How To (Realistically) Improve Your Finances In 2019

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One of time’s tested and true hacks is that to get better at anything, you need to start small. Whether your goal is to save $10,000 or $500, starting in small increments is the only way to attain it.

Going from $0 in savings to $1000 by cutting out everything you normally do each month isn’t sustainable; similarly, you likely can’t jump from the couch to the 5k finish line. But you can start with, say, $100 the first month, and a few laps around your neighbourhood.

As I wrote previously, focusing on increasing your savings rate by one per cent a year will be easier and more manageable than jumping right to 10 per cent, and so on. Consistent small tweaks will get you where you need to go.

Ten per cent is scary. One per cent is manageable. It’s enough to make a difference over time, but small enough that you won’t feel the sting too much year-to-year, assuming you stick to the plan.

You Only Need To Increase Your Savings By 1% A Year

One of the most common questions people have about getting their finances in order is how to possibly save enough for retirement when the numbers are so overwhelming. Life is expensive, and putting away 10 per cent of your salary per year seems painful at best and impossible at worst.

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But how exactly do you do that? If you’re getting your finances in order in the new year, here are some suggestions to help you improve by one per cent, some courtesy of ChooseFi.com:

  • Call your credit card company and ask them to waive the annual fee.

  • Swap out one bar/restaurant night a month for a cooking night in with friends or some other inexpensive activity.

  • Create a baby-sitting club with friends: Each couple can switch off sitter duty of the others’ kids so you can enjoy a cheaper night out.

  • Try a booze-free month (good for your health and your wallet).

  • Follow Kristin’s 10/10 Rule

  • Set up rules on an app like Qapital (say, save one per cent of your salary every time direct deposit hits)

  • Cut out online shopping, or institute an "online shopping day". As M3000P suggests: “To curb my splurging on Amazon, I have a designated day — Thursday — as the only day I can buy. So the rest of the week I throw stuff in the cart but ‘Amazon day’ is the only day I can checkout.”

  • Learn a skill you used to pay for (like changing your oil).

  • Go through your last credit card statement and see which subscriptions you can cancel.

  • “Round out your savings account after every paycheck, just contribute whatever is needed to make the nearest hundred whole (i.e. $178 to $200,” suggests ChooseFi.

  • Exercise more. According to a study from Vasilios Kosteas at Cleveland State University, men who exercise frequently earn six per cent more on average, while women who exercise frequently earn 10 per cent more.

  • Shop around for new car insurance for a cheaper rate.

  • Skip the upgrade. Maybe you’re up for a new phone or tablet. Do you really need a new one this year? Consider how much it would inflate your bill each month and keep what you have.

  • Abstain from buying new kitchen and bath products until you’ve used up what you have.

  • Relatedly, “take a moment to reflect on everything you own. Make it a mental game of trying to make everything you’ve already bought earn their cost. It’ll give you satisfaction and you’ll feel less like you wasted so much money. Additionally you’ll focus less on new things and end up saving money.”

  • Ask your boss if it’s possible to work from home one day a week, to save on commuting costs.

  • Save every $5 bill you get.

  • Stock up on pantry basics, and maybe, finally, get into meal planning.

  • Eat more veggies and grains, and less meat. Consider instituting a “meatless Monday.”

  • Gift food or experiences instead of “stuff” and commit to sharing moments, not clutter.

And you know some of the more obvious ones: Pick up freelance or a side hustle, cut back on eating out, ask for a raise, etc. Naturally, you should also look at credit card that attract as little interest as possible. Here are a few that are worth considering:

There are countless ways to save and earn more money — how will you get to one per cent?


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