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How is your financial diet? 30 tips to stay in shape.

by:
Laurie Campbell

Can problems involving habitual overspending be solved in the same way that one loses weight through sudden and severe dieting? Not likely. Too frequently, when people dramatically lose weight in this way, they soon enough only gain the weight back again. Spending problems often follow the same pattern. Like being overweight, they usually stem from one’s lifestyle, and lifestyle changes are best addressed over time, step by step, rather than all at once.

It’s a matter of becoming aware of bad spending habits and replacing them with new ones that bring positive results. But pace yourself in the process. Don’t try to take on the whole world in an instant. In time you will find that the new, positive financial challenges you set for yourself become second nature. You become habitually attuned to better, smarter ways to spend money and manage your finances – not to mention your life. To this end, I have gathered together 30 tips taken from Canadian Living Magazine, which not too long ago solicited myself and others for advice about ways to change spending habits and save money. The first tip, from me, is absolutely essential to a sound financial diet. The remainder you can introduce over time at a pace that suits you.

1) Commit to specific financial goals, write them down, and review them regularly for progress and revisions if need be.

2) Seek the lowest interest on your debt, but be sure you’re dealing with reputable folks in the process. The best debt management techniques will always involve saving as much on interest payments as you can.

3) Find savings online through social networks and sites (e.g., http://www.bargainmoose.ca or http://www.vouchercloud.ca)

4) Set up automatic bill payments with your bank to avoid problems like late fees.

5) When making bigger purchases (e.g., a computer) try to negotiate the price and extras (e.g., software or special warranty).

6) When purchasing big ticket items (e.g., a car, furniture, or appliances) ask about display or older items with marked down prices.

7) Save loyalty points for things you need, rather than just want. Make this a goal.

8) Always question big purchases. Is the money better invested elsewhere (e.g., a Child’s RESP)? What is the longer-term reward and potential of your spending?

9) Shop for groceries once a week. Make and stick to a shopping list to avoid impulse spending.

10) Switch from a monthly to a bi-weekly mortgage payment plan based on receipt of your paycheques, thereby adding extra payments over the year with money you won’t even miss. Also, add an extra prepayment of $100 each month and you can reduce a 25-year mortgage to 17 years.

11) Sell stuff you no longer need (e.g., kids clothes, toys etc.) to a resale store for cash or credit, or sell online through http://www.ebay.com or Craigslist.

12) Look into economical municipal fitness facilities before taking out or renewing a gym membership.

13) Save at least 10 per cent by making use of online coupons and deals for everything from flowers and clothes, to computers and appliances.

14) Get financial advice through free offerings and programs provided by virtually all major banks, and through non-profit organizations such as Credit Canada Debt Solutions.

15) Check out small, cost-cutting activities at home (i.e., get energy cost savings of possibly $400 a year by installing a low-flow showerhead used on the basis of four,15-minute showers a day).

16) Ask yourself, do you really need a car? All things considered (e.g.,gas, insurance, parking etc.), a car can cost you ten times what public transit, car-sharing, and car rental options can cost in combination.

17) Turn gift cards you’ll never use into cash at http://www.cardswap.ca

18) Lower the spending limit on your credit card, and pay by cash whenever possible.

19) Compare credit card rates and features. Go to http://www.fcac-acfc.gc.ca/ and click on Credit Card Tools. 

20) Get a library card to freely view the same books, DVDs, and magazines that can cost you hundreds over a year.

21) Save $1.50 a day by saying no to that coffee, bottled water, or chocolate bar. Then say hello to $548 in savings over a year.

22) Take advantage of coupons found either online, in stores, on receipts, in newspapers or flyers. Check out http://www.groceryalerts.ca to save possibly $800 in four months.

23) Write to companies and politely ask if they can help you spend a little less for their products. You may be surprised to get discounts that are better than those offered through the average coupon.

24) Check out the payment calculator at http://www.fcac-acfc.gc.ca/ to compare different ways to clear your credit card bill. 

25) Instead of visiting the mall for new clothes, explore economical ways to reinvent old clothes (it’s sometimes as simple as adding new buttons to a blouse or removing sleeves from a sweater).

26) Learn to do basic home repairs and renovations yourself.

27) Review your financial goals. Go to http://www.cewc.ca/calculators and use the Benefit of Spending Less calculator to see what returns you can get through new, good spending habits.

28) Start saving, debt management is key. Set up an automatic withdrawal for savings at your bank, then forget you even have a savings account.

29) Try to put all your debt in one place at a fair rate, and don’t reduce your payment. This debt consolidation will give you more financial focus.

30) Go on a cash diet for 30 days. Seeing the real money you spend may provide a wake-up call.

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