Good habits don’t just stick with you overnight. They take time to develop and depending on the habit, you may even have to wait a bit to reap the benefits of them. For example, if you want to develop a habit of eating better in order to lose weight, you won’t see the rewards until at least a few months later.
The same goes for good money habits. They take time to stick, and it also takes time to see the benefit of them. That’s perhaps why so many people have trouble taking up good habits and then sticking with them – the rewards are too far off, and the inconvenience is just too much.
The Credit Counsellors at not-for-profit credit counseling agency Credit Canada have heard it time and time again. Many of their clients often lament that they should have made an effort to improve their financial situation sooner. Here are some tips their Credit Counsellors have to offer that you’ll wish you would have already started – and kept up.
1. Set Aside Money Every Month
There are a number of reasons why you may want to save money, but the most important one is so that you have some kind of funds available in the case of an emergency. Too many people put off saving money because they either feel overly secure or because they’re busy spending the money on something else.
It doesn’t take much to develop a good habit of putting some of your paycheques into a savings account every month. Even if it’s only $20, it’s a start, and it could save you some trouble down the road. For example, what if you unexpectedly lose your job, or what if you need to make costly repairs to your vehicle? You just never know.
On the other hand, if you dream of going to school, opening your own business, or going on vacation, then you definitely need to start saving money. Forget about taking out any loans with high interest and instead start saving now – it’ll be worth it.
2. Think Carefully Before Putting It on Credit
Too many people tend to not give their credit cards a second thought before putting it to use. They’re so convenient to use that it’s almost too easy to spend money and not have to face the consequences of it (until it’s too late, anyway).
It’s time to own up to the fact that the funds you are using on the credit card are simply borrowed, and that you’ll have to pay it back eventually. So every time you use a credit card, understand that you’re taking on debt – it’s not money, and more importantly, it’s not your money. That being the case, you need to start a habit of thinking before using your credit card (a task more difficult than it sounds). Can you really afford this purchase? Have you looked at your credit card statement recently? Can you pay it off in full at the end of the month? Can you afford to make the minimum payments on time? These are all questions you need to start carefully considering.
3. Separate the Wants from the Needs
It’s time that you started developing the habit of tracking the money you spend every month. There are a number of free apps available that you can use to not only track your money but to develop a monthly budget as well.
During this process, it’s important to take a look at how much money you have coming in and how much is coming out – and what exactly that money is being spent on. Start by identifying your needs like your rent or mortgage costs, utilities, food, and other essentials, then move on to the wants. For example, do you really need that monthly Netflix subscription? Do you need to get your coffee from Starbucks every morning?
From there, work on a realistic monthly budget you can stick with (and don’t forget to put aside some money for savings) where you are spending more on what you actually need versus what you simply want. It may be hard at first, but you’ll give yourself a pat on the back later when you see how much money you’re actually saving.
4. Pay More than the Monthly Minimum
When it comes to debt, whether it be credit card debt or something like a student loan, many people are tempted to only pay the minimum back each month even if they can afford to pay more. What they forget is that there is interest on that loan, and the more time goes on, the more interest you will end up paying.
Start developing a habit of setting aside more than the minimum each month that way you can pay off your debt faster and avoid paying interest. Would you like it if you were debt-free in ten years – what about five? If that’s the case, then it’s time to pull out the calculator and find out how much money you need to pay each month in order to clear the debt within that time period. Otherwise, you’ll end up paying into it for longer than you ever imagined possible.
5. Start Investing in an RRSP
A Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) is a savings and investing vehicle meant to be used by people in their retirement. Money that gets placed into an RRSP isn’t taxed until it is taken out, and until then it is left to compound at a tax-free rate. Not only can you deduct contributions against your income, but you can also delay paying taxes until retirement when the marginal tax rate will be lower than when you were working.
RRSPs were designed to encourage people to save for retirement, but too many people neglect doing this because they aren’t thinking about the future enough and keep putting it off. Open one as soon as you can and begin the habit of putting money into it – if you don’t, you’ll definitely regret it down the road when you have no money for retirement.
Though you probably wish you’d already started practicing these good habits, it’s never too late. Start today and begin the process of developing good money habits.