The Frugal Canadian

A frugal spender seeks to find new ways to save money and increase her net worth.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

More Tax Software Reviews

There is an interesting article by Rob Carrick at the Globe and Mail discussing some additional tax software programs that are available.

It discusses that the number of returns filed via Netfile has increased 14.3% in 2004, to a total of 3.5 million the number of returns and a 50% increase from 2001.

Not surprisingly, it highlights QuickTax, TaxWiz and Ufile as one of the 3 products to buy.

It does however list some newer cheaper programs such as

- Studiotax(Free! Financial donation suggested)
- myTaxExpress at $6.08,
- CuteTax at $8.98
- My personal favourite TaxFreeway at $9.95,
- T1Filer at $8.99
- EachTax at $5.99.
- GenuTax $34.99 BUT free updates every year after

Awhile ago, a reader inquired about a Mac version. The article suggests TaxTron which is $12.99

While I haven't tried any of the above programs other than TaxFreeway, they are all Netfile certified by CRA which means that they should produce accurate returns. As the article indicates, the probably are not as "slick" as QuickTax but I think they are worth a shot. Most programs allow you to download for free and try them out. Purchase is only required for printing or Netfile purposes.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Microsoft Money Review

I just finished test-driving 2006 Microsoft Money Deluxe version(US). I was thinking about getting the Canadian version, but was offered this for a trial period so I thought I'd try this out first. As an accountant, I've used a number of packages such as Quicken, Quickbooks and Simply Accounting all of which are geared towards owning a business. I've always used an excel spreadsheet that I had developed for my personal finances and to date have been happy with it. My brother however has been a long time user of Microsoft Money and raves about it.

I found the setup to be fairly lengthy. Setting up the bank accounts was quite easy despite the fact that I have 5 active bank accounts. I was able to easily import the activity from the financial institutions and then I had to go through each transaction since the beginning of the year(the date of my first imported transaction) and allocate it as an income/expense category. This was a somewhat lengthy task, although I am told that in future months, the program will recognize recurring items and automatically assign them the previous month's category. I'm looking forward to see if this is the case.

I had a difficult time getting my investments setup. I already have my adjusted cost-basis calculated for my investments and since I could not import the transactions from my brokerage account, I simply wanted to enter the original cost basis. This caused a few problems because I had transfers from my bank account for recent purchases which needed to be allocated somewhere otherwize they would should up as an expense. I'm sure there was an easier way to deal with this, but I ended up creating a "dummy" account to deal with my transfers.

The other problem I had was with my Self-Directed RRSP account. My account has a number of stocks, ETFs and index mutual funds. Some of the stocks are US stocks but are converted into Canadian dollars in my brokerage account. Money automatically tagged these stocks as USD stocks and kept them in USD even though I entered them as Canadian dollars. In the end, I was able to reflect them in Canadian dollars. Money will automatically get the USD quote and convert it at the current exchange rate which I am quite impressed with. I question whether the average consumer would have the patience to set up such an investment account, but perhaps the average consumer would not have a self-directed RRSP plan.

Now that I am setup I think it will be quite a useful program and it should save me a lot of time compared to my excel template that I had developed. There are a wide array of reports that are used and these can all be exported to excel if I wanted to do additional analysis. I have set up my budget within the program which will speed up my monthly budget review. I am curious to see how the program will handle DRIPs. I also have not used any of the tax features since they are all US based. I will continue to use Money until my trial period is up. At that point, if I'm still happy with, I will purchase the Canadian version.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Too Much Cash

I have $10,000 in my savings account right now. I'd like to keep at most $5,000 in cash realizing that I am sacrificing a potentially higher return if I keep more than 2 months of living expenses in cash. The consequence of saving $2100 each month is that every 2 months I need to look for an investment option that is going to earn me a decent return. In the next 6 months to a year, I am expecting to have some large purchases as I get closer to buying a home and will have to start shelling out some cash for my upcoming wedding. I'm therefore looking for a liquid investment, with an investment horizon of 6 to 9 months. I'm not considering ETFs other other equities given the short time period, and there is a great risk that I wouldn't even recover $29 in and out brokerage fees.

Some options I have:
- Current PC Financial Account - paying 2.9% interest - no liqudity restraints
- ING Savings Account - paying 3% interest - no liquidity restraints
- 90 Day ING GIC - 3.4% - low liquidity restraint
-180 Day ING GIC - 3.5% - medium liquidity restraint with only a 0.1% benefit
- Bankers Acceptances - 0 to 90+ days - 3.25% to 3.55%
- T bills - 30 to 90 days 3% to 3.4%
- Corporate Bonds - GM Mtge Note Bond, 3.8% 9/22/06 with a yield of 7.314%.
- Other corporate bonds with Dec 2006 maturity - 3.6% - 3.8% yield

Basically, on what I would call the "safe" investments I'm goign to get 3 to 3.5%. Clearly nothing to get excited about. But, I'm getting nervous even thinking about investing in GM even the yield is definitely attractive. It has a BBBl DBRS rating and Ba1 Moodys rating. Do I think they are going to go bankrupt by September? Probably not, but I don't think I'm willing to take the risk. For now, I will put the money into my ING account and continue to look for a better alternative.