Last week we started talking about some financial goals for 2011. All of them are meant to be specific, measurable, and easy to implement – if you choose to. We talked about breaking the RRSP loan cycle, setting up a Tax Free Savings Account with just $50 and doing a written budget.
Here are a few more suggestions, all of which will have a big impact on your finances for this year, and years to come.
Do a seven day no-spending week. We talked about that over a year ago, and I did it for two weeks – twice. I’ll link the story from back then, all of which are always on the yourmoneybook.com site. Essentially, gas up, fill up the fridge, and then spend no money at all for seven days. Pay your normal bills, but nothing else. I learned a ton about where my money leaks out. It’s well worth it, and not hard to do for just a week.
Try an envelope system for any 30-day period. Take the amount of money that you will need for groceries, and for money you spend on yourself for stuff like haircuts, coffee, lunch out, and the likes. Take two envelopes and put that amount of cash into the envelopes. For that one month, you’re only spending on groceries and “me” stuff out of those envelopes, in cash. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and your spending habits. And when the envelope is empty – you’re done spending – and you’ll spend way less than you have been.
Put all your credit cards away for 30 days. No, I’m not asking you to stop breathing. I’m just asking you to see if you can break your stupid spending habits and addiction to credit cards – just for a month. Take your cards, put them in a plastic Ziploc bag, add some water, and put them in the freezer. Or put them in a sealed envelope and give them to a friend or relative that you trust. Yes, I can see you panicking now. You’ll be amazed that you’ll spend a lot less money in that month, however. Plus, your credit card balance will love you for it.
Write down a list of all your debts from the smallest balance to the largest amount, in order. Pay minimum payments on everything but the smallest bill and attack that one with every dollar you can spare. Because it’s the smallest debt, it’ll take only a few months to pay that off in full. Then you’ve freed up all that money to attack the next smallest. It’s a debt snowball that gets traction really quickly. It really is that simple, and it’s a chapter in the It’s Your Money book.
Most New Years’ resolutions tend to be what to do, but there’s also one of what not to do:
If there’s something big to buy this year, it’s probably going to get financed. So, for 2011, don’t. It might be a vehicle, or maybe some major renovations for the house. A great way to not spend money or go into debt is to not do it, buy it, or finance it this year.
Open a savings account that’s not hooked up to your ATM. I’d like you to do it at the Credit Union, for tons of reason, not the least of which is that you’ll get dividends back the end of the year, and you’re a member and not a customer.
Then take one-twelfth of your annual bills and start setting it aside each month. For most of us, that’ll include money for home insurance, car insurance, maybe property tax, and for sure our vacation money. Having that money in an account when the bill comes due creates an incredible feeling and it won’t end up on your credit card or line of credit.
If you’re a student that’s graduating this year: I know, it’s time to have a life, and to spend after all these years in school. Don’t – for one more year. If you can live like a broke student for one more year, you’d be amazed how much money you can save or dump on your student loan. You won’t do it, guaranteed – but think of me in five or ten years when you’re buried in debt, because you started living the financed lifestyle the year you got out of school. Honest.