Your Tax Return and Car Working Together

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Posted on Apr 25, 2017

Your Tax Return and Car Working Together

 

No one looks forward to tax season, but it’s well worth the time and stress when you eventually get your refund in the mail.  If you’re unsure what to do with tax refund, consider using it towards your vehicle expense.

 

Here are just a few ways to put your tax return to work for you:

 

Down payment

 

If you’ve considered purchasing a new vehicle for a while, but just didn’t have the funds available to make a suitable down payment, now could be a great time.

 

As you’re probably aware, the bigger your down payment, the less interest you’ll need to pay when you’re financing, and the more money you can save down the road. Depending on the size of your tax return, your down payment could end up saving you significantly in interest that you would’ve paid otherwise.

 

If you want to see just how much of a difference a sizable down payment can make, go online and use one of the several auto loan calculator tools available to determine how much you can save monthly.

 

Improve your credit score

 

One of the best ways to improve your credit score is to pay off debt. If you’re already in the midst of a car loan, you can use your tax return to pay off a chunk of your outstanding debt (check to see if your loan has a prepayment penalty attached to it). Not only will this help you to lower future interest payments, but it will also improve your credit score by proving you’re financially responsible.

 

If you’re a high-risk individual, an improved credit score will help you secure cheaper loans in the future, thus saving you a significant chunk of change in the long run. It may be tough to see your tax return go away at the snap of your fingers, but it will be well worth it at the end of the day.

 

Maintenance

 

If you’ve been neglecting an oil change, tire rotation, new tires, or anything of that nature, now is the time to get it done. It should go without saying, but properly maintaining your vehicle now will help to avoid any major problems down the road, saving you money long-term.

 

With summer upon us, it’s a smart idea to have your vehicle serviced, especially if you’re planning to take it on any road trips. Not only will it be better equipped for a long drive, but you’ll also be putting you and your family at less risk if your car is properly maintained.

 

Safe travels!

 

Country in the City

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Posted on Apr 21, 2017

Billy Goat photo 

 

In a city full of skyscrapers, you may not expect to come across sheep and cows in Toronto. In actuality, The Big Smoke is home to many farms that are inhabitant by all the animals you would find on a country ranch, from horses to goats and chickens. These farms are great destinations to take kids to on a nice spring day or to just enjoy a visit with the animals. Their picturesque scenery also makes many of them popular locations for photographers. Best of all? They are all free to the public! Here are three must-visit Toronto-area farms:

 

High Park Zoo

 

Perhaps best known as the home of runaway capybaras Bonnie and Clyde, the High Park Zoo is owned by the City of Toronto and houses more than 45 animals, including bison, llamas and sheep. Its location in the heart of the city makes it easily accessible by public transit, and it is open to visitors year-round. The zookeepers here love to interact and will frequently give informal information sessions to spectators. Bonnie and Clyde recently gave birth to capybara triplets, so on your next trip to the zoo, don’t forget to check them out and enter the naming contest!

 

Riverdale Farm

 

Located in Toronto’s Cabbagetown neighborhood, Riverdale Farm was the site of the city’s first zoo. It is a photographer’s dream, filled with historic buildings, wooded areas, ponds and gardens. The farm describes itself as “a representation of a rural farm in Ontario,” and is home to a number of domestic farm animals. The farm recently announced the arrival of three newborn lambs, so be sure to pay them a visit! Like the High Park Zoo, Riverdale Farm is also open in all seasons.

 

Far Enough Farm

 

This farm may not actually be too far from the city, but it is slightly more difficult to get to than the others; you will need to take a boat. Far Enough Farm can be found on Toronto’s Centre Island, which you can get to via a short ferry ride. The farm and petting zoo is home to dozens of species of animals and birds, with new ones arriving on a regular basis. There are also farm-themed games for kids to play and opportunities to meet the farmers and ask them questions about the animals. Make a day trip out of your visit by exploring the island and taking a twirl on the rides at Centreville Amusement Park. Remember to pack a picnic lunch!

 

How much should I budget each month for repairs?

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Posted on Apr 18, 2017

Car Repair Budget

 

A big thing to consider is how much you’re willing to spend each month on maintenance.  While many drivers choose to save a buck whenever they can, skipping out on car maintenance will not only shorten the lifespan of your vehicle, but it could also cause you to spend more money in the long run.

 

To get a feel for how much you could be spending, here are some factors to consider when budgeting for car repairs:

 

Age

 

If you want to determine a rough estimate of how much you’ll need, look at some of your past statements to see how much you’ve spent on repairs over the last year. Divide that figure by 12, and you’ll have a solid idea of how much you should be putting aside each month.

 

If this number seems a little high, you should realize that older vehicles tend to need more repairs than newer ones, so you’ll likely be spending less if you recently purchased a new car. However, if you want to play it safe, put a little extra aside.

 

Maintenance history

 

The more you spent on maintaining your car, the less you’ll likely need to spend on big repairs in the future.

 

If you’re someone whose neglected car maintenance over the years, the number you’ve calculated may be far lower than what you should realistically be spending. Remember that in addition to vehicle repairs, you should be setting aside extra cash for oil changes, other fluid changes, tire rotations, tire alignments, and air filter changes – just to name a few.

 

If you’ve regularly maintained your vehicle in the past, the original number you’ve calculated is likely a good representation of how much you’ll spend in the future, meaning it’s unnecessary for you to set aside any extra money moving forward.

 

Mileage

 

Like age, mileage is another important factor in determining your monthly budget. As you’re probably well aware, you’ll need to spend more on repairs as the mileage on your vehicle creeps up. If you’ve already broken the 150,000 kilometre threshold, be aware that you could end up spending a bit more money in future.

 

Tips for budgeting

 

If the thought of setting aside an extra $100 every month feels a little overwhelming, you should realize that it’s likely not as bad as you think.

 

It’s hard to spend money that you don’t actually have, which is why it’s in your best interest to separate your car expenses from the rest of your savings. If you need to, set up a separate savings account that is designed solely for car repairs. Some banks will even allow you to automatically transfer a predetermined amount into the account each month, so you won’t even have to worry about setting aside extra cash on your own.

 

 

Earth Day in the GTA

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Posted on Apr 17, 2017

Earth Day in the GTA

 

Earth Day 2017 is just around the corner. On April 22, nearly 200 countries around the world will celebrate the annual event by demonstrating their support and commitment to environmental protection as they educate citizens and encourage them to care for our planet not just on this one day, but all year-round. If you would like to get involved, check out some of the many events and initiatives planned around the GTA this upcoming Earth Day weekend:

 

Downsview Park Earth Day 2017

 

On April 23, Downsview Park will be hosting a tree planting celebration complete with a campfire, tours and educational demonstrations. Registration is free and all tree planting tools will be provided, along with staff who will assist you and your family. Don’t forget to take with a non-perishable food item to donate in support of a local food bank.

 

One Million Trees Mississauga

 

As part of their One Million Trees project, the City of Mississauga will be holding tree planting events at sites all across the city on April 22. The flagship location will be at Mississauga Valley Park, where there will be exhibitors, tree tours and garden activities in addition to tree planting. Spots are limited and are filling up quickly so be sure to RSVP for your preferred location ASAP!

 

Friends of Taylor Creek Park Ravine Clean Up & Campfire

 

Not afraid to get a bit dirty? On the 22nd, head over to Taylor Creek Park in East York to help clean up trash that has collected in the ravine. When you want to take a break, you can gather around the campfire for food, drinks and games. This is also a great opportunity for high school students to earn volunteer hours!

 

Earth Day will come and go but it is important to look after our planet every day. Here are some easy ways to do so on a daily basis:

 

  • Use paper or reusable grocery bags instead of plastic
  • Cut down on home energy use by turning off lights and unplugging electronics and small appliances when not in use
  • Support eco-friendly businesses
  • Reduce your water use
  • Lower your meat consumption
  • Take a reusable cup to the coffee shop
  • Carpool
  • And, of course . . . REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE!

 

 

What to consider before applying for a Car Loan?

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Posted on Apr 10, 2017

Car Loan Tips

 

If you’re like most people, you’ll likely need to set up some sort of loan to finance your vehicle purchase.

 

Applying for a car loan may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be if you know what you’re doing. Read ahead to get a better understanding of auto loans so you won’t have to worry the next time you buy a car:

 

Check your credit score

 

The better your credit, the more favourable loan terms you’ll receive – it’s as simple as that.

 

To ensure you’re getting the best loan possible, shell out a few bucks and take a look at your credit report. Not only will this tell you your current score, but it will also highlight the issues that could be dragging you down. If some of them are simple problems, take the time to correct them. For instance, if you have a small amount of debt outstanding, pay it off now.

 

Remember that the higher your score, the lower the interest rate you’ll have.

 

Budget ahead of time

 

Make sure you know what you can afford before arriving to a dealership.

 

The easiest way to budget for a car loan is to check some of your previous bank statements to get a feel for your spending habits. If you find that you’re consistently saving money from month to month, you can probably afford a more expensive car. However, if you noticed that you have little saved up, it may be a good idea to make some adjustments to your spending habits, or look for vehicles that fit your financial situation.

 

Once you know how much you can afford on a monthly basis, you’ll have a better picture of which loans will work under your budget.

 

Figure out an appropriate down payment

 

You’ve heard it before, but you should always strive to make the biggest down payment possible when purchasing a vehicle.

 

While it’s certainly tough to see your hard-earned savings suddenly disappear, it’s in your best interest at the end of the day. The more you pay up front, the smaller your loan will be, and the less you’ll pay in total interest.

 

Understand what type of loan is best for you

 

Far too often, car buyers just don’t quite grasp the type of loan they’re applying for.

 

Just remember the less you spend today, the more you’ll need to spend tomorrow. While signing up for a deferred payment structure may seem like the best bet, you may be paying more in interest down the road. Of course, this type of loan may make sense if you’re expecting a raise in income in the future, but probably isn’t the best choice for someone who isn’t expecting a raise anytime soon.

 

 

Finding your Perfect Music Streaming Service

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Posted on Apr 6, 2017

Finding your Perfect Music Streaming Service

 

Do you remember purchasing an album at your local record store, only to realize that you only actually like one or two of the tracks? Luckily, the days of going to the mall to buy your favourite artist’s new CD are long gone. Now, music is consumed online, and the choices are endless – as long as you have an Internet connection. Music streaming services allow you to listen to any genre, artist or album whenever you want, wherever you want on any of your digital devices. There are plenty of different streaming services to choose from, some free and others requiring a subscription. Here are three music streaming services that will have you singing along all day:

 

Apple Music

 

Buying individual songs and albums from the iTunes store can get quickly get expensive. Instead, consider getting an Apple Music membership. For the flat monthly fee, you will have access to every one of the 30 million songs in the Apple Music library, plus music videos and live radio streaming. The best part? You can save tracks to your devices so that you can listen to your favourite tunes even without an Internet connection – and they will be yours for as long as you are a member. Not quite ready to make the commitment? Apple Music offers a free trial so you can check out all the features it has to offer, free of charge.

 

Google Play

 

Google Play Music, formerly known as Songza, has a lot to offer to music lovers. The free service allows you to choose playlists based on genre, mood, artist, time period and much more. Whether you want to listen to ’90s sing-alongs, epic film scores or classical study music, this streaming service has you covered. If you want to skip the ads that come on every few songs, you can pay a subscription fee for a commercial-free experience.

 

Spotify

 

If you are someone who loves discussing music with your friends, then Spotify is the music streaming service for you. It provides more of a social experience than its competitors by allowing you to connect your Spotify to your Facebook account, which will activate an activity feed showing you what your friends are listening to and letting you listen to the playlists they create. Like Apple Music, Spotify gives you the option of saving songs for offline listening. The app is free, however to get the most out of the service it’s best to purchase the Premium subscription package.

 

 

Should I replace all four tires at once?

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Posted on Apr 4, 2017

Should I replace all four tires at once?

 
If you’re just getting around to taking off your winter tires, you may soon realize that one (or several) of your old summer tires are no longer safe for use.  While you may be tempted to save a few bucks and just replace the worn out one(s), you could be putting yourself at risk by doing so.

 

Read ahead to learn the importance of replacing all four of your tires together:

 

Finding a comparable pair

 

If you choose to replace just one of your tires, or even a pair, the odds are slim that you’ll be able to find a “match set” with the same tread as the older ones. While this may not seem like a huge issue as long as you find a similar pair, you’ll be left with two tires with inferior tread, which could cause an issue down the road.

 

All-wheel drive

 

If you own a vehicle equipped with all-wheel drive, you could run into some serious problems if you don’t replace all four tires at once.

 

For all-wheel drive to work properly, all four tires must have the same tread design, make and model. If they don’t, the computer won’t be able to get the correct reading, which could burn out the drivetrain.

 

It’s also simply not safe to drive with tires with different tread lives, as mismatched tires tend to rotate at different speeds. This may not seem like a huge deal in the summer, but remember that driving in the rain can be just as dangerous as driving in the winter, especially with the increased risk of hydroplaning.

 

Is it that bad?

 

If you’re on a tight budget, you may be able to get away with replacing just two of your tires, but be aware that you may be putting yourself in harm’s way by doing so.  Ideally, if you are going to replace just a single pair, make sure to move them to the back, and the older pair to the front.  Ideally, if you are going to replace just a single pair, make sure to move them to the back, and the older pair to the front.  Whatever you do, make sure that the pair you buy is at least the same make and model as your current set.

 

Avoiding the problem in the future?

 

If you notice that your tires tend to wear out at different rates, there’s a good chance that you aren’t rotating them often enough. Since front tires wear quicker than rear tires, it’s a good idea to swap them every 8,000 – 10,000 kilometres to keep them fresh. Most mechanics won’t take long at all to complete the job, and a tire rotation can often be done at a very reasonable price.
While some mechanics may recommend rotating in your spare tire, it’s probably not in your best interest to do so. Sure, it will help to lengthen the lifespan of the set, but spare tires aren’t typically designed for longer driving, and the mismatch in wear could also cause a problem.

While some mechanics may recommend rotating in your spare tire, it’s probably not in your best interest to do so. Sure, it will help to lengthen the lifespan of the set, but spare tires aren’t typically designed for longer driving, and the mismatch in wear could also cause a problem.

 

Sports in the City

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Posted on Mar 30, 2017

Toronto Skydome photo overhead

 

 

It could be argued that the sports scene in Toronto has never been more exciting than it is at the present moment. The Raptors, despite their roller-coaster season, are looking to build upon last year’s post-season success. The Maple Leafs have greatly exceeded expectations and are headed towards a playoff berth themselves. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays and TFC are beginning new seasons, each with a championship-caliber roster. The month of April is gearing up to be a busy time for Toronto sports fans. Here is what you can look forward to for your favourite team:

 

Toronto Maple Leafs

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

 

When the Leafs won the draft lottery in 2016 and selected forward Auston Matthews with the first-overall pick, everyone knew he would be good, but not this good. The rookie recently broke the franchise record for goals by a first-year player and with a few games remaining, he still has time to challenge the team’s record for most rookie points. The unexpected success of Matthews and his teammates has resulted in a high probability of the team making the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in four years – a feat not many thought possible when the season began. However, they are not in the clear quite yet, with other teams just mere points behind for the last few playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. The final week of the season looks to be a stressful one for Leafs die-hards – but that won’t even compare to the intensity of a potential playoff series.

 

Toronto Raptors

TORONTO RAPTORS

 

Despite a season of ups and downs, the Raptors are headed to the postseason for the fourth consecutive year. Along with some great wins came equally as many heartbreaking losses, however the one thing that could always be counted upon was the consistency of guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan – that is, until Lowry went down with a hand injury. Luckily, trade deadline pickups Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker have helped the club maintain their winning ways. As the regular season starts to come to an end, the team will attempt to climb in the standings to achieve a favourable first-round matchup. Their challenge in the playoffs will once again be beating LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers, who defeated the Raps in the Conference Finals in 2016.

 

Toronto Blue Jays

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

 

After a long month of Spring Training, the Jays are finally about to begin their season. They will have to do so sans slugger Edwin Encarnacion, who had helped lead the team to two consecutive American League Championship Series appearances. Luckily, franchise icon Jose Bautista is back, as are superstars Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin. A strong batting order combined with the same rotation that led the American League in earned run average in 2016 can give Jays fans hope that the team will finally make the World Series for the first time since winning it in 1993. The key to this season will be the health of the club’s star players, and they look to be in good shape heading into the season opener this coming Monday in Baltimore.

 

Toronto FC

TORONTO FC

 

Soccer has started to gain popularity throughout the GTA over the past few years, largely thanks to the success of the city’s local team. TFC, led by star Sebastian Giovinco, advanced to the MLS Cup Finals last season for the first time in franchise history, only to lose the championship game on home turf to Seattle in penalty kicks. With the season just underway, the players can expect a loud welcoming from supporters when the team takes the pitch for their long-awaited home opener on March 31. Giovinco will once again be tasked with leading the club to the finals again this season, however an early season injury to the striker may have already put those plans in jeopardy.

 

 

Tips for Bringing your Car out of Storage

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Posted on Mar 28, 2017

Tips for Bringing your Car out of Storage

 

The warm weather is finally upon us! With that, now is the perfect time to start getting your vehicle ready to emerge from its lair.  In order to make sure you’re taking proper care of your vehicle, make sure to read these do’s and don’ts for bringing your car out of storage:

 

Check the exterior

 

If your car spent the significant time under a cover, there’s a chance the paint may have been damaged from either moisture or the cover itself. Do a thorough inspection, and take it in if the exterior needs a little freshening up.

 

While you may be anxious to get your vehicle back on the road, it’s better to deal with any damage now, and not wait until the hot summer months to have it looked at.

 

Tires

 

One of the biggest things you’ll need to check is your vehicle’s tires.  If your car has been sitting on its tires for the entire winter, there may be cracks or bulges in one or more of the tires.  If you chose to remove your tires instead, you’ll still need to check to see if they’re properly inflated, and bring them to the correct PSI rating if they’re not.

 

 

Do not start driving before all your tires have been inspected and inflated to their proper levels. Failing to do so could lead to a potentially harmful situation.

 

Battery

 

Next is ensuring your battery works properly.  If it’s not already fully charged, make sure it is. You’ll have a hard time starting your vehicle if the battery is only partly charged, so make sure to connect it to a trickle charger if it still needs charging. Also, make sure to clean any corrosion off the terminals and cables.

 

If your battery is leaking or isn’t fully functioning, it’s time to get it replaced.

 

Change your engine oil

 

Even if you changed your engine shortly before storage, it’s in your best interest to have it replaced again at your earliest convenience.  While you’re at it, it’s not a bad idea to check the rest of your fluids to see if they’re at their proper levels.  If you notice any leaks, make sure to get them fixed before starting your vehicle.

 

Start your engine        

        

If you put steel wool or something similar in your tailpipe to prevent rodents from getting in, don’t forget to remove it before starting the engine.

 

Once your vehicle is ready to go, start your engine and give your car a quick test spin. Don’t travel too far, just in case something goes wrong. Make note of any weird sounds or noises during the ride, and be sure to have them looked at by a mechanic as soon as possible.

 

 

4 Ways to Volunteer in the GTA this Spring

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Posted on Mar 23, 2017

Ways to Volunteer

 

The warmer air isn’t the only thing that can make you feel good this spring – so can giving back to your community. If you have some free afternoons or weekends coming up, why not spend some of your time volunteering for a local organization? Volunteering is often a very rewarding experience that can help to improve the lives of those living in your community. Whether you are a high school student needing to complete your volunteer hours before you graduate or just someone who wants to make a positive impact in your community, there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer with great organizations right here in the GTA:

 

Habitat for Humanity

 

For those looking for hands-on work, Habitat with Humanity provides volunteers with the opportunity to build houses in the GTA from the ground up. No experience is required, just be prepared to get your hands dirty! Their online sign-up system makes it super simple to find a day, time and build-site location that is convenient for you.

 

Ontario SPCA

 

Are you an animal lover? Spend some time walking dogs and cleaning cages at your local SPCA. These dogs and cats are often on their own for extended periods of time so a little love will go a long way. The minimum age to volunteer is 14 and full training is provided, making this a great volunteer opportunity for students. Plus, there are locations all over the Greater Toronto Area, so it will be easy to find one that’s close to you.

 

Meals on Wheels

 

If you have access to a vehicle, consider helping your local Meals on Wheels program. As a volunteer, you will be delivering meals to the elderly living in and around your neighborhood. This is a great opportunity to not only ensure that those who depend on the program receive their daily meals, but to also build meaningful and lasting relationships with the people you are helping.

 

Canadian Cancer Society – Daffodil Month

 

Every April, volunteers set up shop in grocery stores and malls across Canada to sell fresh daffodil and daffodil pins to benefit the Canadian Cancer Society. It is an annual tradition that has helped to raise millions of dollars towards helping reduce the burden of cancer on Canadians. Volunteers are still needed for this year’s upcoming Daffodil Month, so sign up now!

 

To find more volunteer opportunities in the GTA, start by visiting https://volunteer.ca

 

If you’re in the York Region area, the NewRoads Automotive Group holds several community events each year and we’re always looking for great volunteers!  See what we’re up to in the community here.

 

 

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