Every year I make out a list of goals or resolutions for the year to come. I keep my list in google spreadsheets so that I can track my progress and see how I’ve done at the end of the year. I try to make the list reasonable and attainable.
Here are 8 Ideas for Financial Resolutions for 2010. It gets overwhelming to do them all at once. Pick two or three high priority ones and work on those first.
1. Track your spending.
Tracking your spending is one of the best ways of finding out if your money is going where you want it to go. Every time I work with someone and they do this exercise they are surprised at how much they spend on something. Love going out for dinner? Great! Go out more often. Find out you are spending $4000 a year on it when you’d rather spend it on something else? Suddenly making dinner at home becomes a lot more exciting.
2. Open and max out your TFSA
If you haven’t opened a TFSA yet, now is the time to do it. For the first few years of savings (you get $5000 a year contribution limit each) it’s a great plan for your emergency fund. After that you may want to sit down with a professional to decide which you should max out first, your RRSP or your TFSA. I happen to agree with Ed Rempel’s advice.
3. Track your net worth
The vast majority of the people I meet with have no idea the value of their total net worth. Nearly all are surprised one way or another when they do this exercise for the first time. Some are shocked at just how much debt they have and others are pleasantly surprised that they have more than they thought they did. Tracking your net worth every month is a great way to motivate yourself to keep on track financially.
4. Write or re-write your will
You need a will. If you have children or dependents, you really need a will. Some people argue that it’s easier to download a will online or order a will kit that does all the work for you. I’m a strong believer in getting a will done by a lawyer. For those who already have a will, read it over to make sure it doesn’t need updating since it was last done.
5. Max out your employer matching
I am amazed at the number of people that miss out on free money. Some companies have an employer matching program where for every dollar you contribute to your RRSPs, they will match it up to a certain percentage. You want to make sure you are maxing this out. Call your HR department and check. I’ve worked with several people who were amazed that they answer was yes, and they’d been missed out on an employer match for years.
6. Pay off the credit cards
Don’t just make minimum payments. The faster you can pay off your high interest debt the more cash you’ll have to spend now and save for the future. Make a plan to get the cards paid off quickly and if it’s too tempting to buy on credit, consider switching to cash or debit.
7. Build your Emergency Fund
Most financial professionals recommend having between 3 and 6 months living expenses in an emergency fund. If your job is volatile, a baby is in your near future or you highly value security, you may want to make it more. Many couples I know like to have between 9-12 months of living expenses in their emergency fund. Money in your emergency fund shouldn’t be invested. It should be in a high interest savings account or short term GIC. This is money you may need in the short term. It’s not for long term investing.
8. Save up for something fun
Getting your financial life in order doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Life is about finding the balance between saving for the future and living in the now. Want to go on an exotic vacation? Set up a vacation fund. Looking for a Vespa or a Harley? Start saving now. There is nothing wrong with spending money on fun things. Just save up for it first.
Our resolutions for 2009 were to pay off the car and max out our TFSAs. For 2010, our goals are to save up for a potential move or second car depending on whether we decide to relocate or commute and increase our savings by a certain percentage.
What are your financial resolutions for 2010?
Kathryn works in public relations and training for a non profit. In her off hours, she volunteers as a financial coach helping ordinary Canadians with the basics of money management. Her passions include personal finance and adult education. Kathryn, along with her husband and two children live in Ontario.