It is the start of a new year and many people see it as an incentive to change habits and establish new goals. We often think about getting more exercise, eating healthier or reconnecting with friends, but do you also plan to be smarter with your money? Here are some suggestions to improve your finances this year:
- Pay yourself first: regardless of your financial situation, setting an amount aside every month to go straight to savings is the best new year resolution you can make. You can start with a few dollars and increase it as the situation allows. If you have debt, this money should go towards paying the debt. This should be part of your fixed expenses.
- Have short (1 to 2 years), medium (3 to 5 years) and long term (+10 years) financial objectives. How much do you need to save to buy your dream house when you are 40? Or pay for tuition when you go upgrade your degree in a few years? Having a clear goal helps with discipline.
- Try using more cash over credit or debit cards. It is proven that the psychological effect of giving away bills makes you think twice before spending.
- Don’t be afraid to say NO to others: stop lending money to anyone who asks; don’t feel you have to accept every invitation to go to a concert/eat out/skiing; and ask to fairly share the bill within a group of friends.
- Avoid impulse shopping: don’t go grocery shopping feeling hungry; don’t go hang out in the mall if you don’t need to buy anything; and before you purchase something, wait until the next day to think through. Most times you’ll realize that you really didn’t need it.
- Ditch bad habits like smoking, or frequent treats like the daily latte. Your health will improve, and you’ll save a few hundreds every year.
- Check if you need all the premium services you have been paying for. Do you really watch 150 channels of cable TV? Do you still need a landline phone? Do you use all the services included in your bank or credit card package, or could you downgrade and save? Call and negotiate better deals with your cell phone company and internet provider, or switch.
- Set aside a small “fun” spending budget, for leisure and occasional treats. If possible, leave it in a separate account, so that you know that when it is over, you must wait until next month. By having a budgeted amount to spend freely, you are more likely to stay on track.
- To effectively reach your goals, talk to a financial advisor who will be able to answer any questions, and can guide you to invest your money according to your particular risk profile and objectives.
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