what’s really happening in the grocery store aisles.

Food prices have been soaring – and there’s little relief in sight.

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When it comes to location, what do home buyers value most?

Roma Luciw

When my husband and I bought our home eight years ago, location was a major determining factor. Not only was it close to a large beautiful park, it was five blocks from a commercial strip where we could buy groceries, eat out, or go see a movie.

Best of all, it was near public transit, so we could get by with owning one car – and neither of has to endure driving to work during the hellish rush-hour commute.

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Five ways to save for your child's education – other than RESPs

Roma Luciw

Most Canadian parents know about RESPs (which doesn’t necessarily mean they have them) but few are aware of alternative ways of saving for their child’s post-secondary education, says a new report.

The report, released Wednesday by the Bank of Montreal, says a study conducted last year found that 83 per cent of parents expect to pay for their child’s college or university costs, while 44 per cent expect their child will also chip in.

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Can this unlikely pair of financial gurus sell money skills for kids?

Dawn Walton

A guy who was more than $20,000 in debt straight out of high school after stupidly buying a car on his credit card, and another guy who naively thought he could enjoy the good life in Whistler while making just $9 an hour, seems like an unlikely pair of financial gurus.

But Kevin Cochran and Jay Seabrook, both now 36, have managed to turn around their youthful financial foibles in order to help teach kids - and their parents - crucial money management skills.

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Ten tax-related things that leave Canadians stumped

Roma Luciw

Shari Stolpmann is paying $9,000 a year for her 19-year-old daughter to study firefighting at an Ontario college. But when she files her taxes, she will only be able to claim a tax credit of $5,000 from her daughter’s school costs - which in Ontario will lead to tax savings of around $1,000.

Despite soaring tuition and the slew of other school-related costs, Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) rules state that children who are attending school and not claiming a school-related tax credit for themselves can transfer up to $5,000 in tuition and education costs to a parent.

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Why we hate redeeming reward miles, and other airline-perk bugaboos

Dianne Nice

When it comes to travel rewards, not all airline perks are created equal. A recent survey of 150 Globe readers suggests while some upgrades are appreciated, many are just not worth the money.

The best travel perks are the ones you don't have to pay for, readers say, with customer loyalty rewards such as airport lounges with wifi and priority check-in services topping the list. "Time and organization are the most valuable commodities for people who travel a lot for work," one reader said.

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'Inspect it for bed bugs,' and other tips for saving money

Dianne Nice

What lengths would you go to cut costs? Would you reuse your tea bags or not flush your toilet?

Those suggestions and more were offered up when The Globe and Mail asked readers to share the weirdest things they do to save money. It’s expensive to be part of the rat race, but Globe readers have come up with creative ways to save money at work.

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Who’s worried about retirement? Not these young savers

Dianne Nice

To hear the big banks tell it, Canadians dread the thought of retirement and are wringing the hands over their inability to maximize their RRSPs.

However, a recent survey of Globe and Mail readers tells a different story. Of more than 1,700 respondents, 77 per cent said they were actually very confident (39 per cent) or somewhat confident (38 per cent) they would have enough saved for retirement.

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From the first date to ‘I do,’ love now costs $43,842.08

Dawn Walton

All you need is love, right?

It turns out The Beatles may have severely underestimated the cost of that first feeling of butterflies to the walk down the aisle.

Love actually rings in at $43,842.08, according to RateSupermarket.ca, which has calculated the price tag of the typical modern relationship - from a one-year courtship, followed by a one-year engagement to the wedding day.

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Buying a U.S. vacation home? Make sure you know the tax rules

Dawn Walton

The lure of a buying a vacation property in the American sunbelt can be enticing, especially for Canadians suffering through a brutal winter.

There are plenty of compelling reasons to buy south of the border: The Canadian dollar remains strong against the U.S. greenback, and real estate prices are still low.

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Drowning in debt? Tips for curing the January financial blues

Dawn Walton

It’s around this time of year that the calls start rolling in – and, the deluge continues through March.

They are from consumers who have been avoiding their credit card statements or logging onto their bank accounts, as the January financial blues set in after weeks of gleeful holiday spending. The experts have a name for it - the “holiday debt hangover.”

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Many Canadians paying off mortgages faster, but are they further ahead?

Dawn Walton

While I’ve been busy sinking money into mortgage payments, daycare costs, RESPs, RRSPs, utilities, groceries, vehicle maintenance and the occasional vacation, I’ve somehow failed to notice that many Canadians seem to be doing all this – and stepping up their mortgage repayments, too.

According to the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals, over the past 20 years mortgage repayment periods have shrunk to two-thirds of the actual contracted period. Furthermore, during the past year – a time when household debt has soared to a record high – 32 per cent of borrowers have managed to dramatically accelerate their mortgage payment schedules.

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What would you do with your Christmas bonus – if you get one?

Roma Luciw

Half of working Canadians eligible to receive a year-end bonus in 2012 say they would use the money to pay down debt or for saving and investing, while the rest would blow it on the holidays, shopping or a vacation.

The Bank of Montreal online poll of 1,000 adults, conducted last week and released Monday, found that despite what they called a “challenging economic environment,” 26 per cent of working Canadians expect to find a bonus in their workplace stocking this year. Thirty-three per cent said it was unlikely they would get one.

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Budget-friendly Black Friday shopping tips (Hint: Get online now)

Roma Luciw

You won’t find Cindy Kelly at the mall on Black Friday, battling throngs of shoppers hell-bent on finding a bargain.

Ms. Kelly, the Toronto-based shopping expert at flyerland.ca, has been busy comparing prices online and says many juicy deals are already out there. “A number of retailers have been running large sales through the month of November so I will save money, even if I am not out this Friday.”

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Are your finances ready for a disaster like Sandy?

ROMA LUCIW

Every summer, Kerry Taylor knows she might suddenly need to round up her family and flee her home.

Ms. Taylor lives on a farm in the interior of British Columbia, a heavily forested area that is threatened by forest fires. “When I moved here, it became real to me that I could lose everything with five or 10 minutes’ notice,” she says. “So the idea of protecting myself and my contents became extremely important, because some things you can never replace and other things are just a pain to replace.”

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Three red flags that signal an investment is not what it seems

Dianne Nice

I recently got a tweet from someone I’d never heard of telling me about his “great success” with an investment. The next day, another tweet came, claiming he’s “loving all this new money!” I should click the link immediately, he urged.

Was that random stranger really a benevolent investor who wanted me to get rich quick? Probably not.

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How much food - and grocery money - are Canadians wasting?

Dawn Walton

Canada is in a rare position: food is abundant and the population is affluent.

And while that’s a good thing, it’s also a recipe for a shameful amount of wasted food, according to the Value Chain Management Centre (VCMC) in Guelph, Ont., which estimates $27-billion worth of food produced for Canadian consumption never makes it to our bellies.

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Why you should stress-test your finances for a sudden death

Roma Luciw

Sitting down for a chat about your impending death - or your spouse’s - is pretty morbid. I can think of a hundred things I would rather do with my husband during our precious free time together.

After all, we are both reasonably savvy when it comes to our money. He handles some aspects of our household finances while I take care of others, but we keep one another informed about what’s going on and make the big financial decisions together.

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Home Cents Contributors

Roma Luciw

Roma Luciw began her reporting career at the Victoria Times Colonist. In 2001, she started writing and editing business news at the fledgling globeandmail.com site.

Follow Roma on Twitter @globemoney

Dawn Walton

Dawn Walton has been based in Calgary for The Globe and Mail since 2000.

Dianne Nice

Dianne Nice is community editor for Report on Business and writes about social media

Follow Dianne on Twitter @diannenice