Happy New Years everyone! Now that we are well into 2016 let’s revisit those resolutions you made at the beginning of the year. You made them with good intentions to fully follow through and you jumped eagerly into making them happen. January is a good month for gyms and a bad month for retail stores as we attempt to recover from the excesses of the holidays. But what happens in February? After the thrill of “making a change”, some of us all too often slump back into old habits and abandon our resolutions. Some of us, but not you, right? With the help of a few easy tools and hacks, we are going to make 2016 the year we stick to our resolutions. Let’s start with our financial resolutions – because you know how fun those are.
I Resolve to pay off my Credit cards/Debt
Who wants debt? The reality of it is that most people carry a perpetual credit card debt and they just can’t see a way out of it. There just always seems to be some type of emergency or purchase you need to make and credit cards just make it so easy to spend. So how do we end the vicious cycle?
My favourite way of tackling debt is the debt reduction snowball calculator. It’s free to download. You can pay for the fancier versions, but it’s really not necessary. It’s my favourite way because it’s simple, you see everything laid out in detail on a spreadsheet and it works! This is the one that I use. All you need is Microsoft Excel and simply fill in the fields accordingly. The hardest part is sitting down and really facing your debt amount. You know it’s there, it’s in the back of your mind, but to actually get all the current amounts, interest rates and totalling it all up….well it’s quite daunting. But it is necessary!
So how does it work? There are a few ways you can use the calculator. You can pick the debt that has the highest interest rate, the one with the highest amount or the one with the lowest amount. Just pick one to pay off first. After you’ve created your budget and figured out the most amount of money you feel comfortable putting towards debt (for example, let’s say $200/month), then put $200 towards the one you pick and just pay the minimum on the other ones. Once that first debt is paid off you can move on to the second debt and put that $200 towards that one to pay it off, and so on. I personally think the best way is to pick the one with the smallest amount to pay off. In the end, you might pay more in interest, but you’ll feel so much more gratification paying it off because it will happen quicker. This will only motivate you to keep going.
I Resolve to Save up Money
There are many reasons we might want to save up money. Depending on the size of savings we want to accumulate there are two sure fire ways of making this resolution stick.
- Start a Piggy Bank
You don’t even need an actual piggy bank just get a jar and resolve to put a set amount of money in there every week or every pay cheque. Figure out how much money you want to save, when you want it by and divide by the weeks or pay days. Put that amount in your jar.
The 52 Week Money Challenge
Another, much more fun way, of doing this is the 52-week challenge. The first week you save $1, the second week you save $2, the third week you save $3 and so on until the end of the year. By the end of the year, you should have saved $1,378. I haven’t done this challenge myself yet, I plan to start this year. I’ve heard that the challenge is fairly easy to do in the beginning, but it gets harder at the end where you are putting away larger amounts of money during the most expensive time of the year. Holiday season, anyone? One way of doing this is doing it backwards. Try putting away $52 the first week and working backwards from there. Might be even more rewarding when you’re only putting away a few dollars a week at the end.
2. Pay Yourself First
If you’re familiar with personal finance books then you’re probably already familiar with this phrase. Saving up for items and vacations is one thing but if you want to get serious about saving for big life events such as retirement or emergencies, then paying yourself first is the best way.
Paying yourself first is easy. You figure out a set amount of money you want to put away into savings and make it automatically withdraw from your account every payday and go directly into either a savings account, an RRSP or a TFSA. You make it automatic and make it happen the same time you get paid so you don’t even have to think about it. The money is transferred before you even miss it or think about it.
I Resolve to get Smart about my Money
You know you want to change the way you look at your money and what you do with it, but you just don’t know where to start. Here’s what I suggest you do first.
- Educate Yourself
You don’t have to go to school or take a course or anything. Financial talk can be boring to start with so I suggest making it as interesting as possible. Read some books. And I don’t mean textbooks or reference books, read some anecdotal books from experts that have dealt with personal finance first hand.
- Smart Women Finish Rich By: David Bach
- Stop Overthinking your Money By: Preet Bannerjee
- The Wealthy Barber By: David Chilton
If books aren’t your thing then listen to some podcasts. I like to listen to podcasts while I’m cooking or while I’m driving to and from work. These activities require your attention and hands to be busy but your ears are free to listen.
- Mo’ Money with Jessica Moorhouse
- Mostly Money, Mostly Canadian with Preet Bannerjee
- Build Wealth Canada with Kornel Szrejber
2. Book an Appointment
Now that you’ve armed yourself with enough information you should book an appointment with someone that can help you do something with your money, like a financial advisor. Even if you don’t do anything at your appointment it’s a good idea to get some professional advice and they are usually more than happy to answer any of your questions.
3. Take Action
Just do it! Start now, because the longer you put it off the more wasted opportunity you are losing out on potential earnings.
This post is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to getting your personal finance into gear. But it is better to start now with something small than to never start at all. If there’s something you want me to write more about from this post, let me know in the comments! I’ll be more than happy to oblige.