34 Pieces of Personal Finance Advice I Would Give Absolutely Everyone

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Personal finance is personal, but there is some personal finance advice I would give absolutely everyone.

When it comes to managing your money, there are four primary areas you need to focus on: earning more income, managing your spending, paying off debt, and saving & investing. You should focus on all four concurrently. However, if you feel your mental and financial bandwidth is stretched, focus on them in that order.

Regardless of where you are in your financial journey, here is my list of personal finance advice I would give absolutely everyone. Use the below as a checklist, or as a guide to see if you’re on track!

Earn more income

The first step to financial security isn’t actually budgeting, paying off debt, or saving. It’s earning more money. Which brings me to my first piece of personal finance advice: bring more dollars into your bank account.

The more money you earn, the easier it will be to take care of the other aspects of your financial life. Increasing your income will make it easier to save and pay off debt, as well as give you more breathing room in your day-to-day spending.

  1. Determine if you are currently being paid fairly for your education, experience, and industry
  2. Identify any additional education or credentials it might be beneficial for you to obtain in the next 2-5 years in order to increase your income.
  3. Negotiate your salary at your next performance review or when you start a new job.
  4. Try to find a way to earn an extra $100 per week or $400 per month.
  5. Sign up for Rakuten and make sure to click through the website when you do any online shopping.

While frugality and saving will take you far, your income is the single biggest determinant of your financial potential. If you are going to put your energy into any aspect of improving your money, make it your income.

Manage your spending

Once you have more money coming in, the second thing is to control how much money is going out. 

Budgeting should not make you feel restricted or deprived. In fact, it should give you a sense of control over your money and make you feel like you’re spending it on what matters most to you. But you also want to avoid overpaying for what matters most to you, which is why you should take a hard look at the cost your expenses even if you feel your money is going to the right place.

  1. Open a no-fee chequing account with Tangerine and move any automatic payments & direct deposit to this account. Close all other bank accounts costing you fees.
  2. Group your expenses into one of five categories: Housing, Transportation, Savings, Debt, and Miscellaneous. Try to keep your budget simple — more categories is not better!
  3. Try to find a way to cut your three largest expenses by 15% or more. This may involve drastic lifestyle changes like getting a roommate or selling your car.
  4. Bundle any expenses when possible, such as home & auto insurance or internet & tv. This will reduce the number of bills you have, as well as provide discounts on essential services.
  5. Try to eliminate your five smallest expenses entirely.
  6. Sign up for KOHO to manage your spending and earn cash-back on your regular purchases.
  7. Automate all your bills to be debited from your KOHO account or your no-fee Tangerine Chequing account.
  8. Look for small investments you can make that can reduce bills long term. For example, buying a smart thermostat to lower your heating costs.

In other words, you don’t have to give up avocado toast and lattes, you just have to make sure you’ve budgeted for them.

Pay off your debt

Even if your income is good and your spending is under control, debt payments can really compromise your ability to save.

Carrying a large amount of debt is not only expensive, it leaves you economically vulnerable to catastrophe. In the event of a major life event like a layoff or disability, lots of debt will hurt you more than a lack of savings. For this reason, you should be focused on reducing your overall debt load as fast as possible.

  1. Get your free credit score from Borrowell. If your credit is less than excellent
  2. Get your free credit report from Borrowell. Ensure all information is correct.
  3. Using your free credit report, make a list of all your debts, including balances, interest rates, and minimum payments.
  4. If you have more than $15,000 in consumer debt on credit cards, ask your bank if you consolidate to a low-interest line of credit.
  5. You should be allocating at least 15% of your net income towards debt repayment. If you are below this, increase your debt payments until you are at or above this threshold.
  6. Choose a debt repayment strategy, like the Debt Avalanche or the Debt Snowball.
  7. Try to create a debt repayment plan that will see you consumer debt free in 3 years or less, car loan debt free in 5 years or less, and student loan debt free in 7 years or less.
  8. Automate all your debt payments to come directly from your no-fee Tangerine chequing account 3-5 business days before their due date. Some payments can be automated directly through your creditor, other payments you can automate through online bill pay through your online banking.
  9. Look for Debt Snowflakes, like your quarterly eBates income or cash-back from your KOHO card, to allocate towards your debt.
  10. If you receive an income tax refund, use it to pay off any consumer debt. If you have only a car loan and student loan remaining, split your income tax refund and use half towards debt and the other half towards savings.
  11. Once you are entirely debt free, put 1/3 of the money you were using towards debt repayment back into your monthly spending and reallocate the remaining 2/3’s towards savings and investing.

When it comes to dealing with your debt, make sure you’re focused more on taking action and not simply worrying about it. Carrying a large amount of debt can be very stressful, but agonizing over the balance doesn’t do anything about it. Even if you can only spare an extra $10, put it towards your debt when you can.

Save and invest for the long-term

Even if you’re wise with your spending choices and get to debt-free, you’ll have nothing to show for all your fiscal responsibility if you’re not saving and investing.

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Getting into the habit of saving can be difficult, but once you get the hang of it, it’s generally fairly easy to increase your efforts for even better results. All you have to do is start. This can be as simple as opening a savings account and putting $10 into it.

  1. Set at least two savings goals in KOHO: one for something fun and one for something responsible.
  2. Start saving a $1,000 emergency fund (this can be one of your KOHO goals!) This can be accomplished by setting aside as little as $20 per week.
  3. Learn the difference between an RRSP and TFSA. Open one of each.
  4. Open a high-interest savings account with EQ Bank. Once you hit your KOHO savings goal, withdraw the funds and transfer them to an EQ Bank Savings Plus Account where you can earn the 2.30%* everyday interest rate on your money.
  5. Start investing by opening an account with Wealthsimple. This can be a TFSA or an RRSP. Transfer at least $100/mo to it. You can even do this directly from your KOHO card.
  6. Check that you are saving at least 10% of your net income. If you’re not, begin by saving 1% of your net income. Every month, try to save another 1% of your net income. If you follow this, you will be saving over 10% of your net income by the end of the year.
  7. Strive to max out your TFSA for 2019. The limit this year is $6,000!
  8. Set up a dedicated Car Emergency Fund and aim save your insurance deductible. This way you will not have to withdraw from your regular emergency fund in the event of an accident or something happening to your vehicle. EQ Bank is one of the best places to keep your Car Emergency Fund!
  9. Once you are consumer debt free, focus on building your Emergency Fund to $5,000.
  10. Once your Wealthsimple account reaches $10,000 and you want to take on more risk and responsibility with investing, open a self-directed account with Questrade.

You work hard earning your money, so you want to get it working hard for you. All your savings will go to waste if you don’t save and invest where you can earn the highest return possible.

What next?

Once you’ve maximized your income, cultivated good spending habits, vanquished your debts, and started building your wealth, the rest is simply staying on track. The hard part of personal finance isn’t knowing what to do, but following through once you do.

*Note: Interest is calculated daily on the total closing balance and paid monthly. Rates are per annum and subject to change without notice. 

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About Author

Student debt killer, super saver, and stock market addict. BSc. in Chemistry from the University of Alberta, MBA in Finance from the University of Calgary. CEO x 2 and MOM x 1. Currently residing in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, but hooked on travelling.

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