How to Manage Your Finances in 2020

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The start of a new year is always a nice time to take stock of your finances and make plans to improve your financial position through the next 12 months. It doesn’t help that the new year arrives right after the heavy spending associated with the holiday season.

For many, it’s the shock of a depleted bank account that triggers the sobering realization that things must change. 

Little wonder that finance-related goals are some of the most popular new year resolutions in Canada. If you want to have a happier financial ending to 2020 compared to 2019, here are a couple of tips that will help you maintain tight control over your finances.

Regularly Review Your Accounts Versus Your Goals

There’s nothing wrong with setting financial targets at the start of the year. In fact, it’s highly recommended. However, a reason so many people fall off the wagon is they only review and track their goals at the start and end of the year. Remember that a resolution is not an end in itself but a tool for the improvement of your finances.

If you don’t check on your progress on a regular basis, you might be too far off track by the end of the year to hit your targets in time. Treat your 2020 financial goals like a close relative or friend. Visit your bank accounts on a regular basis, monitor your debt, check the growth of your income and keep an eye on your expenses. That way, you can arrest any distraction quickly before it leads you far off course.

Leverage Technology

Saving, investing and tracking your money is difficult. If you think about the sheer number of transactions you initiate every month, it can be a little overwhelming. It would be understandable if you feel it takes too much time to review financial goals biweekly or monthly.

You can take out the stress out of personal finance management if you inject technology into the process. 

Smartphones have made this far easier than was a decade or two ago. Many banks, businesses, service providers and utilities will provide a free app to their customers. You can generate a report of your account, expenditure or income over a specified period. 

There are also more generic apps that can give a broader picture of your transactions. Some of these can accept third-party input in the form of uploaded text documents, spreadsheets, and images. You can see examples of these apps in this list of the best personal finance apps for Canadians.

Set Realistic Savings Goals

One mantra many people live by is to aim for the moon even if they’ll eventually end up among the stars.

This philosophy isn’t, however, advisable when it comes to the management of your personal finances.

Cultivating a habit of saving takes time. You are more likely to get into a healthy savings routine if you set realistic goals that you break down into achievable chunks. 

Your finances are finite; the goals you set should be in the context of your current income as opposed to how much you hope to earn. If your targets are unrealistic, you have a lower chance of attaining them. And when you fall short despite your best efforts, you risk feeling disillusioned. This could see you give up. 

It’s better to set a reasonably attainable goal and then aim higher when you achieve it. Of course, personal finance goes hand in hand with sacrifice. However, you shouldn’t get to a place where your savings are causing a substantial deterioration to your present quality of life. That will discourage you from sticking to the plan.

Pay in Cash

The world is going cashless. From credit cards, debit cards, Internet banking, cash apps, cryptocurrency, checks, and mobile money, there’s an aggressive global push to lower the proportion of transactions where hard cash is exchanged. It’s a good thing for governments, tax authorities, industry regulators, businesses and, to a large extent, customers too. It’s fast, convenient and auditable. 

Still, from a personal finance point of view, cashless transactions can be a major impediment to realizing your financial goals. They make spending easy. You could be walking past a shop window, see something interesting and before you know it, you have incurred an expense you had not planned for. Perhaps you even didn’t have enough cash to pay via debit card, but your sizable credit card limit makes the item affordable to you. 

Start using hard cash to pay whenever possible. Reserve cashless transactions for instances where it’s impractical to pay cash such as large purchases, bank transfers or online shopping.

These tips don’t require too much effort to implement, but they could go a long way in making 2020 a win for your financial wellbeing.

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