1. Get CERB while you can
If you’re reading this from home when you would normally be at work, you’re probably already familiar with the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
In March, the government launched the financial lifeline to support people who lost jobs or hours because of COVID-19. It even applies to freelancers and contract workers who wouldn’t normally qualify for Employment Insurance.
The benefit is $500 per week, though you receive a single $2,000 payment for each four-week period.
If you didn’t know about it — or only just found yourself out of work — you can still apply for any pay periods you missed since March. But you have to move quickly, because the CERB will soon come to an end.
The last payment period is set to finish Sept. 26, 2020. Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough told reporters in July that the federal government would be “moving as many Canadians as possible from the CERB onto Employment Insurance.”
2. Check for unclaimed cheques
You might have already earned free money in the form of a tax credit — but you just haven’t claimed it yet. Well, you won’t have to go hunting, because you can find out with the click of a button.
The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has a handy link on its website that will display any tax or benefit cheques you haven’t cashed. If you don’t already have a CRA My Account, you can register now or log in via a My Service Canada account.
When the new feature came out in February 2020, the government said it was trying to reunite Canadians with approximately $1 billion of their own money. People on Twitter were shocked to find they had hundreds of dollars waiting, dating back as far as 2008.
3. Maximize your RRSPs and TFSAs
High-interest savings accounts are good, but growing your wealth totally tax free is even better.
You can fill them with cash or investments like stocks and bonds. All of the interest, dividends and earnings made in either account are completely shielded from taxes, even capital gains tax.
While TFSAs are more flexible, contributing to an RRSP will reduce the amount you owe at tax season, potentially leading to a refund landing in your mailbox. And many employers will match contributions you make to group RRSPs, offering another source of completely free cash.
If you don't have a TFSA or RRSP yet, you might want to consider opening one through a robo-advisor, which will manage your investments for you.
4. Scan for benefits that fit you
So you’ve got a vague sense that you might qualify for some government benefits, but you don’t have time to comb through all the rules and stipulations surrounding dozens of programs.
Lucky for you, Canada’s Benefits Finder Tool will automatically track down programs that might apply to you based on the intricacies of your unique, modern life.
All you have to do is enter some basic information about yourself and watch the potential payday roll in.
5. Grab grants through an RESP
Post-secondary education can be incredibly pricey, so let the government shoulder some of the cost by maximizing your Registered Education Savings Plan.
An RESP allows you to save and invest for your kids’ education, completely tax free, but the best benefit is free money through the Canada Education Savings Grant. When you contribute to an RESP, the government matches a tremendous 20% of your deposit, up to $500 per year. The grant maxes out at $7,200 per child.
Lower- and middle-income families can also qualify for the Canada Learning Bond. How much you receive depends on how many kids you’ve got and your own income level.
You don’t even need to put a single dollar in the plan to qualify; you just need an RESP. The government will contribute up to $2,000 per child, starting with up to $500 for the first year and up to $100 every year the child is eligible until they turn 15.
6. Get money to make your home safer
Looking after your aging parents who have trouble getting around, or maybe you have mobility issues of your own? Seniors and people with disabilities can get a tax credit for upgrades in their home.
The Home Accessibility Tax Credit helps pay for renovations that make your house easier to navigate or reduce the chance of injury.
Think chair lifts and wheelchair ramps.
You can claim up to $10,000 of eligible home improvements per year and get 15% back when tax time comes around.
7. Enjoy your old age income
You’ve worked your entire adult life. Now it’s finally time to rest on your laurels and reap the benefits.
The Old Age Security pension is a form of basic income for seniors age 65 and older. In most cases, you don’t even have to apply to receive it.
You’ll get up to $613.53 every month; if you’ve lived abroad, the amount depends on how long you’ve spent in Canada or a qualifying country.
Those pulling in very little money in retirement can compound their Old Age Security with the Guaranteed Income Supplement. That could be another $900 per month, depending on your income and marital status.
8. Recoup the cost of having kids
Parenting can be a thankless job, but a fistful of cash can make up for all the sleepless nights and soccer chaperoning.
With the Canada Child Benefit, parents of kids under 18 can get a sizable monthly payment, tax-free. How much is determined by the number of kids you have, their age and your family’s income, but it maxes out at $563.75 per child.
And that’s not all — many provinces offer their own assistance programs to offset family costs. In Ontario, for example, each kid could get you an additional $119 per month.
9. Dig up forgotten bank accounts
You know that thrill of finding a $10 bill in a pair of jeans you don’t wear often? Now imagine those jeans were an old bank account.
The Bank of Canada runs a registry that will allow you to recover forgotten money in accounts that have been inactive for 10 years or more.
Don’t think you left anything behind? In 2019, Canada’s central bank distributed $8.5 million to forgetful account holders, with the oldest balance dating back to 1900. But that pales in comparison to the $888 million left in unclaimed balances at the end of 2019.
Add your name to the Unclaimed Balances Registry, just in case.
10. Net twice as much for school
Going back to university is stressful enough when you’re not under the threat of a global pandemic. Thankfully, the government will give you some extra money for your troubles.
Because students are even more broke than usual during COVID-19, the payout for the Canada Student Grant will be doubled for the 2020-2021 academic year. The grant helps students from low- and middle-income families who are enrolled in undergraduate studies.
The Canada Student Grant for full-time students is now up to $6,000 per year, while part-timers can get up to $3,600.
11. Save the Earth, save money
Everyone has a stake in preserving our natural resources and stopping climate change. That’s why each province and territory in Canada (plus some cities and utility companies) offers incentives for energy-saving upgrades to your home.
You could get a tax credit or cash incentive for anything from caulking your windows to starting a rooftop garden. You could collect hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and that’s without counting the money you’ll save on your energy bill.
If you happen to own a business, you can double dip on incentives by making commercial upgrades, like installing an air curtain at your front door.