January 12, 2019

12-Minute Financial Tips to Immediately Improve Your Situation

One of the main concepts at the basis of the 12-Minute Approach is improvement. In most cases and in most domains, it’s easy to get to ball rolling with only 12-Minute a day or 12-Minute here and there. It’s no different for your finances. Your family’s financial situation can be greatly improved by investing just a little time, 12 minutes, on it. The idea is to start with 12-Minute and build up from there.

Consequently, today we will try to present a bunch of ideas on how to quickly improve your dealings with money. Note that our intention is not to present an exhaustive list. If you have a minute or even better, a dozen, pick one of these and try to implement it. 


Get rid of extra credit cards

No one needs a zillion credit cards, but many wallets still get filled with a lot of them for various reasons. Sometimes, it seems impossible to get away from all those enticing rewards and offers.

The problem is that all those credit cards allow you to spend more easily and could negatively affect your credit rating.

One or two cards with reasonable limits should be enough for most people. So, think of cancelling all the others.

Even though it can be an effective way to prevent you from using them, cutting your cards is not enough. You need to actually cancel each card with your financial institution or credit card company. Stay patient as the process can sometimes be voluntarily complicated and tedious.

Transfer balance and cancel high-interest credit card

After administration and late fees that should be avoided altogether, interest charges are your next worst enemy in regard to credit cards.

If you really can’t get away from carrying credit cards balances, at least look for less interest-hungry options.

As last resort, we prefer to only use our relatively low-interest home equity credit line. It may not be a possibility for everyone.

Lower interest credit cards may be your only recourse. You should find interesting offers is you look and research a little. Only take your business to reputable institutions and as mentioned above, make sure to thoroughly cancel your old card if you opt to take that route.

Consolidate your monthly credit card statements

Most people never do this but consolidating a credit card statement only takes a few minutes. It can allow to spot and correct errors or overcharges. We prefer not to accumulate and do it more frequently (almost every week) but a monthly checkup should be just fine.

It’s simple to do it online. Reviewing your credit card statements can also help you realize how much and where you spend your hard-earned money. Because spending money is now so easy, make it a point to at least minimally track your expenses. Use the many tools already available out there or if you prefer, put up your own system.

Make a list of your liabilities

The first important step to tackle debt is to assess the situation. Making a list of each of your liabilities should not take you that long and will give you a better idea of the extent of the damage.

That detailed inventory of your debts can allow you to easily spot where things can be improved. Your liability list should include basic information for each item like total amount of debt, interest rate, frequency and amount of payments.

Put up a plan to get out of debt

Don’t feel guilty about crumbling under debt, many suffer from the same financial burden. The only thing you can really do is to find a way to get out of it.

Severe situations may require more than that, but in most cases, it’s often just a matter of getting things started in the right direction.

You could take the most efficient path by tackling the highest interest debt first. On the other hand, getting rid of the smallest balance debt first can be more psychologically encouraging.

Putting up a plan to get out of debt within a couple years is most likely realistic and will also provide you extra motivation.


Set up an automatic investment plan

This one is a classic personal finance tip. It really works for most people because it’s often much easier to invest regularly without noticing it thru automatic payments. The alternative to invest a big chunk once or twice a year can be much more psychologically painful. 

You know the usual drill to synchronize transfers just after you get your paychecks. So, take a few minutes to set it up!

Try to reduce investing fees and transaction costs

Apart from emotions, excessive fees are probably an investor’s worst enemy. They can have a lasting ill effect on investment return and could even chew on capital.

To control your investing fees, review the financial products you are using. Try to avoid administration fees and stay away from costly management fees. Look for low-cost investment products out there, the really exist!

For DIY investors, transaction costs are also a game-changer. Paying lower commissions on each transaction is one way to go about it. But making less transactions is probably even more effective as it will also help keep your emotions in check.

Explore ways to reduce your tax bill

Being tax efficient is also one of the keys of successful investing. Not paying too much tax will leave you more money to invest.

We will point out a few ideas here but make sure to explore on your own as in the fiscal realm, possibilities are almost endless and depend a lot on your situation.

For Canadians, Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs) are a no-brainer. To some extent, they allow you save and invest tax free. Consider transferring funds from taxable accounts.

Registered Retirement Saving Plans (RRSPs) benefits depend on your level of income. They don’t have to exclusively be used for retirement. We like to contribute (or now even withdraw) to keep our taxable income just under the lower 40K$ish tax bracket.

On top of paying less tax, keeping US stocks in RRSPs can allow to simplify fiscal implications.

Be sure to know about contribution deadlines and limits. Sometimes just adjusting the timing of your transactions can have significant impact on taxes you will have to pay.

Verify fiscal implications before your make any financial move and not just when you file your taxes. Also consider long-term fiscal pitfalls as saving a small (or big) tax amount now may have a much heftier price in the long haul.

Explore income splitting strategies like spousal RRSPs to reduce the overall tax bill of your family.

Review your retirement plan

Some people don’t like to talk retirement and rely on life to take care of those matters. At the other extreme, others obsessively plan for it and even dream of early retirement. For most, reality will settle right in between.

After all, your retirement lifestyle should be a personal decision. Planning won’t necessarily make it perfect, but it certainly can make it better. Only relying on faith may seriously impact your family’s situation and limit your choices in the end.

To some extent, we believe you have to respect the freedom you have to make these choices and give it a little consideration in advance. 

So, take some time to analyse your retirement possibilities and refine a plan to get to the most convenient for you, not anybody else. Bear in mind that some minor adjustments today may have remarkable impact on your retirement future.

There is a ton a web resources available out there If you need a little inspiration or help calculating estimations.


Call to ask better cable or telecom deal

Back in July, we posted 12 Suggestions to Reduce Telecom Expenses. Without a doubt, the most popular tip is simply to call for a better deal.

We first talked about it here after we realized that Just Asking for a Telecom Reduction was quite easy. It was still a breeze to repeat the process according to This Post from a Few Months Back.

When it comes down to cable or telecom, just a little time over the phone or on the web could literally save you several hundred dollars. Definitely time invested very well!

Review subscriptions

Many of us one day subscribed to a magazine that we still receive but never read. For those, automatic renewal can be exasperating. You end up continually paying for something you don’t use anymore.  

So, take a few moments to review and cancel unused subscriptions. In this era, this is also true for online subscriptions. As we already said before, a few bucks each month can really add up in the long run. You could deeply regret those few costly clicks you carelessly made a couple years back.

Shop around to get better prices

This habit may be a given for some, but many just don’t take time to look for better prices.

It’s even easier to shop around these days as information is accessible from the web after just a few clicks. So, you could potentially do it from anywhere.

Know the typical prices of items you often buy. If possible, stock up on them when you get good rebates.

The same goes for big-ticket items you really need, do some research and determine a target price. Be patient and wait to obtain that price before you buy. Look for seasonal rebates. Although we hate this part, don’t be shy to negotiate, you will feel wonderful if you get an even better price.

Find ideas to slash out 12% of your spending

If it’s your first time cutting back on your expenses, a 12% reduction can be a perfect target, ambitious enough yet attainable, like any 12-Minute objective.

If your spending already has been trimmed down, be a little more modest in your ambitions to take it further. Being too aggressive and unrealistic won’t do any good.

Invest a predetermined amount of time, like 12-Minute a week or a day, to research and review your spending. Also give yourself a precise period, like 12-week, to improve and attain a precise quantifiable objective.

Recurring expenses should be your main focus. Their impact is more significant. Transpose your spending or savings over your lifetime like we talked about Here. For instance, you’ll notice that saving just a few bucks every week may have a bigger impact than saving a couple hundred bucks only once.

Don’t disregard potential savings on big-ticket items as their influence on your finances could be substantial. Just realize that smaller but recurrent spending could impede your long-term financial progression just as much. 

Make a grocery shopping list

Planning your weekly meals according to specials can save you a lot of money. To some extent, it will also force you into a certain level of variety, which is marvelous for your general health.

Making and sticking to a grocery list can you save you both time and money. It can make groceries a much more efficient process.

In many stores, price matching has been quite in vogue lately. Unfortunately, we personally don’t always take advantage of it. We think the process can be too time consuming unless you find an effective app to simplify it for you.

Negotiate a better insurance deal

Home and auto insurance rates depend on experience. That’s why your premiums will probably go up at renewal after you made claims. They also can go up if your insurance company had bad experience with customers in your area or in a similar situation to yours.

Contrary to what many believe, insurance companies don’t usually reward customers loyalty. They won’t necessarily past up good experience to existing customers and lower their prices.

On the other hand, they will often give great deals to new customers. They will also try to retain your business or gain it back if you mingle with competitors.

It won’t take you that long to ask around for quotes. Don’t hesitate to switch if your insurance provider doesn’t match a better deal. Personally, we’ve been switching from the same two rival companies every two to five years for the last two decades.

That process saves us several hundred dollars each and every year. That’s why we make it a point to negotiate and review our coverage at least at renewal.

Look for cheaper life insurance options

If your family depends on your ability to earn money, you need life insurance. This should be quite obvious and simple.

Unfortunately, many people who don’t need life insurance like singles and seniors often have a lot. And the other way around, many people who really need life insurance like young providing parents don’t have a lot. Most of the time, it’s because they think they can’t afford it. Reality is that they can’t afford not to have any as financial repercussions could be catastrophic for their family.

That’s why young parents should look and know about the cheapest life insurance options. The two quick answers to that fundamental personal finances question again are obvious: it’s group insurance and term insurance.

Look in to it. Group life insurance usually available thru your working conditions is your best bet. Because group insurance is not accessible to everyone and its limited coverage may not be enough for all your insurance needs, complement it with low-cost term life insurance.

Take time to do some research and be wary about those salespersons only looking to make a big fat commission at your expense.

Review your daily commute to work

Use app or practical websites like Google Maps to review your daily ride to work. Alternative routes may allow you to use less time and save on gasoline, which can be good for your pocket and the environment.

You could be surprised and find out that the highway may not necessarily be the best way. In my case, the highway route is a little faster with no traffic but is a few klicks longer. It becomes quite variable with circulation and can become a nightmare in a flash.

In the end, the city road is much more economical for me. It usually is also a lot less stressful, depending on how many wackos (not always car drivers but often cyclists or pedestrians) I encounter along the way. Indirectly, searching for my optimal commute, I discovered viable options for when traffic really gets jammed.


Use bank and credit card statements to start up a budget

Without any references, starting a budget from scratch can be a hassle. Many will never get to it because they are simply too discouraged about the enormity of the task.

We have a great idea to make it easier for you. Because nearly all financial transactions are now digital, you can use you online bank and credit card statements to almost instantaneously give you a great approximation of your earnings and expenses for the last few months.

A few tweaks here and there should allow you to establish a realistic budget. With a few more clicks, you could even link these figures to a budgeting app or software. Voilà! An effective budget to help you take back control of your finances. All of it set up with virtually no time!

Put up a simple plan to pay your bills on time

Paying you bills on time is a basic concept everyone should get around to master. We know some situation may be more difficult than others.

But in the bill payment realm, penalties, administration and interest fees are the cardinal sin. You should have a method to avoid them at all costs. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can improvise and only manage bills as they come along.

We like to do it on a weekly basis but in most cases, a solid monthly plan should suffice. Bill payment will often be tied to how you manage your budget. Sometimes, the trick will be to adjust how you have access to liquidities.

Reduce your banking fees

Most people are not interested in talking about banking fees, let’s face it, it’s boring! For them, banking fees are inevitable and a necessary evil.

But in the expense world, recurring occurrences like banking fees can do a lot of damage. A few years back, we posted about The Substantial Impact of Recurring Expenses Over a Lifetime. The good news is that your can fight back and reduce your banking fees. You can even expect to eliminate them!

For instance, you could achieve it by taking the minimum balance avenue or the online banking avenue.

Maintaining the required minimum balance so your bank waves your transaction fees is quite simple. Yet, you may not consider that approach entirely free of charge as you could easily make a little interest if you put your money elsewhere. Nevertheless, forfeiting 1-3% on the minimum balance is still a lot cheaper than paying the full fees or the so-called preferred package every month. We like to consider that minimum-balance chequing account as part of our emergency fund.

To avoid banking fees, the best way may come to you via the internet as many online banking accounts can be used without monthly fees. Just make sure to check all related conditions.

It can also be a great idea to ask your present financial institution to match better offers. Except for a little time, asking won’t cost you anything. With a little patience, you should at least be able to find a cheaper banking package suited to your needs.

Learn about personal finance basic principles

When it comes to personal finance, there sure is a lot of information out there. Before taking on more complex concepts, there’s no way around it, you have to start by learning about basic principles.

So, take time to do some research and find an adequate reference you like. Many sites or blogs do an outstanding job talking about and vulgarising financial notions.  

After a while, you should be able to translate these fundamentals to apply the ones who could be beneficial in your own situation.


Make a list of your projects and dreams

Writing down your projects and dreams can be a great way to motivate yourself. A concrete list can officialise it in your mind and can be the first step to realizing many of them. It can also be a good incentive to keep going on rainier days.

It also can be a fantastic idea to list your financial goals. Making a list and sharing your goals will make you more accountable. It will also increase your odds of success in fulfilling them.

Set up separate savings account for each project

An effective way to make sure you have enough money to realize a project is to put money aside in a separate savings account for that specific project.

We personally have some of our TFSA accounts with Tangerine and their web interface easily allows to create several sub-accounts associated with a main account. It only takes a few types and clicks to create sub-accounts labeled “Summer Trip”, “New Car”, etc. 

It’s kind of a modern way to replicate the good old jar method.

Note down steps to realize a project

Within a dozen minutes, thinking about a specific project, you should be able to break it down into smaller steps. Make a record of these more attainable stages.

They can provide extra motivation as you complete some of them and gradually get closer to your ultimate objective. Taking smaller bites usually makes it easier to get to the end of the process faster.

Choose projects especially meaningful to you and your family. After that, don’t hesitate to joyfully take down one of those steps. Oftentimes, taking that initial baby step will give you wings!

Photo Credit

No comments:

Post a Comment