Canada | Financial Literacy

3 manageable financial resolutions for the new year

A little planning can help you handle your money better. Time to sit down and consider your fiscal goals.

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Man using a calculator to sort out his expensesA good way to start on your New Year’s resolutions is to sit down with a notebook in January and write down the things you want to accomplish.(Shutterstock/wutzkohphoto)

Every year we aim high with our New Year’s resolutions: health, fitness, career, hobbies, and—often topping the list—money. But for just as long as New Year’s resolutions have been around, those making them have also struggled to keep them.

It sometimes seems like a big mountain to climb to say you’re going to do something for an entire year, says Larry Short, CPA, CGA, and a senior investment adviser at Holliswealth in St. John’s, N.L. Short studies consumer behaviour, and says instead of New Year’s resolutions, we should be thinking of them as 90-day goals.

“Break it down and tell yourself that you’re going to look at it again in three months,” he says.

HOW TO FOLLOW YOUR FINANCIAL RESOLUTIONS

The best way to start, Short says, is to sit down with a notebook at the beginning of January and write down the things you want to accomplish.

“It’s one thing just to think of things you want to do,” he says. “People that write down goals are much more likely to get to the goals, than if you just surmise it in your brain.”

Short suggests the following ways to stick to common financial resolutions.

1. SAVE MORE

Short suggests setting up a new savings account at the beginning of the year—either a Tax Free Savings Account or just a regular savings account—with automatic deductions from your chequing account, about five per cent or 10 per cent of your income.

People sometimes completely forget about it after it’s organized, Short adds. “Once it’s set up, it happens automatically. It requires only one action to initiate this, but to stop it, you have to take another action.” The less you have to do, the easier it is to achieve. 

2. SPEND LESS

A lot of overspending comes from spending for show, Short says. “Stop spending money you don’t have, on things you don’t need, trying to impress people who don’t matter,” he says. In addition to examining why you’re being so free with your cash, you can also take action to cut expenses. 

Sit down and look at your bank statement or your credit card statement and take stock of your regular expenses. “If there are things like insurance, cable, telephone—is there some way you can get a better deal?” Short says. “With the competition out there, often you can reduce your expenses by 10 per cent.”

3. PAY OFF DEBT

With interest rates rising, Short says he’s been recommending people go with a fixed rate, instead of a variable rate. A lot of Canadians unfortunately have a variable rate mortgage and a home equity line of credit, he adds, meaning that a one per cent change in interest rates could really hurt. 

He also suggests shopping around for credit cards. “There are a lot of credit cards—particularly if you’re carrying any balance on them—that will allow you to get a lower interest rate for a period of time,” adds Short.

BECOME FINANCIALLY SAVVY

Is being smarter about money a goal for this year? Then request a free financial literacy session, which is facilitated by a CPA Canada financial literacy volunteer, to help get you started out on the right path.