New Year, New Budget

Financial forecasts for 2017 seem to be tailored to whomever is delivering the forecast, and we don’t really know if interest rates will rise, if the economy will improve or if the value of our dollar will go up or down. We do know that many costs are rising, and that living within our means seems harder than ever. Credit Counselling Services of Peterborough suggests a few ideas to cut your monthly costs and save where you can. They may not be new ideas, but they are definitely worthy of review.

* Set Financial Goals: Having something to work towards helps maintain motivation. Paying down debt; create an emergency fund or even a vacation fund, are all worthy goals. Make the goal visible. Vision boards, thermometer poster, or decorated saving banks. Whatever works!

* Create a household budget: First, take time to determine what your basic reliable total monthly income is. Then, list and total all of your monthly expenses. If you are relying on overtime or credit to fill in the gap between income and expenses, you are not living within your means. You may need to take some creative steps to increase income or reduce expenses.

* Get Household On Board: Goals should motivate everyone. Cutting costs is a team effort and instructions to “turn off the lights” might not be as motivational as “If we reduce our hydro bill, we will have more money for …”

* Brainstorm Ideas to Save: Nothing is more motivational than seeing others implement YOUR idea! Even kids can come up with great ideas to save on many household expenses and will be less likely to complain if they helped create the plan.

* Online & Social Media: Trustworthy financial information is available at Financial Consumer Information Canada (fcac-acfc.gc.ca). Many helpful ‘do it or make it yourself’ ideas, tips, videos, and apps can be found on the Internet. Use caution though – visit www.getcybersafe.gc.ca, before you surf.

* Talk to Your Bank: Ask your bank about fees, packages, and various savings products and even online tools that will help you stay on track and reach your goals. If you have debt, they may have solutions to ease carrying costs.

* Use Community Resources: there are many community resources that can be helpful to cut costs, your public library and other free or low cost events and activities listed on various local websites. Check out Peterborough Green Up for cost saving ideas on your utilities.

* Ask for help if you are struggling: Many programs exist to help those who are struggling. Your household may be eligible for subsidies, tax credits, rebates, etc. Don’t hesitate to ask. Calling 211 may be a good place to start to determine where to seek help in your community for your unique needs. Call CCRC about programs and services that we offer, including budgeting sessions and debt repayment programs.

* Review Finances Monthly: A regular financial review night can go along ways towards financial wellness by helping you; monitor rising costs, pay bills on time, avoid over spending, track savings and avoid budget surprise.