Top money bloggers' tips for taking control of your finances
If you're anything like I am, each year you resolve to get a handle on your money, but then the year passes and you've broken your resolution, again. Not this time. It's still early in 2017, and I've asked Canada's top money bloggers for their no-nonsense tips. The common thread in their advice is: take control. Here's how to do just that.
Embrace your budget, it's not the enemy
The very thought of creating an actual budget is enough to discourage some of us, but our hesitation might be all in how we look at this step. Krystal Yee of Give Me Back My Five Bucks reminds us that our budget is not the enemy. "A lot of people think that having a budget means restricting, but it's actually about empowerment. Once you start learning where your money really goes each month, you'll be able to cut expenses on things that don't matter, and actually start spending (and saving!) your money in a meaningful way."
Once you decide to embrace this empowering step, you can check out the budget Yee recently made right here to help you get started on yours
Set realistic, measurable goals, and do it now
"Some of us are suffering from the post-holiday spending hangover, and now is the time to get our finances in order. Start thinking about your expenses for the year and plan accordingly. Do you have vacation plans? How about any major purchase coming up?" says Barry Choi of Money We Have.
Then, take baby steps toward those goals. "If you have a goal of paying off $6000 in debt this year, break it down into smaller pieces. Instead of the big lump sum, focus on saving $500 a month," says Frugal Trader of Million Dollar Journey. Here's how he became a millionaire working a regular 9-5 -- before the age of 35!
While you're at, incorporate your long-term goals in your action plan."Saving money for the future is critical and, thanks to the rise of robo advisors, it has never been easier. Even if you're only able to put a few dollars away a month, that's better than nothing," says Jordann Brown of My Alternate Life. Read about how she improved her net worth by almost $100,000 over the last five years here.
Re-negotiate your monthly charges
This step takes effort but the payoff can be big. It also may take some time… "Take a day off work to deal with your finances. A "bill haggle" day can help reduce your monthly expenses on everything from bank fees to cable and internet to insurance," says Robb Engen of Boomer & Echo. "Mark it down on your calendar once a year as your reminder to save money. You never know unless you ask."
Track your miscellaneous spending--and yes, spend less
It's what all the pros do. "This is an important exercise because you'll quickly realize how your spending habits relate your financial values — and you might be surprised at the results," says Mark Seed of My Own Advisor. You can read his financial goals for 2017 here.
Once you see what you're spending your money on, you can align it with your values and find ways to save in other areas. This is exactly what Desirae Odjik of Half Banked does. "I spend a ridiculous amount of money on my dog, but he's totally worth it — that's why I cut back on things like restaurant meals and travel." Read how she tracks her spending here.
"I'm making a concerted effort to do a bit of a spending cleanse this month and for the next few months," says Jessica Moorehouse. I'm only spending money on things I need, then for things I don't, trying to find ways to do them for free or on the cheap." Download a copy of her "crazy simple budget sheet" from her blog here.
Use technology to make the process more efficient
"Personal finance doesn't need to be complex and time-consuming. Using systems can free up both time and energy while letting finances grow," says Daniel Teo of Urban Departures http://www.urbandepartures.com.
Mint.com is a great tool to help you do this, or you can set up your own Google doc spreadsheet and share it with your family.
So when we actually manage to squirrel some money away, a common mistake many of us make is failing to do anything with it. "The fact is, you'll never get rich if your money sits in a savings account, collecting cobwebs," says Nelson Smith of Financial Uproar. You can read his advice on investing in trailer parks here.
To make a plan, we must first educate ourselves. "There are some excellent personal finance authors on the web, and several classic books to be found at your local library. Pick one, stop looking for a quick fix, and commit to arming yourself in the battle for your money," says Kyle Prevost of Young and Thrifty. Start with this post on his blog.
This is it. 2017 will be the year of financial empowerment. I'm calling my mobile carrier right now. Are you with me?