15 financial exercises worth trying out in 2018

This year, try a "financial fitness" program.

Adèle Manseau | Desjardins Group

Every new year brings new challenges, but your financial concerns haven't really changed. We asked you what tricks you use to keep your finances in good shape--those that work "in real life."

We summarized your ideas into 15 exercises and, of course, had them "approved" by our resident expert, Angela Iermieri*, a financial planner with Desjardins. 

Many of you said that we have to remind ourselves of these good financial habits. We hear them time and again and it's because they're so important. Together, they serve as a good "financial fitness" program.

Exercise 1: Savings 
"Pay yourself first" by setting up automatic transfers. You'll build up your financial cushion without even realizing it. 

Good to know: You can use these savings for unexpected expenses and for things as varied as a new appliance, an upcoming vacation, RRSP/TFSA contributions and so on. And just as you say: it's never too early or too late to start saving.

Exercise 2: Credit
Pay off your debts, and make it a priority to pay your credit card balance every month. It's a timely suggestion this time of year, as so many of us use credit to pay for holiday purchases. It's a practice that should be followed year-round.

If you can't pull the full balance, make sure you make more than the minimum payment so you can pay off your credit card as quickly as possible.

Exercise 3: Budget 
This is another area where you can improve your finances: spending less than you earn by keeping an eye on your income and expenses, and also budgeting for expenses that don't come up as often--but still fairly regularly--during the year. It's really the best way to achieve or maintain a balanced budget without doing yourself financial harm. 

Good to know: Doing exercises 1 and 2 lays the foundation for exercise 3. To help you manage your budget, use the free tool that's available to you.

Exercise 4: Learn more
We often hear that life is a school, and finances are part of learning. It's clear from your answers that you're well aware of that. As with any education, you shouldn't feel shy about asking questions, getting guidance and support, using available tools, questioning things and reading up to learn more and gain confidence. 

Good to know: To help you on this path, please see:
Exercise 5: Consider your spending habits
Based on your feedback, your reflection is well underway. Of course, many living expenses can't be avoided: rent, groceries, electricity, travel, clothing and so on.

But you can reduce other expenses that eventually add up and can throw off your financial balance. It's worth it to think before acting, to question why you're about to buy something so you can find better solutions.

More exercises 
6. Bring "homemade" to work (e.g., coffee and lunch)
7. Avoid impulse buying (including online purchases)
8. Take advantage of free days
9. Buy recycled (e.g., clothing, sports equipment, furniture)
10. Negotiate Internet and cellphone rates
11. Use public transit or bike, if possible
12. Watch for grocery discounts and adjust your meals for the week accordingly
13. Use the public library
14. Watch your energy consumption
15. Leave your cards at home and only bring cash when you go shopping 

Thanks for sharing your great ideas!

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* Financial Planner and Mutual Funds Representative for Desjardins Financial Services Firm Inc.

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