Yann Fortier | Journalist
What are your financial goals for 2019? While New Year's resolutions are easy to make, we all know how hard it is to keep them past January.
Regardless of your financial situation, the slow-and-steady approach is always best. No matter what level you're at--novice, pro or ninja--we've got tips for you.
CREATING A BUDGET--THIS TIME IT WILL WORK!
A solid financial plan starts with figuring out your total income and expenses. While creating a budget might not be as exciting as hitting the slopes, you'll feel good that you took the time to do it (the budget, that is!).
Take stock of last year by going over your account statements to see where you can find a bit more balance. Fewer lunches out? More free events? And do you really need that soy macchiato with extra caramel? Once you've made some small changes, you'll be ready to move on to the next step.
Use the My budget management tool to get a clear picture of your income and expenses. It's an easy and practical way to bring your goals into focus.
Sticking closely to your budget? Congrats. Now's the time to talk to your advisor about the best ways to grow your savings.
KEEP CALM AND MANAGE YOUR DEBT
Do you have a lot of expenses? You're in good company. Not including their mortgage, Canadians have an average of $22,837 in debt.* The first step is to determine how much debt you have, and then take action. No need to get discouraged--just keep moving forward, one step at a time.
If you want to pay off your debt, do your best not to take on any new debt. Make a budget (see the previous step), leave your credit cards at home when you go shopping, and only spend what you've budgeted for. You can do it!
Make a list of all (yes, all!) your debts so have a clear picture of the situation. Be honest with yourself, and don't leave anything out. That includes credit card balances, car payments, taxes owing, "buy now, pay later" promotions and lines of credit. This exercise will help you see things clearly and create an action plan.
Determine which repayment strategy is right for you. For example:
- Pay off debts with the lowest amounts: crossing those debts off your list faster will create the momentum to keep going.
- Start with the ones with the highest interest rate: biggest payoff, because you get rid of your most expensive debts first.
The best strategy is the one that works for you.
BECOME A SMART SHOPPER
"I want it!" and "We need it!" should be eliminated from your vocabulary. This year, say goodbye to emotion and give yourself 48 hours to separate your wants from your actual needs.
Try saying this instead: "Credit cards aren't a magic wand, and I need to pay them off." When? As soon as possible. Buy what you can actually afford, and while you're at it, make sure you reduce your interest.
Groceries, prescription drugs, tickets, subscriptions....take the time to comparison-shop, and pick the right time to buy. If you have some extra cash on hand, stock up on non-perishables when they go on sale. It's worth your while to be a smart shopper--have fun with it!
Try negotiating on certain purchases. Go for quality over quantity, and question everything you buy, while applying smart spending principles.
PUTTING MONEY ASIDE IS A WIN-WIN ALL AROUND
Here's something you might want to stick on your fridge: "There's no easier way to save than with automatic transfers." Select the amount and frequency, whether it's to save up for something special, pay off a debt, cover unexpected expenses or save up for a down payment on your first home. Remember: when you put money aside, you're paying yourself first. Sounds good, doesn't it?
Once a year, compare service providers and negotiate rates: phone, Internet, cable, memberships, banking plan, insurance and so on. Think you're only saving pennies? Think again. Over a period of years, it can really add up. And to take it a step further, put that money in a savings account.
Grow your savings. Why? Let's say you invest $1,000. With a conservative return of 3% a year, in 20 years, that same $1,000 will be worth $1,806--without any effort on your part. And in 30 years? $2,452. And some investment vehicles, like RRSPs and TFSAs, offer tax advantages. You've got lots of investment options, including term deposit certificates, market-linked guaranteed investments and securities. Schedule an appointment with an advisor to develop a strategy that's aligned with your objectives and investor profile.
5 MORE TIPS FOR THE NEW YEAR
- Finances and yoga: take a deep breath and then take stock. You'll be in a better place to map out the future. Taking a few hours can really pay off. Namaste.
- Automatic transfers: with Hop 'n S@ve, you can create various savings goals.
- Interest-free credit: the reloadable prepaid card offers all the advantages of a credit card, without the credit.
- Consistency: set realistic goals, and work towards them, bit by bit.
- One last thing: sign up for our newsletter and get free tips.
*Source: Equifax, 2018.