Common Tips for Financial Fitness
We've gathered our favourite, not-so-common, common sense financial tips.
- Record your spending.
The first step to financial fitness is knowing your spending habits. Track your spending over a day, week, and month and see what your habits and trends are. You can track your spending right in your online banking app. Then, all you have to do is record them, either by creating a spreadsheet or by writing them down in a journal or the notes app on your phone.
You may be surprised at how much you spend on certain categories and how little in others. Once you understand your habits and know where your money is going, it’s much easier to alter them and guide your spending in a different direction, in order to meet your goals.
- Create a budget that works for you and suits your needs.
Does budgeting seem too overwhelming to start? Just remember: starting and getting organized is the hardest part. Once you've found a budgeting strategy that works for you, the rest is smooth sailing. It may take some time and seem like a chore initially, but the benefits lead to substantial and long-lasting results.
We've rounded up some of our favourite budgeting techniques and weighed the pros and cons so you don't have to. From helpful apps that calculate your spending for you, to a good old-fashioned spreadsheet; finding a budgeting option that works for you is imperative if you want to have financial fitness.
- Re-evaluate your spending and see where you could be saving.
Once you’ve established your initial budget, you need to consider what adjustments are needed. A few examples of adjustments you could make are:
- Using public transportation instead of using your own vehicle.
- Bringing breakfast/lunch to work to cut down on expensive takeout.
- Hosting a dinner party to limit spending in restaurants – this is often healthier and more fun!
- Reviewing your accommodation costs – consider downsizing (depending on your circumstances).
- Reviewing your phone plan. Are your mobile/data costs too high?
Reducing your spending doesn't have to leave you with nothing. Cutting out your daily trip to the coffee shop may leave you some room to invest in a high-quality espresso machine for your home!
- Set up an emergency fund if you don't already have one.
Starting an emergency fund is one of the most important steps to financial security. No matter how much you owe in student loans or credit card debt, it's always the right move to set aside some money for just that: emergencies. Ideally, your emergency fund should cover three months of your living expenses (rent, food, etc.), but a little money set aside is better than no money at all.
You can put your emergency fund into a high-interest savings account to ensure your funds don't lose their value over time. Check out the FCAC's Financial Literacy blog for more tips on setting up an emergency fund.
- Set up an efficient banking routine.
So, you've set up your budget, figured out where you can reduce your spending, and have started saving a little! Now it's time to start making your bank account work FOR you to make sure you're paying your bills on time and not paying any more fees than necessary.
This is where pre-authorized payments come in. You can set up automatic payments for your phone bill, credit card, mortgage payment, and even transfer a little into your savings account every month. Set up pre-authorized payments right in our online banking platform so you never miss a payment. Say good-bye to those nasty late fees for good!
- Organizing your bank accounts.
Depending on your financial situation and objectives, it may make sense to have several bank accounts.
- Chequing accounts are designed to deal with multiple deposits and withdrawals and are an ideal choice for when you have ongoing expenses such as fuel, groceries, rent, and utilities.
- Savings accounts, on the other hand, are designed for just that: savings. They pay a higher amount of interest which helps your money to grow. However, they will charge you fees if you make too many withdrawals from the account each month. If you are planning an annual vacation and want to set aside money for that, a savings account is a good choice. Not only will you be able to keep the money separate, you will also earn more interest on the balance.
You can use different bank accounts for different goals. You can open multiple savings accounts for multiple savings goals. Nickname one of your accounts in online banking for that vacation you've been dying to go on, and open another to save for the home renovation of your dreams!
- Ask your financial advisor about how you could benefit from an RRSP or TFSA.
Registered Retirement Savings Plans (or RRSPs) are the most popular way for Canadians to set aside money for retirement. The most important thing to keep in mind is that any funds you put into an RRSP will give you a tax deduction in the year that you make your investment. While inside the plan, those funds will earn tax-sheltered interest, which means you won't pay tax on the money in your RRSP until you withdraw it in the future (presumably, when you retire).
In 2009, the federal government introduced a new tax-efficient way for Canadians to save money: the Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA), allowing you to contribute up to your accumulated maximum. Although there is no tax deduction allowed on the contributions (as in the case of an RRSP), the income earned in the account is tax-free and any withdrawals are tax-free. You can use the money in your TFSA to pay for big ticket items such as a car, home, or travel expenses. Withdrawals can be made anytime, tax-free, and you can replace the money you take out of the TFSA the following year. As long as you are a Canadian resident 18 years of age or older with a SIN, you can open a TFSA.
- Make at least the minimum payment on your credit card.
Credit cards can be confusing. To make sure you're not accumulating hefty and unnecessary interest charges from your credit card, make sure you're paying at least the minimum payment required each month. It's beneficial to pay more than the minimum payment whenever possible.
Making more than the minimum payment will help you pay off your entire credit card balance quicker. As you use the credit card, you are borrowing money and accumulating a balance, which is then charged interest. Making more than the minimum payment each month will save you money and keep large interest payments at bay. This will also reduce your Credit Utilization Ratio and will likely improve your credit score. Your Credit Utilization Ratio is the ratio of your credit card balances to credit limits.
- Talk to your friends and family.
Though talking about money with your friends and family is often thought of as taboo, talking to the people you know and trust can often lead to gaining a different perspective and insightful advice on your finances. Talk to some people you trust about your financial goals and what you are working towards. They may even hold you accountable on your spending habits to help you save.
- Think long-term.
Life is full of temptations and sometimes it's hard to say no to things you want in the moment. The problem is that short-term spending can really interfere with your long-term saving goals. It may be helpful to divide your savings between short-term, long-term, and even longer-term goals.
- Short term goals: emergency savings fund, a new car, vacation
- Long-term goals: paying for college education, buying a house
- Longer-term goals: saving for retirement
The FCAC also provides a great Financial Goal calculating tool here.
There are many tips and tricks to improve your financial fitness and this list certainly isn’t conclusive of them all, but it’s a start. Need more comprehensive advice? Make an appointment with one of our Financial Service Representatives today.