The holiday season is still in full swing, but as the year comes to a close, many of us will be resolving to better ourselves in 2015. Our resolutions won't be entirely about hitting the gym and quitting the gin though – in fact, many Canadians' New Year's resolutions revolve around financial fitness.
According to a BMO survey, personal finance was last year’s second most popular topic for Canadians making New Year’s resolutions. Want to become financially fit but not sure where to start? Take a look at these five achievable financial New Year’s resolutions, and learn how you can stay on track throughout the year to come.
1. Cut Down Your Spending
When it comes to getting financially fit, the “spend less” resolution is a no-brainer. But putting it into practice? Much more difficult.
The problem, however, lies within the resolution itself – promising to “spend less” is way too vague, and you’ll have much less chance of following through with such a hazy resolution. The trick is to get specific with your goal: instead of resolving to “spend less,” resolve to (for example) “cut down the monthly entertainment budget by $50.”
To figure out where you can cut corners, go through your 2014 statements and check your spending for the past year. Look for any areas where you can cut costs in 2015, but be realistic. If you’re looking for ways to save, the LowestRates.ca blog is a good place to start. Overspending on groceries every month? There are a ton of ways to save at the grocery store. Utilities bills burning a hole in your wallet? You can trim those bills down to size, too. If you take a smart approach, finding realistic ways to cut down on unnecessary spending is easy.
2. Amp Up Your Saving
Spending less goes hand in hand with saving more, but once again, specificity is key: it’s not good enough to just tell yourself to “save more.” For example, instead of resolving to “save more money” in 2015, resolve to set aside $200 each month and put it in a rainy day fund.
You need to be specific, set monthly savings goals, then check on your progress to make sure you’re on track.
Plus, you can recruit your smartphone or tablet to help you save on everything from groceries to gadgets, so you can get a running start on your 2015 savings goal. Remember – every bit of saving counts, and it can really add up the long run.
3. Pay Down Your Debt
If you’re in the red, getting out of debt is the wisest financial resolution you can make. This year, a resolution to be debt-free is especially wise, since household debt in Canada has reached a record high.
To get on the path to debt freedom, resolve to pay off reasonable, specific amounts of debt every month. Pay down your higher interest accounts first, so you can be free of hefty interest charges.
If you’re in the red with your credit cards, try to pay off more than the minimum every month. If possible, avoid charging any additional purchases on those cards while you’re trying to pay off the debt you’ve already accrued. If you’re stuck with sky-high rates on multiple credit cards, consider consolidating your debt onto a single low balance transfer card – some of them have introductory rates as low as 0.99%, so you can focus on paying down your principal balance instead of contending with interest charges.
4. Get Organized
Long gone are the days of rifling through bills and trekking to the bank to review your finances – it’s the year 2015 (well, almost!) and there’s a range of tools to help you keep things organized.
This coming year, make a point of organizing and managing your finances using tools like mobile money management apps for your smartphone or tablet. These can also help you make (and stick to) a budget, even on the go, so you can spend smart in 2015.
5. Start Saving (More) for Retirement
It’s never too early to start saving for retirement, so why not start 2015 on the right foot and start saving for your golden years?
Start contributing to a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP), or open up a Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA). If you already have an RRSP, make a resolution to increase your contributions in the coming year.
It’s all too easy to slip up on New Year’s Resolutions, so this year, be S.M.A.R.T. about your financial plan – make sure your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time based. Create a financial fitness plan, and review your goals monthly or even weekly to keep track of progress. And remember – be patient! Progress may be slow, but if you stick to your financial resolutions, by this time next year you’ll be well on your way. Good luck!