Take control of your personal finances this holiday season

This is part five of our 5-part series for Financial Literacy Month

People often look back and think, “I wish I had spent less and started saving earlier in life.” Regardless of where you are in life, it’s never too late to start taking control of your personal finances. It’s entirely possible to put your financial mistakes behind you and focus on your financial present and future.

Here are some steps to help you get started:

Just start!

Even if you are only able to put a small amount of money into a savings account each month, the starting part is the most important. Like taking that first step in going to the gym, the starting part is often the hardest. You can always adjust the amount you save monthly higher or lower if your financial circumstances change.

Take shelter

There are ways to make your money grow faster without the bite of a tax hit each year. Tax deferred accounts such as Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs), Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSPs), Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs), and as well as tax free plans such as Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs) all offer unique advantages to saving for your and/or your children’s future. Find out the how each of these works and under which circumstances each is best to use.

Make a list

December may be just the right time to make a list to help you avoid the dreaded bills of January. On your list, write down five ways you plan on cutting your costs in your life and how you plan to start. Also, write down two or three ways you plan to increase your income in the upcoming year. It could include taking on a part-time job or starting a part-time business on the side, or it could be filing your taxes to make sure you receive all the benefits or tax credits you are eligible for.

Make a holiday budget

During the holidays, everything from mall Santas to scented stores to holiday music to flashing sale signs is designed to get you to spend more. Make your shopping list ahead of time and before hitting the mall, including how much you plan to spend on each person on your list. Most importantly—stick to it!

Give your credit cards the holidays off

The convenience of plastic can lead us to a miserable financial hangover. Skip the convenience and shop with cash during December. You’ll know exactly how much you are spending and leave yourself much less vulnerable to impulse buying. Best of all, it will make that January credit card statement all the less frightening!

Family Services of Greater Vancouver can help you with your financial well-being, including making more informed consumer choices. We have workshops and one-on-one financial coaching to figure out your financial goals and how to achieve them. Email moneyskills@fsgv.ca or call 604-638-3991 to get in touch with our team and learn more about how we can help you with your financial goals.

Murray Baker is a Financial Facilitator and Coach, Financial Empowerment, with Family Services of Greater Vancouver. He is also a speaker and author of the bestseller The Debt-free Graduate: How to Survive College Without Going Broke, now in its 14th edition.