VIDEO: New Year’s resolutions help plot path to improving your financial health in 2020

Just resolving to spend less won’t cut it, one expert says

As 2019 fades in the rear-view mirror and 2020 looms ahead, advisers recommend that Canadians assessing their current financial health take a look back to discover how they got there and what they can resolve to do differently in the coming year.

“The point going into the New Year for a resolution is just do something, take the first step,” said Brian Betz, a counsellor at Money Mentors in Calgary. “Put down a spending plan on paper.”

Just resolving to spend less won’t cut it, he said. It’s time to be specific. Set realistic goals and achievable targets, with a specific timeline.

And that applies to extra income raised by getting a part-time job or selling an unneeded asset.

“Put it on your debt or into your savings. Make sure it’s earmarked for something,” said Betz.

When Mark Kalinowski, a financial educator for the Credit Counselling Society, cut back on his caffeine habit after a spending review revealed his addiction to Tim Hortons coffee was costing him about $15 a day, or about $5,500 a year — much more than he expected.

Keeping track of spending is easier these days because of technology, he said, noting there are many free budgeting programs and apps available to track and warn consumers when they spend unwisely.

“Keep your ultimate goal really visible,” he advised. “If you want to go on a vacation to Paris, make it the screensaver on your phone.”

Never go to the grocery store without a shopping list, Kalinowski added. But buy pork or chicken when it’s on sale, even if your grocery list says beef.

Employees should also resolve to take full advantage of employer programs, he said. They should find out if their employer will pay for part of a gym membership or cover other fees and always claim allowed expenses for things like mileage, parking, physiotherapy, dental appointments and pharmaceutical drugs.

Laurie Campbell, CEO of Credit Canada, advises against making resolutions. Instead, she suggests setting a goal that follows the SMART process (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound).

When paying down debt, choose between the avalanche method, where high-interest debt is tackled first, or the snowball method, where you pay off the debt with the smallest balance first and then move onto next one, she said.

Consumers should resolve to schedule a “no-spending” day each week, Campbell said, and reach out to phone, internet, cable and gym service providers every few months to negotiate better rates and packages.

Every financial plan should include a retirement component and that can extend beyond RRSPs and TFSAs to include voluntary company benefit plans with matching employer contributions, if available, said Craig Hughes, a director of tax and estate planning at IG Wealth Management.

Resolve this year to build an understanding of programs such as Old Age Security and the Canada Pension Plan, he added.

“Position yourself for retirement success by understanding what these programs offer, recent enhancements, benefits commencement dates and strategies available to optimize the amounts you’ll receive from them,” he advises.

Resolve to protect yourself from scams such as the fake Canada Revenue Agency calls currently making the rounds in Canada, says tax specialist Lisa Gittens of H&R Block.

She recommends making sure the caller is a CRA employee by asking for their agent ID, name, phone number and office location, then hanging up and calling back at one of the official CRA numbers found on their website.

Remember that the CRA will send notices to your mailing address if they have an official issue to talk to you about, she said.

Dan Healing, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

More than 1,500 people expected at Victoria peace rally for Black lives

‘To speak up, all you need is a voice and the will to be heard’

MISSING: High-risk woman last seen on May 25

Police are asking for the public’s help in locating Jennifer Daughinee-Mendelson

‘The face of Belmont’: Custodial staff at Langford school pivot to support parents, students

Staff serve as point of contact for parents, students with school

CRD to consider plan for mountain biking trails at Mount Work

SIMBS seek new trails in Hartland, Partridge Hills

Oak Bay clinic opens virtual classes to public for fundraiser

Patient activity is up for cancer-supporting clinic during COVID-19 crisis

March dental conference key to many of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases

Early infections from China, Iran were quickly contained

POLL: Are you sending your children back to school this month?

Classrooms looked decidedly different when students headed back to school for the… Continue reading

Vancouver Island First Nations gather to remember woman fatally shot by police

Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council requests an independent investigation

Cortes Island affordable housing project hangs by a thread

Regional decision makers resort to COVID-19 concerns despite virtual meeting option and push hearing to September

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

North Island recreation camping site closed due to vandalism

Damage happens every year, forcing site manager to reallocate improvement budget to repairs

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Seniors to receive up to $500 in promised COVID-19 emergency aid in early July

The Liberal government first promised the extra help in mid-May, but had to create a new system to deliver the aid

VIDEO: Revelstoke bear wanders into Animal House pet store

Staff got ready to chase it out with a broom

Most Read