Okay, with the New Year upon us, I think we’ve all heard enough in financial blogs about the economic perils of spending $4.00 everyday for a cup of coffee. It’s time to get back to basics. Namely, simple steps anyone can take to manage their money better and live with less worry and more gusto. So, I offer the top decisions you can make that will perk up your finances for all the days ahead in 2013. And please, if you fall off the financial wagon, just pick yourself up and try, try again. You’ll be happy you did. The following money resolutions are tested and proven time and again to set anyone right financially.
1. Set a monthly budget.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again and again – put together a monthly budget. Not doing so is like travelling on a long road trip by car without a gas gauge. Just sit down to your computer, or get yourself a pen and paper. Do it now.
2. Track your monthly spending.
In order to set a budget, you need to remain alert to where your money is coming from and where it’s going. Track your income and spending with the aid of Credit Canada Debt Solutions’ Monthly Budget Tracker. Download the PDF from:
3. Outline financial goals.
Write down your financial goals. For example: pay down credit card debt; initiate an education fund or retirement plan; save for a down payment on a car or home; start an emergency fund. Outline short term (one year or less) and long term goals in order of importance. Use your budget to set dates for achieving goals.
4. Buy with cash.
It’s a simple fact, as studies show, that people using debit and credit cards spend more. Using cash puts you closer to the reality of what’s disappearing from your wallet or purse. If you want to be truly courageous, leave your credit cards at home altogether.
5. Pay yourself back.
Be smart about saving. A starvation budget can be like a starvation diet. Binges become a big threat food wise or money wise. So as you work toward your financial goals – be they large or small – find ways to reward yourself in a reasonable fashion. Just remember, you don’t always have to spend a lot to get a lot back from life. Too much austerity also breeds contempt.
6. Defriend the Joneses.
Be they the Joneses next door, or the peer group of which you are a member, others have a way of pressuring you into spending on things simply because it’s the “thing to do” or it’s a way to keep up in the status ratings. I say, think for yourself - and be yourself - and avoid shallow materialism while favouring pursuits and possessions that show you have substance and character. There's no shame in telling others you are in command of your finances and prefer a humbler financial path. In fact, it sets you apart as the wise one.
7. Get connected and save.
With the help of the Internet, financial tools for saving are readily at your disposal. Advice from the following top Canadian money-saving blogs can help you find easier ways to pinch nickels and dimes.
• Smartcanucks.ca - You can save on electronics, clothes, DVDs, groceries, and sales tax. Discover links to coupons, freebies, and online bargains. And get flyers from across Canada highlighting the biggest steals, not to mention lots of posts on in-store and online sales.
• Bargainista.blogspot.com – Explore sample sales, and deals on baby clothes, jeans, and more. See posts under the label Baby Bargainista if you've got wee ones. Also, look for tips on travel, how to resell kids' clothes, and many other budgeting ideas.
• Fabulously Broke in the City (fabulouslybroke.com) – Smart talk about personal debt, banking fees, silly expenditures, and more. The blogger tells about how she eliminated $60,000 of personal debt in just 18 months. "Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a shopaholic and a saver," says the blog’s tagline.
• Bucks n Bytes (moneyville.ca/blog/bucksnbytes) - Save on all kinds of tech-related stuff. Tech writer Marc Saltzman provides credible advice about what to buy and what to avoid.
• CanadianFreeStuff.com – Get deals on clothes, online purchases, and events. The blog features a variety of freebie links with products from baby shampoo to tea. If you want free stuff and don't mind filling out online forms to get it, this blog is for you.
8. Find like-minded savers.
No one is alone in matters of personal money management. You can always seek out - or even initiate - a group of savers who can make the business of personal money management a social affair. It can serve as a kind of financial support group. They might be people at your place of work (car pool or brown-bag it together), in your community (swap and exchange stuff), or online (find a forum of like-minded people).
9. Define needs vs. wants.
Admittedly this is a tough one! The importance here is to be able to distinguish between the two and make sure you take care of your needs first. It is about understanding what you need, ie food on the table vs. what you want-the latest and greatest electronic gadget. Once defining and covering your needs first, and ensuring you have a solid savings plan in place and have eliminated debt, you can then think about your wants. Be careful though, wants can burn a hole in your overall financial goals if you are not careful
10.Set a monthly budget.
Did I mention this one? Budgeting on a monthly basis deserves two entries on the top ten list because it is the single most important thing anyone can do to turn his or her financial life around. Meanwhile, if you’re in financial trouble, get help. Our wise and understanding credit counsellors at Credit Canada Debt Solutions can get you on the right track.
So please, make 2013 a Happy New Year. Set, and keep, your money resolutions.