Trying your best counts, too when managing your finances

Sandra Fry: Here are some suggestions for making different choices about money in 2024 while still being a little naughty

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Managing your finances isn’t only about being naughty or nice, since trying your best counts, too.

But if you’re looking for ways to make better choices in 2024, start by thinking about what you did well this year. Maybe you talked yourself out of a few impulsive purchases that would have just ended up on your credit cards. Or perhaps you saved on grocery costs by trying a few meal plans using what you already had in your pantry or freezer.

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Given the high cost of living, necessity can be a great teacher since you have to make wiser choices to make ends meet. Here are some smart money tips that anyone can do to get onto the nice list next year.

Start by taking care of your health and belongings. It will save you money and a whole lot more in the long run. Spill that habit of too much wine, beer or spirits. Snuff out your habit of smoking or vaping. Find ways to add more exercise to your lifestyle and make healthier choices about what you eat.

It’s not about making radical changes. Rather, incremental, sustainable choices will have the most lasting effects. Choices to protect your health will help fend off chronic diseases and injuries that can lead to ongoing medication and treatment costs. Preventative care will also increase your chances of being able to work, earn a stable income and save towards goals or retirement.

Similarly, neglecting simple maintenance on your belongings can cause premature damage, deterioration or loss of value. This could result in costly repairs, replacements or upgrades. For example, if you fail to maintain your vehicle, home or large appliances with routine care, you will likely face breakdowns, malfunctions or safety hazards. A drop-proof case and protective cover for your cellphone can pay off big time.

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Emergency expenses never happen when we’ve got extra cash waiting to be spent, so proper maintenance and preventive care can help avoid an expensive shock to our budget.

Overspending on non-essential items is another way to keep yourself on the naughty list

Sandra Fry, credit counsellor

Overspending on non-essential items is another way to keep yourself on the naughty list. Want a nice dinner out? Save the most expensive restaurants for special occasions. Great meals can often be found in the least likely locales. Check restaurant reviews for tips on the best meals and you’ll quickly find a new favourite spot.

Shopping for clothes for yourself or your kids? Buying name brands for everything quickly adds up. Pick an item or two where the name brand is synonymous with quality, so that you get the most wear out of your investment. Then choose quality basics for the rest.

The same applies to vacation planning. Overspending on accommodation, meals and transportation means less is available for entertainment and recreation. A trip is about making memories, so unless the highlight of your photos is supposed to be your rental car, skip top-end luxury and go with comfortable and affordable.

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Building your lifestyle on overspending for non-essential items can contribute to a lot of high-interest debt and a lack of savings. To change this habit, be mindful of what you’re thinking when you make your buying choices. Researching purchases ahead of time will help you comparison shop and get the insights you need to make more intentional decisions. Also, use a budget and keep track of how much you actually spend versus what you think you’re spending.

If you have debts, set realistic goals to pay them off while also saving towards bigger expenses, such as trips or new vehicles. Shift your thinking away from keeping up with the Joneses to being confident with choices that create long-term financial stability for yourself and your family.

There’s a lot more casual betting around than most people realize, and it can quickly turn into a naughty habit if it isn’t factored into your budget. The hockey pool at work, Keno, bingo, 50/50 draws, raffle tickets, a friendly game of poker … chances are you spend more than you win.

If you regularly buy scratch tickets, visit casinos, have a subscription for lotto tickets that directly bills your credit card or gamble online, decide ahead of time how much you can afford to lose and factor it into your budget. The trick with any form of gambling, including when kids or teens sell video-game assets for real world money, is to make it a fun and affordable form of entertainment. If it stops being fun and the losses start to mount, seek help for a gambling addiction before the consequences become even more severe.

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If you’re thinking the naughty list is a lot more fun than the nice list when it comes to your money, remember that being naughty sacrifices your future for today. Interest and fees, unfortunately, don’t reward YOLO (you only live once) pursuits, so turn naughty into nice financially speaking by giving yourself a budget for splurges and impulsive buys. You’ll reap the rewards of being financially responsible and ensure your money is nice to you, too.

Sandra Fry is a Winnipeg-based credit counsellor at Credit Counselling Society, a non-profit organization that has helped Canadians manage debt for more than 27 years.

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