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

CMTN’s Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art holds annual exhibit

Artwork will be showcased until Feb. 29 at the Terrace Art Gallery

Wet’suwet’en return to camps near Houston, Coastal GasLink workers move through: First Nation

Opponents of a pipeline who support the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have reoccupied camps at centre of arrests

Northern Health recommends self-quarantine for people returning from Hubei

The healthcare provider said it isn’t neccessary for healthy children to wear face masks

Caledonia’s senior girls’ basketball team heads to provincials

Kermodes will be competing in Langley, B.C.

Skeena Voices | The tale of Vikings

ValhallaFest co-founders and couple strive to recreate Burning Man culture to bring people together

VIDEO: Minister reports ‘modest progress’ after blockade talks with First Nation

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say Coastal GasLink does not have authority to go through their lands

Henrique scores 2 as Ducks soar past Canucks 5-1

Vancouver tumbles out of top spot in Pacific Division

Trudeau cancels Caribbean trip amid pipeline protests across Canada

Protests against Coastal GasLink have disrupted rail service

B.C. VIEWS: Inaction on pipeline protests not a viable response

Columnist Frank Bucholtz on how the Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute got so bad

PHOTOS: Top 10 memories of the 2010 Olympics

Black Press Media’s Jenna Hauck, shares some of her most memorable images of 2010 Winter Games

#FoxForFiver: Support grows in B.C. to put Terry Fox on new $5 bill

Terry Fox’ Marathon of Hope raised money for cancer research

Registration opens soon for BC 55+ Games in Richmond

2020 55+ Games have been officially scheduled for Sept. 15 to 19

Trudeau confers with cabinet ministers as rail blockades continue

The Trudeau government has been criticized for not doing more to end the blockades

Canadian nurses’ unions warn national standards for coronavirus protection too low

President says safety protocols nationwide are inadequate compared to those in Ontario and other countries

Most Read