Planning for fun starts with your refund

Summer rocks in Manitoba: 100,000 glistening, fresh-water lakes; big music festivals under big, blue skies; and a hot sun that shines until well past nine o’clock at night. It’s a time to count your blessings — and your savings. After all, way too soon your winter escape will become a priority. But if you plan carefully, your tax refund can be the impetus for future fun.

Here are some summer tax tips to consider:

Summer Tip #1: Contribute your tax refund to your TFSA. A Tax-Free Savings Account is a great place to park your money because the income you earn in your TFSA is tax-free. When the time comes, you simply withdraw your accumulated savings; you pay no tax penalty, as you would with an RRSP. So, when choosing investments for your TFSA, think growth. Remember: the more you earn, the bigger your TFSA withdrawal and, because withdrawals open a like amount of contribution room, the more “re-contribution” room you will have in your TFSA. Now, go ahead, can scan the sales for your winter vacation.

Summer Tip #2: Exercise outside. Now is a good time to change personal and financial habits. Give up your gym membership for the summer (especially if you never go) and exercise outdoors instead. Come winter, you can re-establish your gym membership, but in the meantime, drop those savings into your TFSA. Rethinking the need to spend and developing frugal habits allows you to leverage your savings in tax-efficient investments. That will put you on the fast track to building real wealth.

Summer Tip #3: Preserve the sunshine and rethink Christmas. Lots of families veer off the financial track because they overspend at Christmas. This year, give the gift of summer memories. Take lots of photos on your vacation; then, make them tangible. In an electronic world, an emailed summer photo brings smiles at Christmas, especially when it captures fun family memories. Now, cross Christmas gift-giving off your list, calculate your savings over last year’s spend and put the difference into your TFSA or RRSP.

Summer Tip #4: Bottle the “yum.” You may need to ask the elders how to do it, but this year, pick, chop, bottle and freeze summer’s fabulous bounty. Image pulling plump, sweet blueberries out of the freezer in winter! You can also wrap up your home-made jams and chutneys for sharing. Then, cross birthday presents off your list, calculate the savings and drop the cash into your TFSA or RRSP. You get the picture!

Summer Tip #5: Reduce your tax withholdings. Summer savings can help you increase your RRSP contribution. If you are in line for a larger tax deduction in 2012, ask your employer to reduce your withholding taxes (Knowledge Bureau Report, July 4). Your take-home pay will increase, allowing you to reduce consumer debt and stay on track to meet investment goals. It’s a great way to leverage both time and money.

It’s Your Money. Your Life. Do something different this year: give yourself the gift of summer fun, yum and financial freedom. By preserving your bounty in a variety of old-fashioned ways, including tax-savvy savings, you will extend summer’s joy and unlock your potential to break up those long winter months.

Evelyn Jacks is president of Knowledge Bureau, a virtual campus that makes financial education easy and convenient all summer long. Visit for books and courses.

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