If you're one of the lucky ones, you will receive a tax refund this year. That's brilliant --but what are you going to do with it? If you have no debt and therefore say you'll buy shoes, then congratulations! Enjoy your new shoes. If you're like the rest of us and carry some debt -- good or bad -- then that tax refund can be put to better use.
If you're expecting us to say, "pay down your debt," then you're halfway there. But there are a few things you should do before you allocate that money, to make sure you do so in a smart and efficient manner.
Two people who receive the same amount in their refund may not have the same priorities, says Jeremy Kroll, partner at A. Farber & Partners. He suggests taking a look at your financial situation and even personal relationships before spending the money. Start by determining whether your financial situation is stable and looking at your debt load.
Cash flow First, take a look at your regular, everyday money flow. Is your job in danger or is your job secure? If your job is secure, then your cash flow is pretty good and you don't have to prioritize your emergency fund. (On a side note, you should always have one, though.)
Debts How much debt do you actually have? This includes good and bad debt -- so that credit card bill as well as your mortgage. Then look at each debt and determine the most expensive debt -- i.e., the debt with the highest interest rate, not just the highest principal.
If you're stable If your financial situation is stable, then pay off your most expensive debt first. Kroll does add a caveat. "There's a 'but' there," he says. "If it's affecting family, then pay that off first." He also suggests paying off any "grumpy creditors" quickly so you can get them out of your life.
If you're unstable If your financial situation is unstable, Kroll suggests first paying off the debts that won't be forgiven, like car loans and mortgages. Remember, consumer debt can be negotiated and sometimes forgiven, especially if you end up in a bankruptcy situation. Once you're dealt with those debts, then you can start looking after your most expensive debt -- once again, usually consumer debt.
It's not as sexy as a new pair of shoes or a fancy night out, but that feeling of pride in your financial accomplishments will last longer than an overpriced meal.
We polled family doctors from across the country, and they laid down the law on eight things they wish we'd do—or stop doing.
According to our panel of general practitioners, Canadians aren't always doing what they should to make the most of doctor visits—and skipping out on these crucial tactics could lead to a delay in diagnosing serious conditions. Here's what our experts say you should add to your patient checklist.
1. Stop feeling shy
Many of us hesitate to talk to our physicians about sensitive issues (think substance abuse or sexual health—or even gender identity). But honesty and openness are important, both for fostering a good doctor-patient relationship and for ensuring that you get the best care, says Dr. Laura Pripstein, medical director of the Sherbourne Health Centre in Toronto and a staff physician on the family health team. That's why it's OK to try out a doc before committing. Dr. Pripstein recommends booking an initial visit to see if your potential doctor is a good fit. "You want to see if this person seems like someone you can talk to, someone you feel comfortable with," she says. And if you don't think your doctor understands or respects your concerns, don't be afraid to find someone new. "If you feel you can't ask questions that might be embarrassing, you don't have the right provider," says Dr. Pripstein.
2. Don't come to your appointments unprepared
Get the most out of your time—and your doc's—by arriving at your appointment with a clear plan for what you want to discuss, says Dr. David Ross, an associate professor of family medicine at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. "It's good to have patients think about their problems from when the issue began, then look at it chronologically to the present," says Dr. Ross. Making a prioritized point-form list in advance helps ensure that you don't forget anything or mix up the order of events, he says. Then, work with your doctor to address the most serious issues first.
3. Choose your family doc over the walk-in clinic whenever you can
Yes, a clinic is convenient, but what we gain in easy access, we lose in familiarity. "I think it's really valuable if people can connect with a family physician who they'll be able to see long term, rather than just looking for the quickest way to access care," says Dr. Maurianne Reade, a physician with the Manitoulin Central Family Health Team in Mindemoya and M'Chigeeng First Nation, Ont. A family doctor will know your medical history and will keep it in mind when suggesting treatment—so, for example, if you've recently taken several courses of antibiotics for a UTI, your physician will likely look for a different course of action if you come in with another infection. According to the most recent statistics, about 4.5 million Canadians don't have a regular family doctor. If that's you, contact your provincial College of Physicians and Surgeons, or check to see if your region has an online registry (Ontario has Health Care Connect, while Quebec launched a web-based family doctor finder last year). "It's important to know that we doctors are privileged to share in your stories and to help you through difficult times," says Dr. Reade.
4. Share what's happening in your life
There's a reason your doctor wants to know where you're working, if you're dating and how the kids are—and it's not just because she likes you. (Though she does, we're sure.) Physicians need a picture of their patients' lives beyond their specific health symptoms and conditions, especially when they're first getting to know you, says Dr. Stephen Wetmore, the family medicine chair at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University in London, Ont. "Doctors need to know these things to understand how your lifestyle and habits may be influencing your health," he says. So when you're talking about your exercise habits, your health history and whether you smoke, drink or use drugs, mention your employment status, family obligations and intimate relationships, too, says Dr. Wetmore.
5. Be a better googler
Doctors know you do it (hello, late-night web searches), but they would prefer you to ask about good sources of information, rather than going rogue online. They also want you to be honest about your fears if you've read something particularly upsetting. Physicians can't address your concerns or point you in the right direction if they don't know what your fingertips have been up to. "The thing we want our patients to do is ask us for the most reliable Canadian websites to go to as resources," says Dr. Heather Waters, an assistant professor of family medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton.
6. Don't think your symptoms are "no big deal"
If you've noticed you are having more headaches than usual or are sleeping more or are eating less, you might not think to tell your doctor—but you should. There's no set of rules for determining which symptoms are worthy of investigation or discussion, says Dr. Wetmore, but make a note to mention anything that is new or has changed since your last appointment. "You should bring up things like sudden weight loss or fatigue that seems excessive," he says. "It could be a sign of a larger problem, or the cause of a developing problem." Evenif it doesn't end up being serious, seeing your doctor will help ease any anxiety you might be feeling, and that's worth the visit, too.
7. Talk about what you're taking
Tell your physician about any herbal medications and alternative treatments you take, says Dr. Mel Borins, a University of Toronto associate professor and author of A Doctor's Guide to Alternative Medicine: What Works, What Doesn't, and Why. It's important for patients to share what's working for them and for doctors to be open-minded about therapies outside their own practice or traditions, he says. This is also a concern when it comes to conventional meds, especially if you're pregnant; there are only 23 medications specifically approved for use during pregnancy— yes, out of every available drug—which can leave women feeling anxious about taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs when they're expecting, says Dr. Robyn MacQuarrie, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Bridgewater, N.S. But don't stop taking your meds as soon as your pregnancy test comes back positive. "It's really important to talk to your doctor instead of stopping cold turkey," says Dr. MacQuarrie. Physicians can help you determine the risks and benefits of using different drugs, and they can let you know when the effects of not taking a medication while pregnant may be worse than taking it— which is the case with some antidepressants.
8. Avoid diagnosing yourself
You know doctors don't like it when you come in prepared with a diagnosis you've made thanks to the aforementioned Dr. Google. But do you know why? It's not because they think you're encroaching on their territory! Rather, they worry that a serious medical problem might get missed or you'll cause yourself unnecessary anxiety over something not serious. That's because not everyone has the most common symptoms of a particular condition. Plus, men, women and different ethnicities can have varying symptoms for the same problem. For instance, Dr. Reade's community has a large proportion of people with diabetes, which can affect the warning signs of cardiac disease, a major killer in Canada. Instead of the usual pain or pressure on the left side of the chest or arm, men and women with diabetes may instead have spells of profuse sweating with weakness. And, of course, women who don't have diabetes can have differing symptoms, too; sometimes, a heart attack can feel like acid reflux or come with sudden nausea, vomiting and lightheadedness. So always tell your physician if your symptoms are surprising or strange—like a headache that feels different than usual, for example. And if you're worried about a specific diagnosis, be sure to bring that up, too.
While every Canadian faces his or her own unique set of health hurdles, there are a number of ailments that have become pervasive in Canada. Though medicine has advanced over the years, our modern lifestyles have introduced a new set of health challenges. Here are some of the top health problems that Canadians face today.
Wrapper, mac, gabardine, slicker—a trench coat by any other name is still a wardrobe classic.
The sartorial legacy of Breakfast at Tiffany's is, of course, that little black dress. The sight of Holly Golightly, munching on a pastry while admiring the jewels from the street, is iconic. But it's not the best fashion moment of the film. Instead, think of the final scene: Audrey Hepburn drenched in the rain, sharing a passionate kiss with Geroge Peppard, wearing a trench coat knotted at the waist. The trench, you see, if not typically the tool of romance, which tends to lean in the direction of soft, romantic ensembles.
Prior to its Hollywood boom, the trench coat was largely a man's garment. In fact, the coat got its start in the early 19th century as waterproof outerwear for military and civilian use—though when the First World War began, it became primarily associated with British military officers. Burberry, the brand synonymous with the classic wardrobe staple, is often credited with the trench coat's invention, though it likely shares that honour with Aquascutum, as both companies outfitted soldiers.
Postwar, the trench permeated Hollywood. Leading men such as Humphery Bogart (remember his goodbye scene with Isla in Casablanca?), Peter Sellers (in The Pink Panther) and Robert Redford (in The Way We Were) all counted the topper as part of their uniform, and the item began to be linked with a more worldly, quiet man, instead of the soldier. The trench's masculinity is often associate with detectives—intelligent but brooding solitary men who give off mysterious vibes.
It didn't take long for women to co-opt the trench for their personal style statements, thanks in large part to many ladies embracing a more masculine and casual wardrobe in the mid-'60s. This decade was its turning point for casual dressing, which saw a major shift toward unisex styles. Hepburn was hardly the first woman to make the garment her own; Marlene Dietrich, Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren all donned the topper, in A Foreign Affair, Babette Goes to War and The Key, respectively. But it's that scene in Breakfast at Tiffany's that's the defining trench moment for women. Strong, proud Holly Golightly found love, and it wasn't her LBD that did the trick; it was the trench—practical, genderless, classic.
Here's what to do to maximize your antioxidant intake.
1. Spice it up.
Both dried spices and fresh herbs tend to be extra potent with antioxidants. “Having a really liberal approach to herbs and spices in your cooking as opposed to a tiny sprinkle is really beneficial,” says registered dietitian Desiree Nielsen.
2. Go organic.
New research from Spain is suggesting that organic produce may have extra antioxidants. “Phytochemicals are a plant’s defence mechanism—kind of like its immune system,” says Nielsen. “So when you apply pesticides and herbicides to crops, the thinking is that the plant has less need to self-protect, so it downgrades those compounds.”
3. Eat whole foods.
You can have too much of a good thing, and when you take antioxidant supplements you run the risk they’ll aid oxidation rather than fight it. “It has a reverse effect if you take too much or take it out of the right context,” says Nielsen. “When you start isolating compounds from food, they often don’t behave in the way that you would expect.”
We spoke to Rime Arodaky, a Paris-based wedding dress designer, and Danielle Gulic and Yvonne Reidy, co-owners of Loversland a bridal shop in Toronto, to find out the biggest and best wedding dress trends for 2017.
Following wedding dress trends is tricky, especially if you're a bride. On one hand, most brides-to-be want a look that they can look back on without regret (something most women who got married in the 1980s can't do). But on the other hand, embracing the time and place you got hitched is a great way to mark the moment—and incorporating the trends of the day is the easiest way to do this. The good news? For 2017 the bridal dress trends that are making the biggest waves are also the prettiest—which means you can rest easy about that dress regret.
We spoke to Danielle Gulic and Yvonne Reidy, co-owners of bridal boutique Loversland in Toronto, and wedding dress designer Rime Arodaky for all the latest you need to know about the top 10 2017 wedding dress trends.
Lace is still going very strong for 2017. Think illusion necklines, sheer lace sleeves, lace overlays or just all-lace dresses. When it comes to soft romanticism, lace is still your best bet.
Image by: Oscar de la Renta
2. Jumpsuits and suits
"When we first opened two years ago, we were really stoked about jumpsuits and pants," says Danielle Gulic, "but only now are we at the point where women are actually embracing it." It may seem like a bold fashion choice, but wearing a sleek or romantic suit to your nuptials is a great look. Remember Bianca Jagger's wedding look? Trust us, it will stand the test of time.
3. Understated glamour
This is more of a feeling than a hard and fast trend, but Yvonne and Danielle have noticed a definite uptick in women looking for more glamorous and Hollywood-inspired elegance. Could you wear it on a red carpet? If yes, then it's probably glamorous.
"I think women are a bit more open and amped for sparkle," says Danielle. This doesn't mean over-the-top sequins necessarily (although go there if you're feeling it) but just adding a little shine to an otherwise simple silhouette can take a dress from simple to stunning.
5. Clean lines
Rime Arodaky calls this the "city-chic" look. Think clean lines, simple silhouettes and an overall polish to your bridal look. While you could wear a gown like this to a big 500-person wedding, it would also be a great look for a city hall bride.
Structure doesn't necessarily mean hard edges—but Rime has definitely noticed that brides are paying more attention to the detail and shape of the dress and how it fits their body. It's all about finding that middle ground of the perfect fit. "Brides are looking for a bit of structure," she says. "Nothing too flowy or too soft—without being too puffy or too heavy, the structure is becoming very important."
Off-the-shoulder silhouettes are still big—but the trend to keep at eye out for is single-shoulder dresses. "It's not quite here yet," says Danielle, "but I think we'll be seeing a lot more one-shouldered gowns soon." From our research, there were only a few brands embracing the one-shoulder—and they were all more experimental. File this under, big in 2018.
Colours (other than the occasional pale pink or muted yellow) haven't hit the mainstream yet—and Rime, Danielle and Yvonne are okay with that. But what they are seeing is more intricate embroidery, often in pastel colours. The takeaway? Go for subtle colours and interesting touches instead of full on colour.
Elizabeth Fillmore-FelicityImage by:Loversland
9. Metallic accents
"I really love metallic details," says Rime. "I have little gold dots in the new collection and I love hints of rose gold too." Metallics are a no-brainer for your big day. And while most brides bring the trend into their look with accessories or even nail polish, this year feel free to embrace a dress with a bit more pizzazz in the form of metal accents.
Rue De SeineImage by:Loversland
10. Old school accessories
Okay, so this isn't a dress trend, but it is one of our favourites on the list. Old school accessories—like traditional veils and embellished hair combs—are making a comeback. When it comes to trying these trends the Loversland ladies implore you to just try it on. "A lot of girls come in and they don't want a veil," says Yvonne, "but then as soon as they try it on, they love it." So ditch the flower crown for a veil or a glamorous comb in your hair.