There's no better day than today to get your money in order, so it's time to set some financial goals to make it happen. Luckily, we’ve laid out the steps to help you get there.
For many of us, getting our finances in order sounds like a tall task. But realistically, really the hardest part of improving your financial health is making time to search for long-lost passwords, fill out forms, or sit on hold with customer service. The rest is easy, especially when you have a plan in place.
To keep things simple, here are 10 manageable financial goals that, if you see them through, will improve your financial health with minimal effort and just a little bit of time.
1. Pay yourself first
Most Canadians get paid, buy the things they need to live their lives, then try to save whatever is left. The problem is that our spending has a magical ability to expand to meet our income. It's smarter to set aside money for savings right after you get paid, and then spend the rest. Don't give yourself the opportunity to spend your savings. Pay yourself first.
2. Pay down high-interest debt
If this holiday season left you with some unpaid credit card debt, now is the time to tackle it. Make a plan to pay off your credit card debt. If you have a high-interest auto loan or line of credit, pay those off, too. Interest charges from debt is a drag on finances, so handle it sooner than later.
3. Start saving for your child's education
Did you know that if you contribute $2,500 per year to your child's Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP), the government of Canada will contribute another 20 percent, up to a lifetime maximum of $7,200? Every month you put off saving for your child's education, you're leaving free money on the table, so get started!
4. Keep better financial records
Tracking your spending is an amazing way to see where your money is going and where you're overspending. If writing down every transaction by hand or logging your spending in a spreadsheet sounds like a soul-killing task, there are some great apps and websites to help you track your spending. Mint is a reigning favourite, though options like YNAB and Spendee have won some serious loyalty.
5. Budget your money
Don't think of budgeting as restrictive. Instead, think of it as the thing that gives you the freedom to spend without feeling guilty. As long as that trip to Paris is in your budget, you can afford it.
6. Improve your credit score
Want access to the best rewards credit cards, mortgage rates, and auto loan financing? You need a strong credit score to make it happen. There are many ways to improve your credit score, but a good place to start (yes, again) is paying down your high-interest debt. On top of that, never miss a minimum payment on any bill, ever.
7. Reassess your recurring costs
Are you paying too much for home insurance or internet? What about that landline no one uses? Did you ever actually cancel that magazine subscription after the free trial ended? Every January, audit your expenses and make sure you're getting the best rate for every recurring bill. You could save hundreds of dollars each year with just a few phone calls.
8. Start learning a new skill
Many people simply don't make enough money to reach their financial goals, even if their budget is airtight. If your expenses keep piling up and your bank account is wiped out at the end of every month, look for ways to increase your income. That doesn't have to mean going back to school. Just learning a new skill from the comfort of your own home could come in handy when you're updating your resume.
9. Close unused accounts
Whether it's a department store credit card you signed up for on a whim or a savings account that once housed your down payment fund, take a moment to close accounts that you no longer use. It may require a few phone calls, but it'll be a weight off your shoulders.
10. Invest more
No matter how much you're contributing to retirement, you could probably put away a little more. This year, try to increase your investments by 5 percent. This small amount won't affect your day-to-day spending, but it'll make a difference in your retirement accounts in the long run.
If you set out to complete one of these goals every month, you'll be in a much better financial position well before this time next year. Each one will take a little time, sure, but there are far worse ways to spend a free afternoon than getting your finances ironed out.