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

Annual Thanksgiving Food Drive garnishes generous portions

Food donations will sustain the Prince Rupert Food Bank for three months.

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

Haida hereditary chief is BC Liberal Candidate for North Coast Region

Roy Jones Jr. is named BC Liberal MLA candidate for the North Coast

$3.4 million childcare centre to be built in Lax Kw’alaams

Lax Kw’alaams funding has been approved through the provincial New Spaces Fund

COVID-19 cases grow to 13 at B.C. First Nation near Fort St. James

“This is very serious,” says Nak’azdli Whut’en Chief

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

Canadian ski resorts wrestle with pandemic-vs.-profit dilemma as COVID-19 persists

Few are actually restricting the total number of skiers they allow on the hill

Victoria-area RCMP locate high-risk sex offender thanks to help of taxi cab driver

Scott Jones wanted on a Canada-wide warrant, ‘a risk to women and girls,’ police say

A (virtual) walk around the world by 88-year-old B.C. man

George Doi says it’s simple: ‘I like walking’

End of CERB means uncertainty for some, new system for others

As of a week ago, the CERB had paid out $79.3 billion to 8.8 million people

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Horgan, Wilkinson trade barbs over MSP premiums, health care at campaign stops

Horgan called a snap election for Oct. 24 earlier this week

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

Most Read