'Tis the season for spending. Commercialism. Consumerism. Materialism. Like it or not, it is what it is. My kids don't need anything, they don't even know what they want, and they both have birthdays close to Christmas. But just like everyone else, I am out there shopping.
Which costs money. Everything about this time of year costs money. Holiday parties, holiday gifts, new winter outdoor clothing, winter tires for your vehicle. Higher heating costs. On and on and on.
With all of the "bad economy" stuff going on, and all of the daily financial pressures (have you seen the price of gas?!) it's important to try to make your dollars spread as far as they can.
I am no financial expert. I am about as far from it as you can get and I have a few friends who could (an should) write much better blogs about this kind of thing. But, I am learning. I am trying to be smarter. Here are a few ways how:
When it comes to Christmas spending, we are lucky in that we get Jeff's paycheque from the work he does with the Fire Department in November. One paycheque for the whole year, in November. A lot of firefighter families appreciate the timing of that. It becomes really easy to depend on something like that for your Christmas shopping.
However, a couple years ago I also opened an ING account. I have a certain amount of money taken off every paycheque and put away into this savings account. The nice thing about this is that there is no "ING Bank" down the street from my house - no debit card, no cheques, no ATM. All of the banking for this account is done online and if I want to access the money it takes a couple days. So I have to plan ahead and it has to be worth it in my mind. For me, this means I don't make impulse purchases with this money. I don't blow it on dinner out, or any other number of things I want but don't really need. Putting away a bit of money all year long makes Christmas shopping much easier when it comes time to do so. Of course you can put money away for any reason - a trip, a major purchase like a furnace or new computer, a weekend away, etc. Having no debit card or easy access to the account really works for me. Interested? Click on the link off the side of these blog posts. ING will give you an extra $25 just for opening your account.
Next: Credit Cards. Ohhhh Credit cards. Earlier in our relationship, Jeff and I each had 2 credit cards. Now we each only have 1. Neither of us have ever had department store credit cards. Do you know the interest rates on some of those cards are as high as 30%? Many people would say that you shouldn't have any credit cards at all. That you should use a line of credit instead. But if you do have a credit card, you want the interest rate to be as low as possible. Each of our cards has an interest rate of about 11%. A friend who is my "go to girl" on this kind of thing, directed me to a recent article on http://www.chatelaine.com/ about which credit card is best for you. In the article you will find a great credit card comparison tool. As a result of checking this out, I switched cards, transferred the existing balance onto the new card, and closed the account on the old card. This will save me tons of money in interest as the interest rate on my new card is under 7% for the next three years. And, yes, I shouldn't be accumulating interest in the first place, I know.
I am better than I was.
This week we had a visit with our Financial Advisor. We have all of our life insurance policies, our RESP plan and most recently our RRSPs through him. We have had this Financial Advisor since we began our marriage, on the recommendation of our brother in law. Our brother in law is very intelligent when it comes to this kind of thing, and taking his advice and going with this guy was one of the smartest decisions of our marriage. If ever you are looking for a Financial Advisor, or have questions about life insurance, RESPs, RRSPs, etc etc and don't want to go through a bank, I fully endorse his practice. He comes to our home in the evenings, doesn't mind when our kids are running wild through our house, and has been so so so helpful to us over the years. Our life insurance policies are "20 pay life" policies, which means we pay into them for 20 years, and 20 years only, and are insured for life. All 4 of us. They also accumulate cash value, which we can withdraw at any time, with no effect on the value of the policy. We did this when I went on my second maternity leave and it is very reassuring to have someone who can explain how all of this works, in language we can understand. Someone who has been doing it for more that 25 years, knows us by name, not number, and celebrated the births of both of our children and shared stories of his own children with us through the years. After learning a few things through my professional life, I reviewed all of the products we had with him and had a number of questions. When I called him, he arranged to come to our house the very next week, in the evening, around our schedule. Once here, he patiently walked me through everything we had, why we had it, and any changes that should and/or could be made.
This is sooo not Jeff's thing whatsoever, so I am trying really hard to somewhat make it my thing. To do some research and ask good questions. There is a great blog out there, that I have been reading for quite a few years, and have on my blogroll off to the side here. Her name is Gail Vaz-Oxlade, she is Canadian and she has the TV show "Till Debt Do Us Part". She has also written a number of books. What she says is easy to understand and makes sense to people from all walks of life. She discusses everything from the most basic of budgeting principles to more complicated things like Life Insurance, RRSPS, TFSAs, on so on. Check out her blog here.
Two other favourite financial type blogs of mine are The Frugal Girl and Simply Frugal in Canada...which by the way, my blog was highlighted on the other day :) There are a trillion more.
And of course, what would a blog from me about saving money be without mentioning swagbucks. You've heard it before, I know. All I'm going to say is $110.
That's how much money in giftcards I have earned since I signed up about 7-8 months ago. This came in very handy when Christmas shopping this year, and I cannot wait to see what I will have earned by next December!
$110. Free money. For my regular internet searches.
It's that time of year. And after the Christmas hoop-la comes the time to make New Year's Resolutions and goals for the future. My major ongoing goal is to be smarter with money, save some money, and make my money go farther. It's certainly not easy and not an overnight thing, but I'm trying.
How 'bout you? any tips/ideas to share?