How to avoid home buying mistakes the first time



Buying a house to make a home for you and your family can be a stressful time for anyone, especially when it’s your first home.

We no longer wanted to rent any more so looking for our first home was something that came fast and furious for us.

With that comes the urgency to own a home and sometimes you overlook some of the obvious concerns. I certainly won’t be making some of these mistakes next time around.

I can remember the endless trolling through MLS listings online and then booking an appointment with our real estate agent to go and view them.

Some houses definitely viewed better through photos rather than real life, but it’s always something every house hunter has to endure.

When buying a house everyone has a list of wants and needs and a general style that they are looking for. For us, a more modern house was an easier choice due to lower maintenance costs and less chance that there was going to be hidden problems.

The trouble for any couple or family starts when they discover hidden issues with the house they thought was perfectly fine. Other life events can throw your plans off track too.

As a home owner I have found a number of things I would consider when purchasing a house even if it’s your first home.


Is bigger, better?


That large house that you have to maximize your mortgage for just to impress your friends and family can become a mill stone around your neck. A much larger house than you really need or can hardly afford costs more to run on a daily basis.

Increased square footage will go hand in hand with an increase in property taxes, heating and cooling costs, maintenance requirements and so on.

If your monthly mortgage costs are already crippling your finances, the increased costs of owning a house will tip your finances over the edge.

There is never anything certain in life, so if a job loss occurs, injury, health issues or a pregnancy that was unplanned happens, could you still afford that castle?


Consider staying a while


Jumping from property to property can cost you more than you think. You can make money from selling your house due to increases in property prices and renovations that you have completed on the house.

You can also lose money if you are selling frequently, unless of course you sell said property yourself without a real estate agent.

Take an average priced house of $300,000 and apply the typical 5% fee that goes along with it selling with an agent.

That’s going to cost you $15,000 ($16,950 with tax) to sell your house, but don’t forget that’s not the only cost associated with it. There is the fees for the lawyers, land transfer tax, moving costs and a  Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp (CMHC)  fee if applicable among other fees and taxes.

At roughly $20,000 or more per move if you keep upgrading homes over time, the costs of buying and selling can get expensive.

If you move house 5 times in a relatively small amount of time that’s $100,000 you’ve spent.

Did you actually make that much on selling the properties?

Home renovations


There is a common list of renovations that retain money and those that don’t with a fresh coat of paint giving the biggest return on investment. Sure you could renovate your house to the nines but is someone going to pay the over the top price for it when you come to sell?

The same applies to when you’re buying a house. Be wary of buying a house on a street where it’s the most expensive by quite a margin. A few thousand dollars won’t make much difference but paying thirty thousand over might ring alarm bells.

If you are going to pay all that extra money for a home that’s been completely renovated, make sure you’re getting what you pay for.

Having seen so many badly executed renovations during open houses to do with hardwood flooring or basements, I would advise taking a closer look.

I’m not going to spend hard-earned money on hardwood flooring just to rip it all out and start all over again.

Take a walk around the property, look closely at the finishes and the way things were renovated. Slap dash installation can suggest that most of the renovations in the home probably aren’t going to last.

I saw a brand new kitchen renovation in one prospective house and the upper cupboards weren’t even level with the ceiling. They change from one inch distance to the ceiling at one end to three inches at the opposite end.

Even if the ceiling wasn’t level, that would suggest there was even bigger problems. Your personal observations can be your biggest clues as to whether this house is for you or not.


Location, Location, Location


Quite possibly the most famous saying when considering buying a house. They even named a British TV show with the same name.

Living in an affluent area may make you feel like you’re on the way up but it might not necessarily be a good idea for you and the way your life actually is.

As a working couple, there may never be a time when you both hold a job in the same city or even travel to work in the same direction.

Picking a location that makes a commute easier and faster would be a sensible solution. Also selecting an area where each commute is roughly equal may make life a little easier so one person doesn’t feel like they’re doing all the travelling.

Consider the maths for moving closer to work and buying a more expensive house or staying outside the city and buying something cheaper.

With the costs of gasoline fairly high compared to what they used to be and increasing commute times it may make more sense to live closer to work.

High mileage vehicles depreciate faster and require more maintenance and you may find yourself buying cars more often than those who live close to work.


Time to buy


When we we’re looking at buying our current house we started looking in the middle of winter, which was great for viewing the inside but completely useless when viewing the exterior.

There were some advantages of looking during the winter. You can see how parking, snow removal and prevailing weather affects the property. Check the windows, they should perform as intended.

Double glazing panels can fail, fogging, condensation trapped between panels can be an indicator that you may be spending money sooner rather than later.

Check for cold rooms or uneven heating throughout the house. A bedroom above a garage that can be colder than the rest of the house can potentially be hotter in the summer months.

It doesn’t necessarily suggest that there is missing insulation, it could be caused by the garage underneath. Consider that you may have to invest in a thermal garage door.

A garage was part of the essential list. Not so much to store household stuff in, but actually house vehicles in especially during the winter months.

If you’re going to store a snow blower in there as well, check out the room available for all your toys because there’s nothing worse than a garage filled to the top with everything but your vehicle.

There are however down sides to looking to buy a home in the winter. After buying our house and then moving in, we were quite surprised when the snow disappeared and revealed a front garden that nobody in their right mind would be proud of.

We were also surprised and annoyed at the same time when we found items that the home inspector had missed. We have since resolved those issues, but it was inconvenient all the same.

If your planning on buying a house within the next twelve months, consider doing some research.

If there is a particular area you want to buy a home in visit it during every season. View the rest of the houses in the street as they tend to be of roughly the same age.

If most people have already got a re-roof done, then a house with an original roof will have to have a new roof budgeted into the cost. It may require landscaping or re-sodding which is a less expensive alternative to improving the curb appeal.

Making a list of pro’s and con’s could narrow down your house hunting and result in a better home purchase.

We had to make compromises but at the end of the day we’re happy with our choice of house to make our home.

What are some things that you would look for the next time you buy a home that you didn’t consider the first time?



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Reader question: When should you renovate your new home?


Renovate Your Home When It Is Right For You

A fan sent me an email the other day and asked me the question, When should you renovate your new home? He said that him and his wife had just bought a home and they weren’t sure if they should renovate before they moved in or after they moved and wanted to know what we did when we bought our house.

Home renovation checklist

It was a question that I really didn’t have to think much about because we are in this position now. We did not renovate before we moved in and preferred to save the cash first before renovating. When we bought our home I created a checklist so I knew exactly what I needed to do although over the years it seems the list keeps growing. It was easier to read my list as I was going along rather than trying to remember in my head. Every smart planner will have a list so they have information to fall back on. There is no custom list here, you design your own. Grab a piece of paper and start making notes.

I also wanted to have the opportunity to fix what needed to be fixed on my own rather than paying someone else to do it unless of course a tradesman is needed for the job to get it done right. Besides it gives my wife time to go through those renovation type magazines to pick out what she likes.

Neighbourhood home renovations 

Every time I look out the window in the morning there is a new renovations truck on our street at a neighbour’s house doing something. Our homes range in age from 15-25 years old so most things inside the homes may be outdated and need freshening up or are starting to fall apart due to age.

Our neighbour who is a single-homeowner told me the other day while I was weeding the garden out front that she was in the middle of having her bathroom re-done and this is after living in the home more than 8 years. What she said was that she could only afford to do x amount per year to upgrade her home but when she moved in even though the house needed some work she decided to save the money to do over time.  So, not everyone wants to rush in and have the fast and ready or instant home (just add water) before they move in.

Needs vs Wants

Not everyone wants to spend money renovating their home, heck some people think we’re nuts for wanting to put a brand new kitchen in but it’s something we want to do, for us. There are however differences between renovation needs and wants. We don’t need to renovate the kitchen just yet but we do need to focus our attention towards the bathrooms.

In the summer we see many homes up for sale around us and open houses that garner lots of attention only because we are in a sought after neighbourhood. Just lately though we notice that of the homes that sell before the new owners move in they have a tonne of renovations done to the house. I have to question the worth of these renovations so soon after purchase when I consider the price they paid for the home.

When you live in a house for even a year or two you can judge which renovations are wants or needs and how you want those renovations to turn out. When you use the house on a daily basis you will learn what you like and don’t like which gives you time to start saving money in your budget for exactly what you want.

Too many renovations

When you are already buying a home at the top of its value you must be careful how much money you soak into your home because you may never recoup that money for a long time, if ever. An example would be a modest home that was on the market for $495,000 around the corner. This house was priced at the top range of what the home would sell for. It sold in less than 2 weeks for $5000 less than asking price. The home has an in-ground pool, deck and is a back-split.

Over the course of 4 weeks after the previous owners moved out we watched contractor after contractor tear the inside of that house apart. Not only did they put in all new flooring, new bathrooms, new kitchen they also put on a brand new deck. They even got all the interior doors removed, sprayed and then re-hung.

In my head I’m running numbers viciously because I can’t believe how much money they are willing to put into the home after purchase. I can understand if you scored a great deal on a house like we did and then decided to renovate but not at the top price range.

What would happen in the event that they needed to sell fast right after renovating? They are risking losing money on the house because their house might not be worth as much as they think it will be, although I often say “it’s worth as much as someone is willing to pay”. This is when you may see a house that is overpriced for the area and the homeowners get upset at the real estate agent asking, Why has my home not sold yet?

The thing about that is you can’t have $500,000 comparable homes on one street and then a similar home to those and you price it $100,000 more because you renovated it but who will want to buy it? You know the real estate agent will pull the comparables for the potential buyer and they will compare those prices to that of your home. If you are not sure of the value of your home you can log in to MPAC to view your MPAC home assessment or call them for a copy to be sent in the mail. While you can see the value of your home you will also be able to see what other homes in your area are valued at and that may give you a better idea of which direction to go.

When we bought our home for $265,000 the same model on our street was selling for over $300.000 a mere 12 months after. Now, 4 years later a couple are over $400,000. Our house is 1 of 4 in our subdivision. I’m afraid we don’t live in a custom-built home but we do live in a home built by a well-known builder in town.

Time and funds

When we decided that we would wanted to buy rather than rent the savings for a new home was kicked into high gear while we were renting. We couldn’t afford to complete all the renovation needs or wants before moving into our current home purely because the spare cash wasn’t available.

After saving up for a down payment on our home which was more important to us we figured our home was livable and so what if the carpets were purple. Over the course of time projects have been completed mostly on the basis of priority. It’s a slow process but unless you have the available cash to complete all the renovations before you move in that’s the way it happens.

There is an alternative but taking out a line of credit against the property or increasing your mortgage just seems bonkers. Unless you’re planning to stay in the house for the entire length of the mortgage you’ll be paying for those renovations even after the house has long since been sold. We wanted to be mortgage free before we were 40 so it was important to us that we kill the mortgage as fast as we could while taking care of projects along the way. Saving up by budgeting for renovations and searching for the best deals on quality products for your home project may help you to save some money or renovate your home for less like my friend Catherine at Plunged in Debt did. They renovated their first home for under $25,000 and it worked out for them even though they are as savvy with money as we are.

Handyman work

There are advantages to doing all the renovation work before you move in. First, you don’t have to live with the mess that comes with renovations and secondly there’s no inconvenience of nowhere to wash dishes for example. You can get your ductwork cleaned out and then move in to basically a new house and enjoy that new house smell.

The homeowners at the time were both very old and did no renovations to our home, not even the roof. When we went to put an offer in we considered the comparables and knew we had room to go down on this one given the state of the home.

The previous owners smoked in the house, carpets had burn marks in them and were very old, nothing was upgraded, no deck, unfinished basement.. and a few other things. The one thing we loved about our home was the size and layout and new we had stumbled on to a gem. The house was bought the same day we found it, with-in hours actually. We’re not into flipping houses and I wouldn’t spend my money buying a house that has been flipped by someone else.

All these contractors coming into homes to renovate is great for the local economy,I suppose, but I do have to wonder where the skills of modern man have disappeared to? I can rarely remember any contractors at our home as a child growing up as my father was in the trades and taught me skills that I have retained over the years. However, when looking at open houses with my wife while shopping for our current I noticed vast amounts of badly executed DIY jobs.

DIY home improvement show

I blame some of those HGTV home and renovation shows for trying to get people to renovate on their own when they have no skills whatsoever to get the job done right. The list of home renovation shows on TV is endless but not useless as there is always something to learn although sometimes I wonder where they come up with some of these ideas for TV shows.

Even Mike Holmes says do it right, so do it right. As much as I enjoy watching those TV programs it doesn’t make me a professional it only gives tips and ideas. Working in the trades of education and experience and not something that the average person will learn overnight or by watching the tube. All kidding aside, if you don’t know what you are doing, don’t begin a project and waste money that you worked hard for to botch up a job that may cost you more in disaster clean-up down the road.

So when it comes to renovations I’d sooner renovate as I go along taking my time to make sure I do it right and the way I want it rather than spending thousands upon thousands before I move into a home. If I need to call in the right people to get the job done, I’ll do it. If you fancy watching those DIY renovation reality shows and want to take on a project, be warned and at least do your homework.

Taking the time to save up the cash in our budget  that we need to pay for our renovations has worked for us rather than rolling it into the mortgage or line of credit. It’s a personal choice either way, do what makes you happy.

What renovations did you do to your home before you moved in?

Did you add the renovation costs to your mortgage or line of credit or did you save up cash? 

Was there a job you completed on your own where you should have called in a professional?


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A Love Letter And Life Lessons: Money Fool To A Budgeting Money Saver!


A love letter taught me a life lesson steering me away from becoming a money fool and into a budgeting money saver. I know what you are thinking and you are probably right. What did Mr.CBB get himself into this time. Well the morale of the story is always the icing on the cake so I’ll save that until you get deeper into the thick of things.

A Fool And His Money

If you’ve ever considered yourself a money fool which to me means someone who spends without a care in the world then you may learn a lesson or two here. You may be someone who doesn’t worry much about what’s right and wrong but you know that at some point you have to make decisions you might not want to face.

You are spending cash to impress others or to make yourself feel better but there comes a time when you must pay for those pleasures. If you spent money you didn’t have or too much money then you have to decide what your next financial step will be.

I often think back to when I was younger and ponder what I might have done or experienced that moulded me into the frugal money saving man that I am today. I certainly didn’t aspire to be an accredited investor in hedge funds but I knew that if I was to make millions it would be because I won the lottery or by some odd chance I had a talent I wasn’t aware of .

Consequently as an adult maybe by default I could become a master of invention and end up on Dragon’s Den, but that’s not likely going to happen. Clearly none of these have come to fruition but I still have the seeds that were planted when I was a young boy. Those seeds taught me that I have the power to become an expert at saving money and the mindset to learn how to invest my money.

Why didn’t I go hog-wild and spend money on clothes, cars, partying and trying to be the cool kid? So many kids today try to fit in but that was never me, I didn’t care. There wasn’t visions of the present only what I thought my future might or could look like if I put in a little hard work.

If only I could find all the ways to save money and make my real estate investments work for me then I’d be ahead of the game was what I used to think to myself. “Hold your investments proud” (hyip) my father would say and I remember being happy when I bought my first home at age 21. That’s the new way to say, I’m hip! I’m sure he meant to have faith in what you do with your money especially if your goal is to make more money.

My parents taught me about money from a young age but it’s more than just education, it’s a mindset that creates individuality with-in a person.  I didn’t save every penny I earned but I also didn’t do enough homework about personal finance like I should have done. A money fool, maybe I was to an extent but at least I rode the waves without burning holes in my board.

We grow up learning from our own experiences what we should and shouldn’t be doing. It’s with-in these experiences that we build up the forces to giving us the strength to make the right or wrong decisions in life. We all make mistakes but learning the reasons why we made them and why we want to fix them is a concentrated way to come to terms with these experiences.

Budgeting our money is just one way that as a couple we learned to come to terms that we can’t just run out and buy something because we have credit or cash for that matter. We know through experiences in our younger years that money is earned and doesn’t grow on trees. I get it now, it takes hard work and lots of hours to build up emergency savings in the bank.

When someone wants to start using a budget they should make sure that they are ready for this chapter in their life and they are willing to take control of money, this world’s evil, this world’s comfort, this world’s love letter. We have a love for money, it’s a note, a letter that follows us through all facets of daily living and into our minds and how we react to situations that surround us.

Why Are You Budgeting?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, not everyone is cut out to budget their money and not everyone wants or has to use a budget. There are many people who are comfortable making sure they don’t spend more than they earn and pay themselves first. That’s certainly not me only because I need to track figures because I’m a numbers guy and want to know where my money is going.

Asking yourself why you are budgeting and what you plan to accomplish by using a budget is the first step to accepting the budgeting challenge. Getting your finances back on track takes a commitment and it has to be more than “I promise I won’t spend any money”.. like a 5-year-old tells their parents.

It’s not a game or a race to the finish line because no one else is going to care how much money is in your pot and whether you finish or not. Don’t look at budgeting comparing it to likes of  ‘confinement of your own money’ and your life has ended rather look at it as a tool to educate yourself about your spending habits.

You know that we never used to budget before we were married and we spent money whenever we wanted but we made the big mistake of not tracking expenses. We just spent money and whatever the cost we paid for it with a bit of the frugality mindset, just not enough.  Since we always had a healthy savings account we never gave much thought to how much money we would dish out each week, which was the wrong attitude to have.

Swiping our debit card and MasterCard was and still is the way we roll with our money and how we pay for purchases. Sure using plastic to pay could get out of hand if one is not mindful but at the same time it taught us to think about what we were spending our money on especially when the bill came in.

Cash just seems to flow easier when we have it so we rarely carry it. Reading our credit card bills really set off the spending alarm bells for us and another reason we wanted to cut-back and stop being money fools with our money.

Yes you can still be a money fool even if you are saving money because you just spend like nobody’s watching when in reality you may not have as much control over your expenses as you think you do. I know some people who say once all the bills are paid the rest is for me to blow any which way I see fit. Maybe, but we don’t always have to rush out and buy stuff just because we can.

Don’t Be A Money Fool

If you don’t have the right attitude when beginning a budget then it’s probably going to fail before it’s even begun. Sometimes I get emails from fans who say they are on board with their new budget but their partner is not. It’s not easy to motivate someone who views their income as easy spending money. A money fool won’t see the light until something comes crashing down, life changes or a reality sets in.

Be Real With Your Expectations

If you believe that a budget is going to solve all your money problems right away you aren’t being fair to yourself. Let go of the notion that there are quick fixes to pay off debt because that is nothing short of a lie. Sure you can get payday loans, bank loans, lines of credits and all the other credit that’s widely available but it’s just that, credit. You still owe the money now matter what end of the bill you hold.

Spend Money On Yourself

This is one area of our budget that we put on hold while we were saving for a downpayment on our home. Even though we had significant savings we wanted to maximize how much we could save and how much home we could buy. We decided to lay off  on the rare occasions of eating out, coffees and shopping in general to reach this goal.

We have since introduced a small entertainment fund and an allowance which is essentially for the both of us of $30 although we use it mainly for a case of beer or if we want to splurge on coffee or a treat at the local shops.

Chill With Other Money Savers

Although we learn from being around a diverse group of people sometimes it’s best to surround yourself with people that are similar to you. If you are with people whom you try to impress with your money your goals may not be attained as you desire. It’s a different story if you have enough money to get by every month to pay the bills and splurge.

If you aren’t paying your bills and splashing your money around with excuses of entitlement than maybe the folks you mingle with aren’t the best company for you at this time.

If you want to stay motivated then sometimes you need to move away from those that aren’t and go it alone. It reminds me of when I quit smoking. It’s not easy hanging out with a bunch of mates that smoke when I just quit smoking.

After a while it didn’t bother me like it did at first but I opted to stay away for a while until I got the cravings under control. I didn’t ditch my friends I simply took a step back until I knew It was safe to come out again. You can do the same with your finances but only if you feel you have the control you need to achieve your goals.

Deep inside if you want something so bad that you can almost taste it, than you will do whatever it takes to achieve it. Sure we all fall off the bandwagon but hell, pick yourself back up and get going again. No one is going to wipe your toosh from falling because you are the captain of your destiny.

If you do have someone with open arms, they are your angels, your light, someone who cares and someone who doesn’t want to see you fail. Embrace the help with open arms.

Bottom line, if you can’t say no I’m on a budget then do yourself a favour and walk away. If your friends don’t understand then it’s time to find new ones. If you’ve already tasted what it’s like on one side of the fence why keep your foot buried while trying to get over to the other side?

Incorporate A Budget Into Your Lifestyle 

It’s not necessary that a budget must dominate your life because that’s not what it’s meant for. Take the time to customize your budget and make it work for you and not against you. Introducing a budget slowly is much easier than dumping it on all at once. Budget failure is your own fault when you don’t plan to work through step by step how it should be incorporated into your daily life.

The Budget Attitude

If you can’t laugh a little then what’s the point? If you feel that a budget is going to hamper your spending style and your depress you to the point where you will give up then don’t start. You need to live a little, love life and find ways that don’t always involve money to make you happy. If you find that “things and stuff” are more important than the roof over your head and homemade meals on the table than a budget might not work for you.

Love Letters

Ah, the love letter. I remember when I got caught by the teacher doing something I wasn’t supposed to being doing in class. Yes I was always into something I wasn’t supposed to be but this time I was merely being the good student and helping out a fellow classmate. You see, Jillian was the popular, pretty girl that no one ever dared said no to. I surely couldn’t say no to her especially since she had a crush on my mate Billy.

I was passing a note that Jillian had tapped me on the shoulder with and asked me to pass to Billy for her. You would think it would have said something like, “Can you help me study for the next math test”. No, that would be far too easy, she had to make it mushy.

Well I’m the one who got caught with the “love letter” and remember thinking “why does this crap always happen to me”. I was a good kid but I knew better than to not pay attention when I was supposed to be learning from my teacher. I should have said, no.

Although I didn’t have to read the note out loud the teacher kindly did that for me. It went something along the lines of “Billy, you make me smile whenever you look at me”… bla bla bla, Love Jillian xo xo. Everyone knew Jillian had a crush on Billy and of course the letter made everyone bust out in laughter and should have made me red in the face. My punishment that day for passing the letter taught me a few things that I carry with me today.

Life Lessons 
  • Laughing really does help when you think others are going to laugh at you, might as well join them because we shouldn’t be ashamed of who we are, where we came from and mistakes we’ve made.
  • It didn’t matter what anyone thought of me because I had to take responsibility for my actions when I should have declined passing the note. It’s hard though when a pretty girl is smiling back at you but we must overcome temptation especially if we know it’s wrong.
  • When the teacher made me write “I Will Not Pass Love Letters In Class” 100 times on a piece of paper it meant I sure as hell was never going to do that again.
  • Learn to say no sometimes, it doesn’t hurt and people will soon forget and move on.
  • Good looks only gets you so far in life

My point is if you really want to have something engrained in your mind, laugh a little, take responsibility for your actions, do something about it and stop worrying about everyone else. If all else fails, write it out 100 times because I bet that by the time you hit 10 or even 20 lines you’ll get it.

No Billy and Jillian didn’t go on to live happily ever after but I went on to learn that one wrong doesn’t make a right. Becoming a budgeting money saver doesn’t have to make you feel as if you are being punished or sent to the corner for not managing your finances properly.

What it means is that you are taking the time to educate yourself on ways to improve your finances so you too can stand up and say “budgeting saved my finances” while leaving the money fool behind.

Can you remember a time when you were young that you were taught a lesson that is still with you today? 

-Excuses Quote

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Growing A Garden In A Small Space

Tomatoes and Cucumber Harvest

This is the year that I am finally going to grow my own garden and you can too, even if you have a small space to work with! My kids are at the ages now where I can spend more time working outside which is a passion of mine. Unfortunately, my property is not quite ready for my garden, so most of my gardening will have to be based around containers and hanging baskets.

While thinking about what I’m going to grow, I also have to consider where I am going to grow them! Over the years, I have seen many innovative and creative ways that you can grow a flourishing garden without digging a hole in the ground. These ideas got me thinking about how they could be used to grow a garden in a small space.

I’ve lost count a long time ago how many times I’ve heard, ‘I don’t have the space for a garden’, or ‘I live in an apartment, I can’t grow a garden’. With the exception of individuals who have balconies that get absolutely no sunlight, this is not true! Adopting the ideas of going vertical, and hanging plants such as tomatoes and strawberries can turn that small space into a beautiful, abundant vegetable garden!

Vegetable Garden Ideas For Small Spaces
Shoe Organizer
Shoe Organizer

Picture via

One of my favourite trends that I have seen is using a shoe organizer to grow vegetables and herbs. I think this idea is brilliant, it gives you the ability to grow multiple varieties of plants and you can just hang it on a wall or a fence, or even a balcony! I have seen cloth hanging shoe organizers online in the $10.00 to $20.00 range, you could even find one at Goodwill if you are lucky. This vertical method is best used for growing herbs and plants such as lettuce and kale that can be confined to a smaller growing area.

I do recommend that if you are going to use this on a balcony that you place a container underneath to catch the drips when watering, your neighbours below would appreciate that. I am excited to do this, I already have the organizer and a good wall on my garden shed. I want to get a lot done on my property this summer so having this on the wall will keep it out-of-the-way leaving more room for my other ideas.

fixed pots gardening

Fixed Pots

If you have a small backyard with a fence or garden shed you can attach some pots/containers directly to the fence or shed. Using single containers you have the ability to use different pot sizes and can allow more spacing between plants, which means more plant options. Some bigger pots on the ground along the fence line could be planted with carrots, kohlrabi, tomatoes, peppers, etc. I am giving my wall space to the organizer but I do have a small area of patios stones in the backyard that will one day be made into a nice sitting area, for now it will serve as an area for multiple container plants.

Hanging Plants

Topsy Turvey Tomato Planter 2

Most people typically think of flowers when they think of a hanging basket, but there are multiple plants including tomatoes, peppers, beans, and strawberries, zucchini, and cucumbers, that can be grown this way. I have picked up a few of the ‘As seen on TV Topsy Turvy’  from the dollar store for $2.00 each. I have seen success with this product. I will let you all know what I think of it, I’m going to try it with tomatoes and zucchini this summer. I have a long porch and it will be lined with strawberry hanging baskets this year, I’m looking forward to those. You can purchase a hanging basket stand at your local garden centre which allows you to hang multiple pots if you have no place to hang them.

Garden Wall Bags

Wall Bags

I would like to shake hands with the person who originally thought of these! This is a great way to turn a small space into a vegetable haven. Among many plants tomatoes, peppers and strawberries can be grown in them. I’ve found a website for DIY Walls Bags which shows a quick, affordable, budget friendly way to make your own. When filling the bags with potting soil, it is very important that they are firmly packed full, the soil needs to settle firmly when watered through with no gaps, to ensure full root coverage.

Tips For Container Gardening
  • Make sure any container you use has a drainage hole and avoid recycled plastic containers (ex. margarine container) in the sun, as the plastic will deteriorate,
  • Choose a good quality potting mix, I would avoid the dollar store bags.
  • Never use garden soil or ‘dirt’. It will not drain properly and makes the containers extremely heavy
  • Fertilize often, plants need food!
  • Watering will be required more often than in a traditional garden, it’s better to give a plant more water once then a little water here and there. Most, but not all plants like to dry out slightly (not bone dry) in between waterings, you need to avoid over and underwatering but always watering thoroughly!

Climate will always be a factor in which plants you are able to grow, but do not feel restricted due to space and remember that realistically not all garden plants can be grown in small spaces. It’s important to use trial and error and over time you will know exactly what you can and can’t grow. Be creative, make efficient use of that small space, and enjoy watching your garden grow! Keep your eyes out here at Canadian Budget Binder this summer as I look forward to sharing the results of my garden with all of you!

Editors Note: Thanks Katrina for a very informative post about organic gardening in small spaces which a few CBB fans have asked me about. Katrina will be working alongside me this summer sharing her expertise and passion for nature, beauty, landscaping and gardening. If you missed her first post here at CBB about how she turned her passion and skills into making extra money give it a read. It’s a very inspirational story about a woman who sets out to follow her passion in life, gardening. If you have any topics you would like Katrina to blog about or questions for her simply email her at canadianbudgetbinder [at]  yahoo dot [ca]

Post Contribution By: Katrina is a horticulture graduate with over 10 years experience with landscaping and greenhouse production. Her goal is to share her knowledge and experiences through blogging in hopes of helping others realize their gardening abilities.While being a single mom of two and working in a sales and marketing position, Katrina runs her own Landscaping Services in Southwestern Ontario.

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Becoming a Single Homeowner – Part 1 “The Plan”

Savings for a new home

I’ve noticed a trend lately. The usual client that darkens my door is changing. There is a marked increase in Single person – home purchase applicants. And this trend is being led by the ladies. And I’m not the only one noticing this. Single ladies hooking up with homes is coming to a neighbourhood near you.

Mr. CBB asked me to share the experiences of the unique requirements of how the Single person approaches purchasing a home. He was very emphatic in ensuring this covers single women, men, and single parents. As there are potential additional risks and vulnerabilities with a single income and/or dependents – I submit this information to you with great respect and full gravity.

With this said – I am very excited at what is transpiring here! Making the move from renting to home ownership carries a direct historical correlation to wealth accumulation and an increased net worth. And one thing all of my single clients are in agreement on is having an opportunity to increase their financial position. So with this in mind – here are some simple steps to increase your shot at owning your home.

It All Starts With A Budget – And A Plan

There are always two aspects of every plan – what do I want and what do I have to work with? As a Single person (and potentially with kids) sometimes what we want and what we have seem farther apart than the opposite Poles. This should never stop you from creating your home ownership plan. Even the greatest journey begins with taking the first step. So what do we need to consider.

a. Mortgage Costs – this is the largest item to budget for and will consist of the principle and interest components making up your periodic mortgage payment.

b. Property Taxes – another cost to be budgeted for and one that will never go down – only up. A rough rule of thumb is to take the price of the property you are budgeting for and multiply by 1.25% to get an idea of how much this will cost.

c. Utilities – if you are currently renting you may or may not already be responsible for your own utilities. If you are not – just add a minimum of another $100/month as this is the industry standard in qualifying as part of GDS or the gross debt service towards the mortgage.

d. Maintenance/Appliances – the transition to home ownership brings some additional costs as well from the lawnmower to paying for a new dryer when the drum burns out. Making a budgetary entry for this is a prudent way to ensure this never creeps up on you when something breaks down unexpectedly. Some may choose a leasehold property where some to all maintenance is covered by a condo corp. or a co-operative. This cost varies again from property to property so verify and add room in the budget.

Pulling Your Credit – The Tricks and Tips

The next step to moving closer to your goal of homeownership is to pull your credit rating. Single people are empowered and ask a lot of questions as a demographic. It came as no surprise to me then when I was peppered with a barrage from my latest client “Cassidy”.

In our initial conversation, we covered off the basics and got right into this critical step. I showed her that for $24 + tax you can pull your own Equifax Credit Report complete with beacon score. With this in hand – she learned that the five areas that affect her credit were (a)paying her accounts on time, (b) account balances to high credit limits, (c) credit history, (d) account types, and (e) new credit. With this information Cassidy now knew that she had to use the system to her advantage in order to position herself in a positive light with the banks.

What is less apparent to my Single home buyer (and Cassidy was not immune here) is the new Federal Mortgage rules implemented and how they affect all Canadians but especially those who are looking to enter the housing market as a single income earner. Here is what you need to know.

i) Credit Score needs to be 680 or higher – this enables the maximum debt service ratio of 39% of your gross annual income to be able to go towards your housing costs effectively giving you more room on the purchase price.

ii) Amortizations are maximum 25 years – some single income earners need an extended amortization to ensure the mortgage is affordable. To remedy this, it is prudent to just reduce your purchase price although in some metropolitan markets this may price you out of the market.

iii) Self Employed – if you are a self-employed single then you will need to take special care with your credit as if your credit score is below 680 – you will be forced to utilize your taxable income and this is where you will suffer as the advantages of the write-offs you enjoy will not help you in the home purchase process.

iv) Credit Accounts – your credit account needs a minimum three trade lines with a solid two-year history without blemish for access to the best mortgage products available today. Look at a high credit limit of a minimum $2,500 on the first with minimums of $1,000 on the other two accounts to be safe and do not use them above 30% of their available high balance each month before paying them off to zero.

In the next post I will cover off other areas to consider as a potential Single homeowner in the property and the mortgage itself.

Guest Post By: Michael Smele:  I am a passionate educator about mortgage and finance. I also am an investor in asset backed and real estate based investments. My wife and three boys live with me on a 30 acre horse farm up in Barrie, Ontario where we enjoy all four seasons. Find me at

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