Feb 14, 2012 / 5:00 am
It seems as though most folks these days are dealing with similar situations. Our fixed costs are ever increasing and our incomes are stagnant or decreasing. Have you set up a monthly budget? Are you aware of what’s coming in and what’s going out? Do you have a plan? Are you sticking to your Debt Diet? Now of course, inflation is inevitable, but it feels more strenuous to most during hard economic times. So here are some tips on how to decrease our spending and not even notice!
The Analysis: If you just don’t know where to start, go back to January 1st on your bank statement and find a template online or create one yourself. What cash flowed in and where did it flow out? First start with listing your sources of income, housing costs, phone and utilities, vehicles and insurances; you get the drift. What did you spend on groceries? What did you spend on entertainment and eating out? What did you spend on clothing, gifts and booze? Now, what is your short term goal(s)? Paying off a student loan? Saving for a trip? Paying off a credit card? Where are you going to cut back on your spending? Not eliminate, “budgeting” is not about deprivation. All we are doing is redirecting our income to achieve our goals!
Around the house: Think energy savings! Turn off the lights, fans, computers, TVs etc. when not in use. Unplug devices (especially chargers) that you’re not currently using, even if an item is plugged in it is still drawing more energy than you would think. Be sure windows are locked all year round and consider turning down the water heater and thermostats. I know very well this is not rocket science but if you are consistent you will save money! Don’t forget to adjust the heat or air conditioning before you leave the house for the day or before bed! Also consider the amount of laundry that goes into the dryer, is it an option for you to hang dry more items? Other items to consider are: buying EnergySaver light bulbs; fix a dripping faucet; shorten your shower time; use a microwave or toaster oven instead of the oven when possible. If you have an older home check out Fortis BC’s LiveSmart program for energy saving incentives. Live greener and save!
Buying Groceries: Coupon clipping is cool right!? Heck, even if it isn’t who REALLY cares! I get some amazing deals simply by taking a few minutes to look through the flyers and comparing prices before I shop. Prior to heading out to the grocery store make sure you’ve had something to eat, this will hopefully prevent you from spending too much time in the potato chip aisle. Buy bulk only when you know in fact that bulk items will get used. If you’re a single person do you really need a flat of creamed corn just because it’s such a good deal? Avoid the impulse buys and stick to the list! Last but not least, use your points cards to accumulate rewards like cash discounts, free food or redeem for items that you need or want to give as gifts. I love my “save-on-more” card!
Separating our Needs from our Wants: Over-spending gives you instant gratification but can end up leaving you feeling overwhelmed and hopeless. “Keeping up with the Jones’ ” is so passé. In today’s world it is about being smart with your money and watching it go further for you!
If you are feeling overwhelmed by your finances seek advice. There are non-profit credit counseling agencies ready and willing to help! If you aren’t exactly drowning in debt but need assistance streamlining your finances, money coaches are available. For a nominal fee they can assist you in the setup and maintenance of your finances so that you are confident in your spending. Until next time…Happy Saving!
Jan 16, 2012 / 5:00 am
January, it’s the time of year for fresh starts. I always feel hopeful in January even though the Christmas cheer has come and gone for yet another year. It’s the time of year where we can look back with gratitude at all the things we achieved during the previous year and look ahead and plan for the things we would like to accomplish. One of my favourite quotes is, “Goals allow you to control the direction of change in your favor” by Brian Tracy.
This January while we will be focused on reducing our waistlines of course, many folks will also be focused on reducing their debts too. So in the spirit of January let’s go over some different ways to reduce our everyday spending and eliminate our bad debts. First of all, always, always pay off higher interest debt first but remember to make your minimum payments on the other debts so not to negatively affect your credit score.
I know that Christmas is over and a new year has begun but I want to mention a few things you can use when planning for next Christmas. Rewards points…if you are in a position where you pay off your credit cards every month, make sure you have a card that rewards you. I let my rewards rack up all year round and then when next Christmas arrives I redeem my points for gifts and gift cards! It takes the sting out of the Christmas spending ding!
Also, keep an eye out all year round for sales on stuff your loved ones will adore. This keeps the family and friends happy and keeps you in line with your budget. One more thing, when you are out shopping, check your bills. Since I’ve started doing this over the past year I have found several mistakes on bills that had to be reimbursed. Make sure you review your bank and credit card statements every time they roll in. Between glitches in computer software, human error and fraud, stuff happens and no one else is going to look after your financials.
Looking ahead, we should be looking at our monthly and yearly budget. Budgeting 101 would require us to take our monthly net income (after tax deduction income) and deduct all of our fixed payments like our rent/mortgage, utilities, car payment, insurances etc. We then will look at the balance and budget for our groceries, entertainment, clothing etc. You can find excellent budgeting templates online or make your own. Doing a budget will require you to look back at your previous year and see where you spent your hard earned dough! It’s amazing to find the little things that you can cut out without even feeling it!
When it comes to our everyday spending we need to realize that the regular stop for coffee or lunch on a daily basis is adding up to a whole lot! Think about it, if you were to spend $5-$10 per day for 4-5 days a week on eating out, in a year that could be put toward that student loan that’s been lingering or pay for that holiday you’ve dreamed about but just can’t afford! I don’t want to say stop eating out all together because for most people that just isn’t realistic, but do consider packing a lunch at least half the week and you will save. A healthy budget includes room for eating out and entertainment. When you do stop for a lunch or a cup of coffee consider buying local. When we buy local we are directly supporting our local economy and we all win!
It’s the perfect time of year to review. Review your bank accounts, review your insurance. Review the previous year’s spending to see where you can cut back. Maybe it’s beneficial for you to cut back on your TV channel plan, phone plan or change the plans on your bank account so you aren’t paying so many fees. What can you do to reduce your spending and have a clearer understanding of your money?
I have met so many people who simple get overwhelmed and give up when it comes to personal finances. It doesn’t have to be that way. Educate yourself so that you can make the right spending decisions and show others how to do the same.
You are responsible for your financial well being and if you need advice, seek it! Life is so much better without the stresses of not being able to make ends meet. So here’s to making 2012 a financially healthy year - start with baby steps and you will end up with wonderful results!
Dec 5, 2011 / 5:00 am
Have you ever read the small print on your credit card statement? NOW is the time to start.
Sadly, most Canadians have little or no savings and consumer debt is at an all time high. This is where financial literacy comes in. Now, more than ever, Canadians need the 411 on how to be more financially savvy to meet and achieve their short and long term goals.
The idea is to organize your money so that you can get out of debt, save for emergencies and budget for the things you want in life. If your debt is keeping you awake at night and making you ill, you are not alone, this is a very real epidemic and we need to bring our financial affairs to the forefront so that we can be healthy in every way.
This week we will talk about credit cards. Ask yourself the following questions and if you don’t know the answers finding them out is the first step.
That interest your paying is probably adding up to bundles of cash without you hardly noticing! How many credit cards do you have? What is the interest rate on your credit cards? How is the interest rate accumulated? The next time you get your credit card statement, read it carefully and start putting your financial muscles to work. Our goal should be to pay off the total amount owing on our credit card every month. If we cannot do this we need to make changes and cut our spending.
After all, that interest that’s accumulating usually on a daily basis could go toward towards that vacation, a new vehicle purchase or whatever you are “planning” for.
Here are some facts for you:
- If you pay off your credit card completely by the due date on your invoice, good for you! You pay no interest! However, did you know when you do not pay off your full balance completely you will be charged interest back to the original purchase you charged to the card? Yes, that adds up to a lot of dough and the majority of people don’t know it.
- If you take a cash advance on your credit card or use those little credit card cheques that the credit card companies send you in the mail, your interest starts to accrue immediately!!! Ouch!
- Purchases, Cash Advances and Balance Transfer usually have different interest rate charges, read your credit card agreement. If you don’t have one call your bank and ask them to mail one to you.
- Consider transferring the balance on your current high interest card to a lower interest rate card but watch out, the credit card company you are transferring from will usually charge a fee so be aware of the costs. When I was a student I transferred one credit card balance to another card that offered me 1% for up to 12 months and then I came up with a plan to pay that sucker off within the allotted low interest time period!
- Ask and you shall receive, a better interest rate that is! If you receive a lower interest card offer in the mail or find one online, call up your credit card company and demand a lower rate! While you’re at it, ask if they can waive your annual fee if one applies. It can’t hurt to ask and if they don’t step up, consider a balance transfer to a lower interest credit card.
- Last but not least, make sure you make your payments on time and try to keep your balance lower than at least 50% of your high limit if not less. Other potential lenders see maxed out credit as a red flag for potential future loans.
Mandy Tamaki has been in the financial services industry for several years and has assisted the financially challenged and observed financially healthy people of all kinds. She looks forward to sharing what she has learned over the years in dealing with so many people on all levels of the financial scale.
Mandy's column, "More Bang for Your Bucks" will include tips and tricks on when and where you can save. Also, she will focus on organizing what you have going on right now with your own cash flow. If you can establish a personal budget you can achieve all the things you want in life without living in the red! Doesn’t that sound appealing!?
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