Money & Career

Get control of your spending today

Author: Canadian Living

Money & Career

Get control of your spending today

Isn't it funny that no matter how much money you make, it never seems to be enough? At the end of the month, too many of people tally the bills only to realize that they have no money left over after payments -- or that they actually owe money.

After all, a few movies with the kids, a new fashion-forward jacket, lunches on the run, and those expensive cell phone conversations quickly add up. The good news is that you don't have to wait for a raise to take control of your finances, since what's important for many people is not the money coming in, but the money going out. Canadians can reach their savings goals simply by changing their spending habits.

A study by Mackenzie Investments, a mutual fund and financial services company, recently discovered that the average Canadian spends approximately $100 every four days (after food, shelter, and necessities) -- and nearly a quarter can't make it 48 hours. That $25 a day adds up to around $9,000 a year going to incidentals. Take a closer look at your spending with these tips, and you'll be in charge.

1. Control your incidentals
Incidental spending is a huge money waster -- too many women "frittle away" their money, says Rhonda Katz, a family therapist, financial specialist and consultant for Mackenzie Investments. Tracking your spending for four weeks, or even just for one week, is an eye-opener for many people.

Try it this week: Take $100 cash, and see how many days you can survive. Try writing down everything you spend money on this week. Take a look at your expense sheet at the end of the week and see where your money went. Cut expenses by eating at home more and making your own coffee or snacks, advises Katz.

2. Break bad habits
Do you eat out for fun or shop socially? "If your family looks at shopping as entertainment, you need to find a replacement," says Katz. She suggests library events, and local festivals and fairs to get more for your money. Plan dinner parties instead of nights out with your friends. Or try this; pick a bad habit, be that morning lattes, martinis, or cigarettes, and stop for three months. Put that money aside and see how much you save -- then decide if it's a habit worth going back to.

Try it this week: Practice buying only what you really need this weekend by making a complete shopping list, and sticking to it at the grocery store.

Page 1 of 2 -- Find advice on planning for large purchases (such as a car or furniture) on page 2

3. Large purchases, big deals
Splurging once a month can add up as fast as that morning latte. Before you make a major purchase, ask yourself Katz's three questions: "Can I afford this? Can I put this off? And why am I buying this?" Let your money reflect your priorities. "If you're going to buy a big item, can you match that with an investment for your future?" asks Katz. If you can match it with a contribution to your RRSP, you're in good shape. For necessities, pay attention to sales when you can get deep discounts (for example, buying furniture in January).

Try it this week: Make it your mission to bargain-shop gas prices. Katz suggests filling up Sunday or Monday, the cheapest time for gas (the most expensive time is Friday mornings). Check out for local information.

4. Dare to dream
"The biggest mistake people make is to not save at all," says Katz. Decide to "pay yourself first" by investing part of your paycheque -- Katz suggests 10 per cent. The investment money can come from your incidental purchases. Try the cash flow savings calculator at to see how much your daily savings add up to.

Try it this week: Take the time to daydream about being financially healthy. Does that mean you have a robust RRSP or are completely out of debt? Write down your goal and commit to finding a way to make it happen.

Bonus: Pay it forward
Teach your children good financial habits. Give your children an allowance -- Katz suggests $1 for each year of their age. The catch? Encourage them to save 10 per cent, so they can see compound interest at work. If you have teenagers, talk to them about a clothing budget, and encourage grandparents to contribute to an RESP rather than buying presents. Of course, you can now lead by example, too.

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Money & Career

Get control of your spending today