Do you ever feel overwhelmed when it comes to money? It’s ok to admit it, we all do. There’s so much information out there on what you should do, how you should do it, what you should have done a decade ago, and exactly how much money you should have in the bank. But at the end of the day, none of that matters if you don’t know where to start.
Sometimes the best thing you can do is just stop. Stop looking for all the answers, stop being afraid to take the first step, stop feeling like you need to know everything when you already know enough.
Today I want to motivate you to do one good thing for your finances. Whether your knowledge is beginner, intermediate or advanced, I’ve got your back. Let’s figure out that one improvement you can tackle right now, and then maybe another one for tomorrow.
Beginner Money Tasks
Make a Budget
Step one for figuring out where you are financially is to start budgeting. You need to know how much money is coming in and how much is going out before you can the next steps.
Don’t make this complicated. Go back a few months and write down how you get paid, how much you save and how much your recurring expenses are. That’s a budget. You can work on trimming expenses and increasing income later, but for right now figure out your base.
Create a Debt Payoff Plan
If you have debt, you need to figure out how to pay it off. Leave your mortgage off the table for now and focus on high-interest debt like credit cards.
There are two popular methods for paying off debt. The debt snowball or the debt avalanche. Read more here to figure out which strategy is best for you.
Check Your Credit
You should check your credit report and score annually. If you’ve never done it, now is the perfect time. It only takes a few minutes and will give you a snapshot of your financial situation and keep you in the know about any issues.
Find out how you can get your full credit report and credit score for free.
Improving your financial literacy is never a bad idea. Sounds boring right? Nope! In the past, most of the books you would find about money were written by old white dudes, which made them far from relatable. That’s not the case anymore.
Intermediate Money Tasks
Open an Investment Account
Investing can sound scary, but it doesn’t have to be. There are ways to invest that don’t require a lot of time and knowledge, and once you get started, you can set your investing on auto-pilot.
How? Open an account with a robo-advisor and say yes when they prompt you to start automatic contributions. My recommendation is WealthSimple. They have a simple platform, quick online sign-up, a comprehensive risk evaluation, and tax efficient accounts.
Step Up Your Credit Card Game
If you have a handle on your debt, then it’s time to take advantage of credit card rewards. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably been holding onto that first credit card you got when you turned 18 and wanted to act like a grown-up. I’m guessing that card earns you next to nothing when you use it. Time for an upgrade!
Look for a credit card that has a sign-up bonus and will earn you points on your everyday purchases. A good offer right now is on the Scotiabank Gold American Express. You’ll get a sign-up bonus of 15,000 and 4x the points when you spend on groceries, gas, dining, and entertainment. Those are my biggest spend categories for sure.
To get ahead financially, you need to have more money coming in than going out. To make the most of that margin, you can reduce your unnecessary expenses.
Take a look through the transaction history on your debit and credit cards and see where your money is going. Maybe you could do without three streaming services? Or you could reduce your eating out budget by $20 a month? Or you could negotiate your cell phone contract to a lower rate? Making a few of these small moves could add $100 to your monthly budget, and that’s a retirement savings contribution.
Increase Your Income
If you’ve trimmed all your expenses to your comfort level, then the other thing you can do is bring in more money. The most effective way to do this is to ask for a raise at your full-time gig. If that’s a no go then think of other ways, you could bring in money. Do you have things around the house that you can sell? Could you start a side hustle like freelance writing or dog walking?
Advanced Money Tasks
Rebalance Your Investments
Investing can be simple, but it can also get complicated fast. I’m not one of them, but some people enjoy the process of investing. They like researching stocks and watch their picks pay off. If you’re a DIY investor, then you need to stay on top of things and do regular rebalancing to ensure the risky parts of your portfolio aren’t outpacing the lower risk portion.
If you can’t remember the last time you rebalanced, then you should put that at the top of your to-do list.
Research a Stock
Whether or not you’re a DIY investor, it can be beneficial to do some market research. As I’ve said, I use WealthSimple so I can be hands off and have my money managed for me, but I still find it fun to invest small amounts into certain stocks every so often.
It can be a good way to learn about fundamental and technical analysis and get interested in investing.
Be Tax Efficient
Depending on how you invest, tax can eat away at your returns. Take some time to educate yourself on what tax saving options are available. Usually, you have to pay tax on the growth of your investments, but there are ways around this if you use tax-free or tax-deferred plans. In Canada we have Tax Free Savings Accounts and Registered Retirement Savings Plans.
Another thing to keep in mind is the preferential tax treatment of Canadian dividend stocks. If you invest in stocks that pay you a dividend you would normally pay tax at your marginal tax rate. However, if it’s a Canadian company you pay tax at a lower rate on your dividends.
Get Your Affairs in Order
One of the most hated financial tasks is creating an estate plan. It’s important though, especially if you have dependents or a spouse who relies on your income.
Your estate plan should include a will, power of attorney, personal directive, and life insurance. One of the best things you can do for your family is to create an in case of emergency binder. This will organize all your important personal and financial information in one place in case something happens to you.
Do you consider yourself beginner, intermediate or advanced when it comes to your money? Which of these easy money tips will you tackle first?
This post was proofread by Grammarly.