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It’s tax time: 5 free apps and websites to get your finances in gear

With the tax season well underway, people are asking more questions than ever about their personal finances.  Thankfully, there are many tools online that’ll put you in the right direction and offer some really helpful suggestions.

Take a look at a few great choices below:

Finance app_MintMint, www.mint.com, FREE

If you are looking to start tracking personal budgets so you can hit financial goals, Mint is the solution for you.  The beauty of this free website is that it brings in all of the finances from multiple bank institutions so you can have a general overview of where your money is going.

Mint can automatically categorize your spending so you can see how much of your income is going towards bills, rent, food, restaurants, etc., and you can set your monthly budgets accordingly.

Finance app_Canadian Mortgage

Canadian Mortgage, iOS, FREE

This application, available for iOS devices, is great if you’re looking for an easy-to-use mortgage calculator.  If you’re a potential new homebuyer, this will give you a helpful snapshot as to a payment schedules.

With this tool, you can calculate your total monthly home cost, the variable and/or fixed payment rates and frequencies, including Canadian-specific factors like premiums, land transfer fees, first-time buyer rebates, local maps, and more.
This app is about as precise as an estimate is going to get.  The numbers are easily manipulated with a visually friendly slider to adjust the values and calculated results.  Calculations are tested and verified with some of Canada’s largest banks, and provides a good benchmark estimate of the payments to Canada’s lenders.

Finance app_moneyStrands

moneyStrands, iOS, FREE

moneyStrands is the app for you if you want to get your bills in check.  Using their bill tracker, you can view all reoccurring bills and colour-code them to indicate the urgency of payments.

Debt management is a cinch.  Their debt-to-income widget will assist in calculating whether your bills will outweigh your income.  It’s easy to setup, free to use, and your content is secure with bank-level encryption on all information.

TurboTax Online

TurboTax Online, www.turbotax.ca, FREE to use; $17.99 for standard NETFILE

Filing taxes yourself is simple to do with this software-free solution.  Its smart wizard will take you from start to finish, including direct and secure NETFILE to the Canadian Revenue Agency.

If you have a question, no problem!  There’s a live forum with frequently asked questions for you to reference, including determining what is eligible for a deduction.

TurboTax’s Deduction Toolbox will help you find every possible savings for your return—over 400 of them in their A-to-Z list.  TurboTax takes you through a personal profile, which will help them determine what you’ll be able to deduct from your income.

Finance app_SnapTax

SnapTax by TurboTax, iOS, FREE to use; $9.99 for NETFILE

If you have generic and simple taxes to file, SnapTax by TurboTax is literally as easy as 1-2-3.

This app—yes, I said app—is for Canadians who have an iPhone, don’t have children or dependants, are under the age of 65, have RRSPs, charitable donations, and/or student tax deductions to claim.

Simply snap a photo of your T4 slip, answer a few questions, pay and NETFILE your taxes securely—all from the comfort of your smartphone.  It really doesn’t get easier than that.

Take a look and try out the above apps and websites.  How do they work for you?  Share your thoughts in the comments below!

GIVEAWAY

The great folks at TurboTax and Winston Sih Media want to help you get your taxes done on time!  We are giving away FIVE copies of TurboTax Online Standard Edition to five lucky readers.

Here’s how you can enter:

1. Give my Twitter a Follow – @WinstonSih.
2. “Like” our Facebook page here – Facebook.com/WinstonSihFans.
3. Post the following on your Twitter and/or Facebook feed(s).  You may enter ONCE on your Twitter, and ONCE on your Facebook.  Duplicates will not be recorded.
Click HERE to automatically Tweet, or copy-and-paste the message below to your respective Twitter/Facebook feed(s).
“It’s tax time! Check out TurboTax Online and enter to win a FREE copy from @WinstonSih here: http://bit.ly/11bfGUf”
The deadline to enter is Friday, April 5, at 11:59 p.m. ET.  

*Click HERE for the Official Rules and Regulations of this contest.


Cityline visits CES 2013!

The Consumer Electronics Show—more popularly known as CES—is where hundreds of thousands of technology enthusiasts, journalists, and gadget-makers gather to find out what’s trending in the upcoming year in the consumer electronics market, and I had the pleasure of visiting the five-day event in Las Vegas, NV, on Jan. 7 through Jan. 11, 2013.

Among the sea of people were the latest innovations in technology today, including the smartest of smart refrigerators, eco-friendly app-controlled thermostats, and larger-than-life television sets.

Over the next year, the Smart TV Alliance will be working towards creating a connected environment across all of its member television manufacturers, like this curved, OLED television from LG.  The end result will include thousands of applications from weather to news to games to social media—all from the comfort of your television’s remote control.

When it comes to being connected, gadget-makers are pushing even harder this year to keep you connected to the Internet all the time.  For example, the Samsung GALAXY Camera is connected to the cellular network, so no matter where you are, your photos can be uploaded to your favourite social networks from Facebook to Twitter—all without a Wi-Fi network, USB cable, or computer!

Here’s a look at what I found in connected technology for the home:

With parents constantly on the go and kids more digitally connected than ever before (be it at home or in the classroom), families are facing increased challenges to stay caught up with the latest technology. Apps, gadgets, and “smart” technology for the family are largely in focus CES this year.

Busy moms are in luck this year, too.  Baby monitors, like VTech’s Safe & Sound, will allow you to not only hear your baby, but now you can even see your baby from multiple camera angles on a 2.8-inch full-colour screen.  If you are looking for something to keep your child occupied, the MINDSTORM EV3 will bring your LEGO to life!

Check out my web-exclusive look at family gadgets here:

What are you most excited for in the world of technology in 2013? Share them in the comments below!

Camera by Alex Tutt.


CES 2013: Smart TV technology continues to take over Canadian living rooms

TheDigitalLife_Smart TV copySmart TVs are setting the trend at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, NV.

The Smart TV Alliance—a universal Smart TV platform consisting of manufacturers like LG, Panasonic, and Toshiba—unveiled a new set of applications aimed at unifying your television-viewing experience with the Internet.

Over the next year, the Smart TV Alliance will be working towards creating a connected environment across all of its member television manufacturers.  The end result will include thousands of applications from weather to news to games to social media—all from the comfort of your television’s remote control.

LG announced a new television experience for families in 2013, the features of which include:

  • 3D video
  • More and better content choices with updated digital rights management (DRM) features that reflect DRM requirements from content owners
  • Richer and increased number of applications available from upgraded HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript specifications

The goal will see users able to load apps on one television, and when a second television is purchased down the road—even if it’s from a different manufacturer—they will be able to load the same apps and content from the Internet.

Does a connected, Smart TV in the living room appeal to you?  Sound off in the comments below.

With files from LG.


High-Tech Board Games and Toys for Kids – Cityline

High-Tech Board Games and Toys for Kids:  Episode as seen on Cityline – October 29, 2012.

As always, you can re-watch previous episodes of Cityline on Citytv.com, or via the Citytv Video iPad/iPhone app!  Cityline airs 9 a.m./3 p.m. ET on Citytv in Toronto.  Check Citytv.com for air times in your city.

Show Notes:

Hasbro
www.hasbro.ca
MONOPOLY ZAPPED Edition
MONOPOLY Electronic Banking
TWISTER Dance
ANGRY BIRDS STAR WARS JENGA DEATH STAR Game

Toys R Us
www.toysrus.ca
Scrabble Flash
The Game of Life – Zapped
Operation – Reinvented
Crayola Marker AirBrush

Mattel
www.mattel.ca 
BARBIE Photo Fashion Doll
APPTIVITY – Batman, Hot Wheels, Angry Birds, WWE
FISHER PRICE Laugh & Learn Apptivity Monkey


Halloween trick-or-treating safety tips

Halloween is an exciting time for children, but with the distractions of ghoulish goblins and candy, safety rules often take the back burner.  It’s important to give your children a quick reminder of simple safety tips to keep Halloween night a safe and fun night for all.

Tips for parents:
1)    Children under the age of nine should always be accompanied by an adult or an older teenager.  They should be especially mindful of crossing the street and staying out of drivers’ blind spots.
2)    Ensure your child is stopping at the curb and watching and listening for oncoming traffic before crossing.  Children can get excited and easily distracted, and should never rely on traffic signals alone.  From a very young age, you can teach your children that roads are for cars and sidewalks are for kids. If your community doesn’t have sidewalks, walking beside the road at night can be very dangerous – adult accompaniment and flashlights are a must, regardless of the child’s age.
3)    Children should only wear a properly-fitted costume that is bright and non-flammable. Select bright costumes to increase your child’s visibility, and opt for face paint over masks.  Use reflective tape on the costume so your child can be seen in the dark.
4)    Plan a route, a time to be home, and make sure they stay close to home.  Visit only the front doors of well-lit homes and never go inside.
5)    Check through your child’s treats before you allow them to eat anything. Anything that is homemade or looks to be tampered with should be thrown away.
6)    Lastly, if you need assistance, speak to a police officer or go to a red Rogers van.  Starting at dusk this Halloween, the Rogers Pumpkin Patrol will be back patrolling local neighbourhoods. Staffed by employee volunteers, they keep a watchful eye on little goblins, pirates and monsters in case they need help.

Tips for drivers:

1)    Drive slowly in residential areas where children are more likely to be crossing the street.  The faster you are driving, the less likely you are to see a pedestrian, and the more difficult it is for you to stop in an instant.
2)    Eliminate all distractions and stay alert.  All of your concentration should be on the roads – not your cell phone or radio.
3)    Keep an eye out for kids, many of whom will be wearing masks that make it difficult for them to see.  Children often forget safety rules with the excitement of Halloween, so keep an eye out for kids in unexpected places.
4)    Lastly, be mindful of your surroundings when entering and exiting driveways.  Excited kids run along the sidewalks, so back out of your driveway with caution.

What do you teach your kids before heading out trick or treating?  Share your suggestions in the comments below!