Manage Money Better

Top 10 Budgeting Tips to Start Using for Financial Literacy Month

Curated by the Education Team

Sharing our best budgeting tips is a great way to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Financial Literacy Month in Canada! It’s easier to manage your money when you spend according to your budget. And if you’re dealing with debt, your budget is your best friend to get your finances back on track. Make budgeting easier with these top 10 tips:

1. Use Real Numbers!

For a budget to work and be successful, it needs to be based on actual numbers and not estimates of what you think you’re spending. Knowing how much money is coming into your household and exactly how much is going out every month is key in creating a successful budget. If you’re not sure what you’re actually spending every month, then tracking your expenses is the answer.

Tracking expenses tells us the truth and shows us where we can make changes to our spending. People often underestimate how much they are spending on things like groceries, entertainment, and dining out. Start to track your expenses on categories like this for a few weeks and then review your results. Once you’ve looked at your habits, ask yourself: Are there areas I want to or need to make changes in my spending?

2. Give Every Dollar a Job

Give every dollar a job.

Budget to zero every month – track every dollar you earn and give it a job in your budget. If your fixed expenses, debt payments, and savings have all been paid for and you’ve still got money left over, give it a job so it doesn’t disappear by accident. You could add it to savings like retirement or emergency funds, make an additional credit card payment, or give yourself an increase in your discretionary spending, AKA “fun money”! The great thing about your budget is that you get to choose what you do with your cash.

3. Set Goals for Your Money

Write down your financial goals and review them when there are changes to your situation, such as when your income goes down, when it goes up, or when a debt gets paid off. Be realistic with your goals and timelines because they will impact your budget. Consider all aspects of your life when making decisions about your spending.

Four Common Financial Goals and How to Make Them Smart

4. Separate WANTS vs. NEEDS

When creating a budget, you’ll need to account for all your expenses. When reviewing your expenses, consider which ones are wants and not needs. Spending too much on wants can add up to a lot of debt very quickly. So ask yourself the tough questions: Is this expense necessary? Does it help me with my goals? What would happen if I lived without it? Is there an alternative or more cost-effective option? If you’re being honest with yourself, chances are there are some expenses in your budget that could be eliminated entirely, or drastically reduced so that you can redirect money to paying your debts off faster.

What Are Your Bad Habits Really Costing You?

5. Plan for Irregular Expenses

People often forget about those expenses that only come up once in awhile. Irregular expenses might include things like car repairs, haircuts, vet bills, membership fees, gifts, festivities, or even clothing. By planning for seasonal or periodic expenses, we can eliminate the need to use credit or money that was meant for something else. Consider opening a separate savings account specifically for irregular expenses and set aside money every pay period into this account for your irregular expenses. This will help you be proactive instead of reactive.

6. Automate Your Finances

Most financial institutions offer online automated banking options that can help make budgeting and saving automatic. Creating automatic deposits into accounts every pay period can help create good saving habits and assist in keeping track of your expenses and payments. Check with your financial institution for options available to you.

7. Pay Yourself First

Treat your savings like an expense or a bill and put it in your budget as a regular ”payment” instead of waiting until you have money left over to put away. Most people find a way to spend any extra; however, paying yourself first makes savings a priority equal to that of a bill payment.

8. Create an Emergency Fund or "Buffer" in Your Budget

Emergencies happen! We just don’t know when they will come, what they will be, or how much they will cost. Put a small amount of money into a separate savings account every pay period to build a fund for these situations. A little extra money set aside can turn most emergencies into just an inconvenience. To get your emergency fund started, set a specific and achievable goal like $600, or more if you can afford it. This will give you something to strive for. It’s not as important how much you set aside as it is that you put some money aside regularly. Success feels good and will motivate you to keep up this habit!

9. Consider Your Entire Household in Budgeting

Money can be handled differently from home to home and you’ll need to manage things the way that works best for your household. That said, no matter who handles the finances for the household, all contributors should be aware of what the expenses are and where the money is going. Involve your kids in age-appropriate ways – they can have a big influence on your spending choices! Being on the same page and working toward the same financial goals is fundamental to being successful with your budget.

FREE Budget Calculator to Juggle Everyone’s Numbers

10. Stop Using Credit and Make Debt Repayment a Priority

If you’ve created a successful budget, there will be very little to no need for the use of credit. Make reducing and repaying your debt a priority. Include debt repayment in your budget and reach out to us if you need help finding ways to reduce your debt in the fastest amount of time. Money is always better in your pocket than spent on interest charges.

Learn More About Money This Financial Literacy Month (#FLM2020)

Helping you with your finances is our goal. Even if you can only implement 1 or 2 of these tips to start with, work to use as many as possible to get your budget humming along. During this month, we have a variety of free events and activities you can join in on to learn more about managing your money better. Come celebrate #FLM2020 with us and let us know in the comments what financial literacy means to you!

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