5 Simple Steps for Transforming Your Finances in 2015

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If you’re like most people, this is the time of year when you look forward to the future and set goals. And like most people, there’s a good chance you’re still paying off a few holiday bills.

The reality is that many of us simply aren’t handling our money very well. In fact, a recent poll conducted by Manulife Financial found about half of Canadians expect they’ll still have debt by the time they retire. That’s a pretty scary statistic!

The good news is that there are some simple steps you can take right now to help get your finances on track. They take some discipline to be sure, but your financial situation will be much healthier for it. And the sooner you take them, the better:

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Step 1 – Create a Budget

The word “budget” sounds so old fashioned, doesn’t it? You might even think it sounds a little scary – some secret code for “the end of fun as you know it.” But in order to turn your finances around, you have to know where you’re spending your money.

Create a spreadsheet or get out that old fashioned pen and paper and start writing down all your monthly expenses, from mortgage payments, to groceries, to childcare etc. and estimate what each of those items cost each month. It might take a few months to get your budget to accurately reflect your expenses, but keep at it.

And don’t forget a line for savings – because we’ll get to that later.

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Step 2 – Live on Cash

If you’re trying to get out of debt, living on cash is important for 2 reasons. First, when you have a set amount of cash in an envelope each month, it’s easier to track how much you’re spending – and you’re not going into debt while you do it.

You may be wondering, why not just use my debit card? That’s the same as cash, right? Wrong! While it’s true that using your debit card doesn’t cause you to go into debt, it does cause you to spend more than you would with cash.

That’s because psychologically it’s more difficult for people to part with actual money than it is for them to use a plastic card. A study by Dun & Bradstreet found that on average, people spend 12-18% more when they use a card.

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Step 3 – Pay Down Debt

There’s no way around it. If you’ve got debt, you need to start to eliminate it. And the sooner the better. Otherwise, you’re just throwing out money in interest payments. Imagine all the fun things you could add to your budget if you didn’t have debt!

Start making more than the minimum payment – as much as you can while still paying for expenses and putting a little away for a rainy day.

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