November is Financial Literacy Month and we have the tips to ensure your financial game is on point this Fall as we head into the New Year!
Nail Down Your Budget
Understanding the basics of budgeting and tracking your income versus spending is a fundamental part of financial literacy and control. Building a budget can help you define your spending habits, and determine where there is room for adjustments, and this gives you a chance to review your cash flow situation to ensure it aligns with your financial goals.
Ideally, your budget will fall close to the range of the following:
- 32% of your income for housing, including property taxes, maintenance, utilities, etc.
- 26% of your income for life, including groceries, medical, childcare, vacations, fun, etc.
- 16% of your income for transit, including car payments, bus passes, gas, etc.
- 16% of your income for debt, including credit cards, lines of credit, loans, etc.
- 10% of your income for savings, including long-term planning, retirement, etc.
Dedicate Your Savings
Many individuals will have a savings account that is connected to their chequing account. This can be a bad habit, as it becomes too easy to use your savings account as a second account versus as a dedicated account for emergencies, vacation planning, or more. Ideally, you are putting 10% of your monthly income into savings whenever possible.
Live Within Your Means
This one seems simple, but it is surprisingly difficult to do – especially if you don’t have a proper budget! By putting together a budget as mentioned above, you can see where you are spending your income and how it compares to what you are bringing in. Ideally, you are adjusting your spending to ensure that you are not going over the cash flow available to you with priority expenses first, followed by leisure.
Understand Your Banking Options and Interest Rates
Having a loan with a 16% interest rate, a credit card that you’re barely making payments on, or a savings account that doesn’t give much back are all areas for consideration when it comes to truly understanding your options. Sometimes a different bank, account type, or loan type can make a big difference to your financial position. There are plenty of options, especially at mortgage renewal time, for consolidating your debt, changing your mortgage, getting a better interest rate, and more!
Check Your Credit
An annual review of your credit score and credit report is a huge part of financial literacy as this plays a key role in your overall financial status. Your credit score affects your loans, credit cards, mortgages and the interest rate you can qualify for so be sure to understand where you fall on the scale.
Plan for Big Expenses
Are you looking to replace your car? Planning a family vacation? Need to renovate your kitchen or replace some furniture? These are all typically larger expenses that should be planned for in advance. While sometimes an appliance will break and need to be replaced, the goal is to have funds in your budget (or savings) for when things come up unexpectedly but also to plan out spending before large purchases or bookings. This ensures that when you get on that plane or drive off that car lot, you know you’re already paid!
Review Your Financial Progress
A lot of people set up a budget but then they don’t update it! Ideally, if any of your expenses change, such as an increase to your streaming services bill or utilities go up, you are updating your budget in real-time to ensure that you are keenly aware of what is coming into your account and going out. Generally, an annual review is a good idea for an overall clean-up of your budget but keeping it maintained all year long will help you get the best picture of your financial situation.
When it comes to financial literacy, knowledge is power. With so many resources by your side from your mortgage broker to our Enriched Tips, Economic Insights and more it is easy to keep your finger on the pulse and be mindful of current economic changes, as well as new products or opportunities such as 40-year amortization mortgages!
Whether you’re new to financial literacy and budgeting, or simply want a refresh, taking control of your finances and better understanding your spending, cash flow and options will help you get the most out of your income!
written by DLC Chief Economist Dr. Sherry Cooper.