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5 ways to spend less, save more, and meet your financial goals

Managing and improving your finances is all about replacing bad financial habits with good ones. Even just small changes can pay off in the long-term.


Habits are regular behaviours that form over time. Like that pastry with your takeout coffee, a habit becomes part of your regular routine—even if it's something you know might not be all that good for you. 

Here are five good financial habits to help you stay on top of your finances and look ahead to a brighter financial future. 

1. Review your budget at least once a month

Creating a simple budget helps you track your weekly or monthly income and expenses—and keep sight of your big picture financial goals. A budget should include:

  • Goals you are saving toward
  • What you earn
  • What you plan to spend

It's important to review your budget at least every month to track goals progress and check you aren't spending more than you earn or overspending in particular areas. The aim is to always keep your expenses within your income, while staying on track to achieve your retirement and other goals.

The Government of Canada has a useful, and easy-to-use, online budget planner to help you create your first budget.

2. "Set it and forget it" to save more money, faster

For many of us, one of the biggest barriers to saving is simply remembering to do it. The solution is to let modern online banking technology take the strain.  

Automating payments from your chequing account into a savings account lets you "pay yourself first" each paycheque cycle. If it's a predetermined amount you know you can afford because you've plugged it into your budget as a regular expense, you won't even know you're doing it—until you check your savings balance and see how fast it's growing.  

Here's how to set up an automated savings plan:

  1. Set savings goals: Create some savings goals and include them in your budget
  2. Open multiple accounts: Open different savings accounts for different saving goals
  3. Automate payments: Set up recurring, automated transfers to help you meet your goals quicker
  4. Reward yourself: Build micro-goals into your budget to reward yourself for being a champion saver with a meal out or other treat every time you achieve a saving goal

"It's amazing how just a small amount saved each month can add up over time," says Nikki Mahy, CFP, Financial Consultant, Coastal Community Credit Union.

3. Always have three to six months in cash reserves

Life rarely goes exactly to plan. Be prepared to weather any storms that come your way by always having some easy-to-access cash in reserve. Money squirrelled away in an emergency fund can help you over the following bumps:

  • Major unexpected expenses such as repairs to your home or car
  • Loss of income due to illness or losing your job
  • Illness to a loved one that makes it hard for you to work
  • An unexpected event that reduces your income or increases expenses

According to Nikki: "Aim to build an emergency fund that can cover at least three to six months of essential expenses." Here's how to build that fund to give you peace of mind in future:

  1. Decide how much to save: Add up all of your essential monthly expenses and multiply that by the number of months you want to be prepared to cover.
  2. Set a saving deadline: Set a realistic date by when you can have your emergency fund saved and ready to use if needed.
  3. Open a dedicated savings account: Open a separate savings account and call it "Emergency Fund" in your online banking.
  4. Set it and forget it: In your online banking, set up recurring payments of an amount you can afford to save each week or month.

In Canada, we're doing pretty well. According to the Government of Canada, 64% of us had some emergency savings before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020. Always having an emergency fund gives you peace of mind that you and your family are covered during tough times.

4. Regularly review your protection

While an emergency fund can help you cover your expenses for a few months if something happens, a protection plan aims to cover you and your loved ones over the longer-term. Insurance helps you to:

  • Minimize financial losses due to unexpected events
  • Protect your assets and financial investments
  • Reduce the need to eat into your savings or take on more debt, which could mean having to abandon or delay your financial goals

It's important to regularly review your insurance needs as things change in your life over time. For example:

  • Car usage: Are you driving farther to work for a new job?
  • Home occupants: Do you now have tenants in a suite or a homestay student?
  • New dependents: Do you need to update your beneficiary or expand your life insurance protection with the addition of a new baby? 

Few things in life stay the same for long. Regularly reviewing your insurance needs makes sure you're always protected.

5. Schedule annual financial wellness checks with an advisor

Do you go to the doctor for a regular check-up? Think of reviewing your plan annually with an advisor as your financial wellness check. Talking to a financial advisor can help you to:

  • Create goals and develop a financial plan to achieve them
  • Find gaps in your financial planning, such as insurance
  • Navigate more complex topics, such as investments
  • Pay down debt faster, including by consolidating loans into one place
  • Provide recommendations for the best financial products for your needs

Meeting with your advisor regularly, at least every year, can help you keep your finances in shape by:

  • Keeping you focused on your financial goals
  • Finding places to fine-tune your spending habits, reduce debt, or save more
  • Making adjustments that reflect changes to your life or financial situation

What's next?

Sign up to receive more tips for good financial health. Contact us to discuss your financial needs, including how to spend smarter, save more, borrow wisely, and plan for the long-term. One of our advisors will be happy to speak to you.


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