How to make 2020 your best financial year yet
I made it through the first few days of 2020 only spending money on gas and groceries. Then the weekend came and on the first Saturday of the year – the first Saturday of the decade, I found myself out at a bar with an old girlfriend. Four pints later I could just feel the next day’s money hangover coming.
I have beer at home. I should’ve just ordered water. Why didn’t I just offer to make her dinner at my place? But in reality - should I splurge and get a poutine?
I’m not a cheap person, but I am a conscious one – especially when it comes to my finances.
So the next day when I woke up, while I didn’t have a hangover from the alcohol, I did have a major headache from the unnecessary spending. I decided to spend my morning (re)committing to a better financial year.
Here are some tips I established that can help you and me stay in the black for 2020.
Track and check your finances daily
Every night before bed I open up my Windows Excel spreadsheet and track the spending I did that day. Every. Single. Day. If I spent $2 on tea, I fill it in in my food category. If my car payment was withdrawn from my account, I put the amount in my car category. $170 for insurance? $70 for my phone bill? Every single penny gets tracked.
The reason people find finances overwhelming is because they wait until there’s a month or two worth of finances to look through and to analyze. Doing it daily not only makes it simpler, but helps you to recognize small, self-jeopardizing patterns that can slip through the cracks of everyday life, like not budgeting for a car repair, license renewal or birthday gift. Daily check ins help to make sure you’re on track for the short and long term.
Earn more money
In today’s gig economy, side hustles are pretty common. But if you feel like you don’t really have a special skill that you can capitalize off of, it can be tough to think about where you’re going to get extra money from.
Luckily for you, there’s an app called Hyr. It lists several occasional postings in your city for anything from bartenders to dishwashers to coat check attendants. It tells you the shift time, location and lets you know in advance how much you’ll make. You may not want to spend eight hours washing dishes, but knowing you’ll be even a little richer at the end of it could sweeten the deal.
Pay off your debt
Paying off debt is a common New Year’s resolution. But besides the relief of being debt-free, not having to put a few hundred dollars a month towards your debt frees up extra cash which can be redirected to other things – like travel savings, RRSPs, a new car, or just to ease the squeeze from month to month.
If you add up the minimum payments for all your outstanding accounts, it becomes clear how much it costs to carry your debt. Imagining how you can re-purpose the extra cash might be all it takes to motivate you to pay it off.
My best friend and I had planned a spa day instead of Christmas gifts. While I suggested one spa, she mistakenly booked at the fancier, more expensive sister spa, doubling our total. I called in advance to find out what we’d be paying the day of, and upon hearing it was way past what we were comfortable spending, we both agreed to cancel and do a small lunch instead.
She recently purchased a condo and I recently committed to clearing my debt. With both of us being in the loop about each other’s financial priorities, it made the decision easy to do what was best for both of us and opt for something much cheaper.
This was an example of both of us having the discipline to say no to a leisure activity – and after the stress of the holidays, who doesn’t need a massage? But what she needed more was to avoid being house poor and what I needed more than that Swedish rub was a $0 balance on my credit card.
I wish you all the best this year – no matter what your goals are. Take it step by step, day by day and most importantly, keep your eye on the prize. Whether it’s something small like paying off the last few hundred dollars of your student loan or something massive like saving the last few thousand dollars needed for a down payment on a home – you can do this!
P.S. I'm back! Sorry for the year long hiatus. I was going through some things. Stay tuned - when I muster up the courage I'll be writing about it.