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Saving easier if you use a “small steps” approach

Like everything good for us – losing weight, eating right, managing debt – saving money seems like a daunting, overwhelming task. In fact, like other resolutions, it’s something that seems so difficult and impossible to stick with that we have given it up by Groundhog Day.

However, the experts tell us that great things can be accomplished by moving one small step at a time. Save with SPP today looks at tips on getting your savings effort fired up and back on the road forward.

At The Simple Dollar blog there are over 100 savings tips on offer. Among them are these ideas – to “stop collecting and start selling” any of “your collections that you thought would bring you riches,” as well as turning off the TV and signing up for “every free rewards program that you can.” The latter is self-explanatory, the thinking behind the “no TV” idea is “less exposure to spending-inducing ads,” and the possibility of a lower cable bill if you downgrade your package.

Interviewed in the Globe and Mail, Scotiabank’s Mike Henry says “to take small steps to save money, you’ve really got to understand… what’s important to you and what you’re trying to balance in your life, and you’ve got to understand how much money is coming in and how much money is going out.”  The article suggests automatic savings via payroll deduction or automatic transfers between accounts, and to examine any expenses that can be cut or reduced, like “gym memberships, Internet bills and groceries.” Getting rid of the daily latte is also advised, the article reports.

A key strategy – “living below your means” – is recommended by the Creating My Happiness blog. “If you earn $1,500 a month and you spend $1,500 a month, you have nothing left to save!  You have to start living on less than you’re making so that you can put money away for the future,” the blog advises.

Other tips for those wanting to reduce spending including “starting small – don’t try to cut your budget by 50 per cent right away,” and making saving a priority. On this last point, the blog says spending “temptation is everywhere. We are bombarded with images of people who appear to be happy because they got the new iPhone/Xbox/gadgety thing-ma-bob.” Tell yourself that having the latest thing is “nice, but not a priority,” and walk away, the blog recommends.

The Better Money Habits blog stresses the importance of recording all expenses, making a budget, and then planning to save some of your money. “Try to spend 10-15 per cent of your income,” the blog suggests. “If your expenses are so high you can’t save that much, it might be time to cut back.” Focus on the expenses you can trim, such as non-essentials like dining out and entertainment, the blog advises.

There are many ways to turn your financial ship around, and all of them involve living within your means and not spending more than you make. We can all get there by making little improvements which will add up over time. And when you’ve creating a regular budget for retirement saving, a great destination for those funds is a Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Check it out today!

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

How to build up an emergency fund

By Sheryl Smolkin

You have an accident and your car is totaled. A parent or close friend is very ill and you need to fly to her side. You lose your job. Your furnace conks out in the middle of a Canadian winter. These are genuine emergencies when a little spare cash will go a long way to making your life easier.

That’s why along with paying yourself first and paying off debt, having an emergency fund of three to six months pay is part of the “holy trinity” of personal financial advice.  But if you are like almost half of Canadians polled late last year who said they are living paycheque to paycheque and would find it difficult to meet their financial obligations if their pay was delayed by just a week, where are you going to find the money to build up an emergency fund?

Here are some ideas:

  1. Take baby steps: Set low initial targets like $500 or $1000 and save $50 from each paycheck. You will have over $2,500 in a year.
  2. Automatic withdrawal: Have the savings you commit to automatically transferred into a separate account. You’ll never miss it.
  3. Extra money: If you have a good month and there are still a few dollars in the bank before your next pay cheque is deposited, transfer it to your emergency account.
  4. Review your budget: Few of us have cut all the fat out of our budgets or our spending habits. Whether it is forgoing your morning latte or packing a lunch a few days a week there are always ways to reduce expenses. Where feasible walking instead of driving is good for your health and your wallet.
  5. Better rates: When is the last time you checked to see if the amounts you are paying for car or house insurance are competitive? Can you live with higher deductibles? If you don’t do the research you could be leaving hundreds of dollars that belong in your emergency fund on the table.
  6. Quit smoking: If the average cost of a package of cigarettes is $12 and you smoke a pack a day you are burning up $4,380 a year. Save your health and save your money by quitting – not an easy task, but a worthwhile challenge.
  7. Save loonies and toonies: If you get one and two dollar coins in change when you break a larger bill, don’t spend them. When you get home put the money in an envelope and take it to the bank at regular intervals.
  8. Freelance: What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? Think about how you can boost your emergency savings by doing something you love after work.
  9. Sell stuff: Clean out your closets. Have a garage sale or sell your oldies but goodies online. You will have less clutter and more money in the bank.
  10. Rent a room: Do you live near a university or college campus? If you are an empty nester, consider renting out a to a student room to help generate savings to top up your emergency account.

Whatever it takes to reach your goal of three to six months net pay in the bank, remember it is for a true emergency. That probably doesn’t include a new dress for an upcoming wedding when you have a close full of clothes or upgrading to the latest and greatest iPhone. When disaster hits, you will be glad you did.

May 25: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Due to the holiday Monday (yeah!) and other days away from my desk for random reasons, this issue of Best from the Blogosphere is being written super early. So, on no particular theme we present some great content from the last several weeks.

The Apple watch has received a bad tap from many reviewers, but Retired Syd reports on Retirement: A Full-Time Job that the device works for her. She likes being able to do all sorts of things without digging in her purse for her iPhone like paying for coffee; listening to music; getting directions from Siri; dictating error-free texts; and just lifting her arm to display her boarding pass.

In a guest post on the Financial Independence Hub, Michael Drak writes about one thing he wishes his father had taught him. While he learned about the need for working hard, saving and eliminating debt as quickly as possible, his Dad didn’t teach him about the important concept of Findependence (financial independence) and how it could positively impact his life once it was achieved.

Freedom Thirty-Five is authored by a nameless late-twenties male living in Metro Vancouver. He recently wrote about succumbing to lifestyle inflation. It seems he’s ahead of schedule by one year to reach financial freedom by his 35th birthday. So he has decided to succumb to lifestyle inflation and increase his food expenses from $100 to $150/month; eating out from $25 to $50/month and phone and entertainment from $75 to $100/month. Could you get by on these modest amounts?

Boomer & Echo blogger Marie Engen says unless there is room for occasionally splurging in your budget, becoming too frugal can ultimately undermine your budgeting efforts. Don’t banish nice things from your life. Occasional guilt-free splurges can help you stay on budget if they don’t detract from your other goals. When you don’t feel deprived you will likely find it a lot easier to stick to the plan.

And finally, on Brighter Life, I wrote a piece about Five smart ways to use your tax refund. You can start an emergency fund; top up your RRSP; pay down credit card debt; pay down your mortgage; or, open a Registered Educational Savings Plan for your child.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Dec 1: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Black Friday (imported from the U.S.) will have come and gone when you read this, but if you haven’t already started your holiday shopping, the beginning of December means the pressure is on to get it done without breaking the bank.

Kerry K. Taylor says on Squawkfox that using the Flipp app on your Android, BlackBerry or IPhone is the easiest way to browse flyers/weekly ads and save money. With more than 80 of your favorite Canadian stores at your fingertips, you can quickly search for the items you need, highlight the best deals and clip items straight to your shopping list.  Some retail stores found on Flipp include: Target, Walmart, Best Buy, IKEA, Macy’s, Sports Authority, Big Lots, Kroger, Sears and many more.

In Easy ways to save money this holiday season Jill Buchner from Canadian Living suggests creating a photo book through a site like picaboo.com, where albums start at about $10. Or, enlarge a special photograph for just a few dollars and frame it to make a personal piece of art.

Mike Collins on Debtroundup also discusses several  Simple Holiday Shopping Tips to Save You Money. Agreeing to a spending cap with friends and family and setting a gift budget and sticking to it are two valuable pieces of advice.

The Christmas break is prime time for Canadians to travel near and far, particularly if you have teachers or students in the family. On Moneyning, David Ning offers 50 Budget Travel Tips and Ways to Save Money on Vacations. For example, taking a train at night can save you the cost of accommodation and tons of prime daytime hours when you would rather be doing anything else except traveling from A to B.

And finally, Christmas is not just a time to give gifts but to give the gift of your time to those who are less fortunate. Brighter Life blogger Joanna Marie Nicholson writes about Giving back: How to find time to be a volunteer.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

May 5: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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A couple of travel-related stories caught my eye this week.

If you have a spring or summer wedding on the horizon, find out Why a marriage contract may be right for you. It may not sound romantic, but drawing up a pre-nuptial agreement with your future spouse could save you a lot of grief later on, particularly if both of you are bringing significant assets into a second marriage.

In Retirement do’s and don’ts on the Canadian Personal Finance Blog, Big Cajun Man says make sure you have enough money to retire on, because if you don’t, you aren’t retired, you are destitute. To avoid that undesirable outcome, he recommends taking care of your health, not supporting your adult children and clearing your debts before you retire.

And finally, Krystal Lee has introduced us to her brand of frugality on Give me back my five bucks. But when it comes to fitness, she finally shelled out $100 for the Fitbit Flex and posted a review of the fitness tracking device. She likes the iPhone app, the sleep tracker and the silent alarm. She also says it is easy to use and set up. But she finds the step count to be inaccurate at times and says the calorie counter is a bit annoying.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere. Share the information with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.