6 Financial Spring Cleaning Tips
Check Your Beneficiaries
Just like it's recommended to review your Last Will & Testament annually, reviewing the beneficiaries on your accounts is important too. Simply keep a digital or written list of each of your relevant accounts - pension, life insurance and investments (RRSP/RRIF, RESP, TFSA, LIRA/LIF) and the corresponding designated beneficiary, successor holder or successor subscriber. This should include both personal and employer accounts. Be sure to add new accounts to the list as you open them.
Here are some very common circumstances where the wrong person is named:
- A parent was originally named as the beneficiary, but circumstances have changed and now there is a spouse or common-law partner.
- A spouse or common-law partner or other beneficiary has passed away.
- There was a divorce or separation.
- A child or grandchild was named as a beneficiary but siblings born since have not been added, as intended.
- Personal accounts are up to date but a life insurance policy, pension or RRSP/TFSA account held with an employer is not.
Unsubscribe from Emails
We all get lured by the offer of 10% off a purchase just for subscribing to an email list. Seems harmless enough. But then the emails start coming and somehow, they know exactly what items to show you, tempting you into a purchase.
Do your wallet a favour and take 30 seconds to hit that unsubscribe button. The less you're tempted to buy something, the less you'll spend. It's a simple action that could save you hundreds.
With so many great apps and streaming services available, it's easy to see how our list of fixed expenses grows. Once every 3 - 4 months, take a look at these expenses. You might find that there are one or two that you don't use anymore. Or, it could be that you don't need it right now, in which case, you can cancel it and get it again when you're ready.
While $10-$15 per subscription a month doesn't seem like a lot, multiplied by 5 or 6, it adds up. Besides, reviewing your expenses each quarter is just a good financial habit.
Review Your Expenses
When was the last time you asked you insurance broker to run fresh quotes for your auto or home insurance? Just the act of calling them to review your policies might uncover some savings in the form of a discount for bundling policies, being claim-free, being a senior and more.
The same goes for your mobile and internet packages. Check online every 6 months to see what new offers they have. Often you can get more data or faster speed for the same price you're already paying or less.
Reviewing your expenses regularly is an excellent money habit and if you do it with the intention of reducing your total spend, you'll be surprised at how often you can find savings.
Track Your Expenses
This suggestion always get peoples' eyes rolling. Who has time for that?
Instead of tracking all of your expenses, how about just tracking a few high spending categories? Groceries are generally one of the highest spending categories for most, so start there. After that, it depends on your personal circumstances. Some common high-spending categories include: dining out, take-out, clothing and alcohol.
First, figure out your average monthly spend for each category by using your bank and credit card statements from the last 6 months. Take your average spend for that category, set yourself a new limit, then track spending for the next month. My guess is that you'll be surprised by how your decision making about a purchase changes as you approach your limit.
Once you get the hang of it, you might find that tracking additional categories isn't so bad and before you know it, you might be saving yourself a few hundred dollars a month (which I hope you'll allocate to savings).
Set up Automatic Savings
Pay yourself first. This very common piece of financial advice is worth its weight in gold. By moving money from your chequing account to your savings and investment accounts automatically each month, you are ensuring that you are indeed, paying your future self first, before it can get spent.
Automatic savings is the absolute best way to save money so do yourself a favour and set side aside some time to do it. Your financial advisor can help you do this for your investment accounts.
And like many of the tips above, review the amounts you set aside annually. As your income increases or expenses are reduced, consider increasing the amount you save each month.
A Final Word
Managing cash flow isn't an easy thing to do and it doesn't always go as planned. An unexpected expense can throw everything off and make one feel like they've failed, however, by setting things up for success such as regular review of your spending and saving, an emergency account and savings accounts for specific short term goals, you'll be well on your way to being able to manage those bumps in the road with ease.
Finally, use the expertise of a financial advisor to help you navigate your personal finances. They often have suggestions you may not have considered.