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Updated August 14, 2021. If you’re looking for ways to improve your finances, you’ve come to the right place! In this post, I give you 36 ways you can begin to change your financial situation in 2021.
1. Understand your financial values.
When it comes to money, many people feel stuck simply because they don’t know what they want out of life.
Before you can fix your financial situation, you have to find an answer to one big question:
What do you value more than anything else?
Is it family time? Travel? Freedom from the 9-5? More time to spend on creative/artistic ventures?
Understanding what it is that inspires you will help you stay focused on improving your financial situation.
2. Set challenging goals for yourself.
Once you have a firm grasp of the big picture, it’s important to set specific goals for the year ahead.
Align your goals to the values you’ve set, and make sure they include at least some, if not all of the following:
- Creating/maintaining an emergency fund
- Debt reduction
- Short and long term saving
- Increasing/maximizing your income
- Reduced spending
- Addressing your insurance needs
I’ll cover all of these in more detail below.
3. Develop key activities and execute.
It doesn’t matter what your goal is, if you don’t do the work, you’ll never reach it.
Remember, it’s all in the execution.
Consider a high level athlete. They can dream of winning Olympic gold, of becoming the absolute best in their sport, but it’s the hours of practice away from the spotlight, the monotonous, repetitive activities that they must execute on day in and day out, that will ultimately determine their success.
It’s no different with your finances.
Whether it’s sticking to your budget, automating your savings, or working on your side hustle, stay focused on the daily and weekly execution.
4. Make giving a priority.
When you make giving a regular part of your life, you’ll reap the rewards.
My wife and I donate our money and time to numerous causes and for different reasons, and we’ve always felt as though we’re the ones who gain the most from it.
Personally, it helps me keep my priorities in check, and realize that I’m here to serve people, not dollars.
Money is a tool we can use enrich our lives and the lives of others, but it should never become a point of obsession.
When it all comes down to it, relationships are the only thing that matter in this world.
Giving of yourself and your resources will equip you to manage money in a healthy way.
5. Remove temptations to spend.
What are the triggers that tempt you to spend money? If you can’t resist making an impulse purchase every time you go to the mall, don’t go as often.
Stop browsing websites that will tempt you to spend. Keep your credit card at home in a drawer when you go out.
In other words, make it hard for yourself to spend money.
6. Embrace inconvenience.
Let’s face it, our society wants to have it all.
In fact, many North Americans enjoy more luxury than kings and queens did only a couple of generations ago.
This is the age where RV’s resemble designer homes, recent college grads rack up frequent flyer points, and our pets have access to better health care than half the world’s population.
Our vehicles talk to us and guide our every turn. Their doors lift and slide, with no effort on our part. Pretty soon they’ll drive themselves, heck, they may even fly themselves.
God forbid we should lift a finger. Make no mistake, the technology is beyond impressive. The problem is that the price of convenience is outrageous.
By choosing to embrace some inconvenience in 2019, you’ll save a lot of money!
Here are a few ways to embrace inconvenience, and save your hard earned dollars:
- Brew your coffee at home, before leaving for work.
- Where possible, walk or bike, instead of drive.
- Buy items used. (takes more time and effort than going to the mall).
- Adopt a DIY mentality. Do your own repairs.
- Use public transit.
- Plant a vegetable garden.
Even if you weren’t born with a tool belt around your waist, Youtube tutorials, as well as having a couple of mechanically minded friends, can set you on the path to becoming a DIY ninja!
Well…maybe not a ninja, but you get the point. : )
7. Buy items used.
One of the best ways to improve your finances in 2019 will be to opt for buying used, instead of new, as often as you possibly can.
It might require a change of mindset, but the approach is so powerful, that once you become accustomed to buying used, you’ll wonder why you ever did things differently.
Run all of your purchasing decisions through the “can I buy this used?” filter. All items, big and small. It doesn’t matter.
For example, if you’re purchasing a new home, there are no shortage of things you’re going to need to buy. In fact, this handy new house checklist lists more than 200 household items as essential. But that doesn’t mean you need to buy all of these items new.
Whether it’s a lawnmower or a refrigerator, do your research, then peruse Craigslist and your local Buy & Sell to find items gently used at a fraction of the retail price.
Just this past year, my wife and I saved almost $5000 buying 3 items that we needed, simply by getting them used.
We purchased a 4-piece set of living room furniture for $500 (retail price was $4000), a set of winter tires for $350 (retail price $1000), and a deep freezer for $100. (retail $500).
We spent less than a thousand dollars on these big ticket items. All three were were gently used, and should last for years.
8. Never pay full price.
Even if you buy items new, you should never pay full price for anything you buy. Be willing to wait until products go on sale. Look for coupons in store, in flyers, or online.
Find out which stores will price match, and compare. Shop at places where you can buy items in bulk (Costco), as sell as at discount stores.
9. Take care of your stuff.
Sometimes saving money can be as simple as extending the life of what you already own.
Paying for regular maintenance on your vehicle may cost more money now, but you’ll save thousands when your car lasts several more years because of it.
The same goes for household items. Be gentle with what you own, and make sure it’s well maintained.
10. Cut out an expensive hobby.
Are you going into debt to enjoy your favourite pastime?
Is your hobby taking financial priority over debt repayment or achieving your savings goals?
If so, you should consider dropping it, or finding a more cost effective way of participating.
If you are going to go all in on an expensive hobby, make sure you pay for it with cash. Do not go into debt for your pastime.
11. Turn your hobby into a side hustle.
Here’s another thought. You may be able to fund your hobby by turning it into a side hustle.
I love to write and record music. It’s been a lifelong passion, and something I’ve invested a substantial amount of money in over the years.
Last year, I decided to put my modest musical gift, and all of my gear, to good use. I started a music recording side hustle, and made a few thousand dollars on a couple of projects.
Do you have a hobby that you can monetize? For example, let’s say you love photography, and you own a nice camera.
It would be very easy to find people in your community willing to pay for your services.
I have a friend who loves working on cars. He’s not a licensed mechanic, but doesn’t mind helping out friends, who are willing to pay him for his time.
He makes some extra money, and they avoid paying $100/hour for labour at the local garage.
Making cash doing something you love can be a pretty sweet gig!
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MYSTERY MONEY MAN – MONEY ADVICE FOR FAMILIES
12. Spend time with like-minded friends.
You know the deal. You’re trying to save money, but it seems like your friends are constantly wanting to include you in their fun, yet very expensive activities.
This is pretty common.
You’re either hanging with some pretty wealthy peeps, or they’re simply not as concerned with keeping their money as you are.
They have different priorities.
In 2019, pour your energy into friends who share your values, and your budget.
You know, the ones who are up for a board game night or a coffee date, rather than a warm vacation down south or weekend shopping excursions out of of town!
Either way, remember that it’s ok to decline invitations that will require you to spend $$$!
13. Make sure you are properly insured.
Having proper coverage is a cornerstone of any sound financial plan, yet most families are underinsured.
We don’t think twice about shelling out $500/month for a couple of smartphones, wifi, and a Netflix subscription, yet we shudder at the thought of spending a fraction of that amount on life insurance, that would protect our family should the unexpected occur.
If you’re reasonably young, and in good health, the cost of life insurance is very reasonable.
My wife and I pay less than $100/month for over 900K of coverage (combined). If you ask me, that’s pretty reasonable, and money very well spent.
Remember, bad things don’t always happen to ‘someone else’.
If you’re not confident that you are adequately insured, see a professional for an assessment, and make sure your family is protected.
14. Adopt a sharing mentality.
In our age of convenience, everyone seems to want their own of ‘everything’; electronic devices, vehicles, bedrooms, bathrooms, tools, you name it.
I know couples who have upgraded to a larger house as soon as they have another child, because suddenly they have no space.
Like, you don’t have room for an eight pound human?
This mindset creates a lot of waste, and increases people’s cost of living exponentially.
Finding ways to share resources within your household, circle of friends and your community can save you some serious cash.
Do you really need a smartphone, TV, and vehicle for every person who lives under the same roof?
There’s actually a movement known as the “sharing economy”, which has leveraged technology to enable people to not only share resources, but make money from them.
Think Uber or AirBnB, for example. You can make money using your vehicle, or by renting an extra room in your home.
While there’s a financial transaction taking place, it’s still a sharing of resources, with money being saved on both sides.
15. Spend more time outdoors.
In 2019, try spending more time outside.
No doubt you’ve heard this one before, in fact, you’ve probably muttered it to yourself more than once. That’s because it makes sense.
You’ll be better off spending less time in environments that are designed for you to part with your money, ie. movie theatres, restaurants, shopping malls, and replacing them with outdoor activities that are completely free, and good for your health.
Take your kids to the park, go for bike rides, hiking, or just throw the ball in the backyard. The benefits are immeasurable, and they won’t cost you a penny.
16. Discover the art of delayed gratification.
When luxury becomes an everyday occurance, it’s no longer a luxury.
We live in a very self indulgent society. Mass marketing tells us that we should never deny ourselves something we want, or love.
You deserve that luxury SUV, that custom built home will give you the status you’ve worked so hard for. Really?
Most people that look rich on the outside, are up to their eyeballs in debt, trying to keep up with the Joneses.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with nice things. But choosing to indulge in a fancy restaurant meal less often, or a day at the salon, or even waiting a few more years before upgrading your home, will save your thousands of dollars.
In 2019, practice the art of delayed gratification, and treat luxuries for what they should be, an occasional indulgence.
You may be surprised. When you delay something that you really enjoy, you tend to savour it that much more.
17. Track your spending.
Do you know where your money is going? The truth is, most people don’t take the time to track their spending. If they did, they’d be shocked by what they found.
I’m not even talking about the daily $5 latte. Yeah, that can add up, but there’s so much more.
Tracking your spending is easy. Start by pulling up 30-90 days of bank account history via your online banking, and filtering by ‘transaction description’.
You’ll quickly see how many times you actually went to Starbucks in the previous few months, and how much you spent.
Be warned, this can be a downright scary activity, it’s not for the faint of heart. But it’s so important to understand where your money is going.
18. Take a road trip vacation.
Vacations can very expensive, especially when you have to buy plane tickets for an entire family.
In 2019, take your family on a road trip instead.
Each summer my wife and I take our kids on a 2-week road trip. We cover thousands of miles, stay in nice hotels, and fill the trip with fun activities.
And each year, we do it for less than $1000.
Driving to your destination can be a more affordable option than flying, providing you plan ahead.
In addition to the money saved, I prefer road trips for the adventure component, and the memories that are created.
One of the ways we save money on our road trips is by reserving all of our hotel stays through Booking.com. I’m such a big fan of this company, that I actually wrote a full review for my readers, which you can check out here.
19. Eat Out Less Often
I know, this is on every money saving list out there, and for good reason.
For the price of a couple nice restaurant meals, you could probably buy a week’s worth of groceries.
If you’re eating out regularly, one or more times per week, it adds up quick.
If you’re serious about improving your finances in 2019, make sure to pay attention your dining habits.
If you need some motivation to eat out less, go back to #17, and find out how much your restaurant habit is costing you.
20. Follow The $1500 Rule For Car Buying
Are you in the market for a new vehicle in 2019? If so, you need a plan.
Thankfully, you’ve come to the right place.
Buying a vehicle can be an agonizing financial decision for a lot of people. It’s so tempting to buy new, but new cars are incredibly expensive, and what’s worse is they lose a lot of value the minute you drive them off the lot.
Did you know? The average monthly car payment in North America, is almost $500/month? That’s enough to break most people’s budget.
Recently, I wrote a post called, “The $1500 Rule Of Car Buying”. Following this rule will not only take the agony out of your car buying decision, it will prevent you from overspending on your next vehicle purchase.
If you’re in the market for a vehicle, definitely check out the article.
21. Ditch the second vehicle.
Transportation costs make up one of the big three expenses for every family, along with housing and groceries.
That cost is multiplied with every additional vehicle you own.
Remember what I said earlier about embracing inconvenience? Here’s where it will really help.
If you’re looking for a killer way to transform your finances in the coming year, you may want to consider going down to one car.
This benefit is compounded if the vehicle you get rid of is being financed.
In the interest of full disclosure, we currently own two vehicles. I will say though, my wife and I made do with one small, fuel efficient car for the first nine years of our marriage, and will likely go back to one vehicle when the time is right.
There’s simply too much money to be saved not to.
22. Implement a spending freeze.
Ever feel like your spending is out of control? A spending freeze may be just what you need.
A spending freeze is a commitment to stop spending money on discretionary items for a set period of time.
It could be for a few days, or as long as a month or more. You can choose to cut out all extra spending, or just on specific items, like eating out, or shopping for new clothes.
For the past two years, I did a month long spending freeze in January. This helped me start the year off right, focused on reducing my debt, and reaching my savings goals.
23. Refuse to finance…anything.
Make a pact with yourself or your spouse/partner, that no matter what, you won’t finance any purchase for the next 12 months.
No matter how much you want an item, be it a new car, furniture or a big screen TV, refuse to borrow the money to buy it.
Retailers make it so easy to buy now, pay later, which is a surefire way to get off track with your financial goals.
Money that was earmarked for debt reduction or savings, now has to be shifted to paying off an impulse purchase prior to the interest-free period expiring.
In 2019, improve your finances by paying with cash, and refusing to finance.
24. Fast-track your debt repayment.
Even if you only implement a few of the 30 kick-ass money savings tips in this article, you’re going to have more cash flow in the coming year.
The question is, how do you make the best use of the extra funds laying around?
If you have debt, one way is to increase the payments you’re making, even by $25 or $50/month.
Paying down debt is always a good idea, and even a small increase in what you’re directing at that mortgage, or car loan will make a big difference over time.
25. Consolidate Revolving Debt
Revolving debt refers to any borrowing instrument that can be used over and over again, such as a credit card, or a line of credit. Anything with a credit limit, which can be reused.
The problem with these products is that they make it far too easy to use credit, and a lot of people find themselves constantly re-borrowing.
They get stuck in a pattern of only making the minimum payment, and the balance seems to never go down.
If you are finding yourself in this trap, talk to your bank about replacing your revolving debt with a term reducing loan.
A term loan will guarantee that your debt level decreases every month, and it removes the temptation to rely on credit.
If you feel as though you need the access to revolving credit, start by building your emergency fund (see #26). Once you are able to draw on your savings to cover unexpected expenses, you should be able to do away with most of your revolving credit.
26. Buy Less House Than You Can “Afford”
I put the word “afford” in brackets, because what the bank tells you is affordable probably isn’t the case.
This next sentence is incredibly important.
Do not buy more house than you can afford.
No spending decision you make this year will have a greater impact on your long term financial health, either positively or negatively.
It’s not enough to factor in your mortgage payment, as well as the many other costs of owning a home.
You need to also consider your long term plans, and whether the home you’re buying aligns with how you plan to live your life in the next 5, or 10 years.
For example, do you foresee a situation where you or your spouse/partner may want to leave work to go back to school, or stay-at-home while raising kids?
If the bank is using two full-time incomes to qualify you for a mortgage, they are not taking into account the flexibility you will need if your lifestyle changes.
Since we started a family almost 19 years ago, it was very important to both my wife and I, that she have the flexibility to be at home with our kids full-time.
We’ve made it happen, even though my income was not always that great, in fact it was less than $50,000 for several years when the kids were young.
If I can point to one single reason, it’s that we’ve always bought less home than we can afford. To do this, we moved from a high cost of living area to a low cost of living area, and eventually purchased a starter home.
Today, we still live in a home we purchased for $130,000, and our mortgage payment is 10% of our gross annual income.
The bank will allow borrowers to go up to 40% of their income for their mortgage payment.
Think about that for a second. 40% equals a lot of freedom going out the window.
27. Save Money By Shopping Online.
Not only will you find lower prices shopping online, but you’ll save time AND money not having to drive to a traditional retail store.
Be careful not to spend money on shipping however, as that will negate your discounted price.
Also, if you’re someone who loves to shop, a note of caution. It can become very addicting.
Perhaps it’s almost too easy.
28. Start a side hustle.
Improving your finances isn’t just about reducing your spending, or or increasing your savings.
You can only cut spending so far. At some point, you have to decide whether to increase your income.
Many people don’t realize the additional money making opportunities lying right under their nose.
There are plenty of ways to make extra cash, which you can use to pay down debt, save more money, or fund your next vacation. And you don’t have to get a second job to do it, although that is an option.
Don’t believe me? Do a Google search for ‘side hustle ideas’, and you’ll get an endless list of possibilities.
My favourite way to make extra money is by utilizing my existing skill set, by taking on freelance work.
Sure, driving for Uber, or renting a room in your house as an Air Bn’B are the trendy choices, but freelancing offers so many advantages.
With freelancing, you are running your own business. You have control over the type of work you do, the people you work with, and the amount you get paid for that work.
And if you want, you can choose to scale the business.
In other words, freelancing could be a way to make a few hundred extra dollars a month, or, if you’re willing to put in the work, it could become your full-time job.
29. Sell your stuff.
Here’s another side hustle idea, and one that can make you money fast.
Most of us collect a lot of stuff over the years, perfectly good items that we no longer have a use for.
Take time to organize your things, and put it up for sale. I know people who have made thousands of dollars in a relatively short time this way.
By advertising for free on sites like Craigslist, or a local Facebook Buy and Sell group, you’ll get rid of your junk in no time.
You’ll be shocked at how easy it is.
30. Maximize your employee benefits at work.
Did you know? You may be leaving a lot of money on the table at your job, because you’re not taking advantage of all of the benefits you are eligible for.
Does your company have an employee savings program, where your employer matches your contributions to a certain dollar amount?
If so, this is a benefit you should be maximizing, after all, it’s free money.
Many companies offer other attractive benefits, some of which are optional, so if you’re not taking the time to find out what’s available, you should be.
Other examples include performance bonuses, health spending accounts, wellness programs, mileage and clothing allowances.
31. Build and maintain an emergency fund.
If you don’t have an emergency fund, it should be your #1 savings priority.
Why? Because It’s the first step in breaking the paycheque to paycheque lifestyle. Start with an emergency fund, then you can move on to other savings goals.
You can start with a goal of saving one or two thousand dollars.
Enough to be able to cover unexpected expenses, instead of having to resort to high interest credit cards, or being caught in a desperate financial situation.
This money should be kept in a savings account, or cashable term deposit. Safety and liquidity is your primary concern, rather than rate of return.
32. Automate your savings.
Let’s face it, saving money requires a lot of discipline.
For this reason, I highly recommend that most people automate contributions to their investment accounts.
By making small contributions more often, you’ll hardly notice the money leaving your bank account.
Not only does it promote a savings mindset, it enables you to take advantage of dollar cost averaging, a powerful investment strategy which will ensure you purchase investment units at a lower average price over the long term.
Not only will this enhance your investment returns, it will reduce your risk.
When is the best time to start? Right now.
Don’t worry about not having a lot of cash flow to begin, even a $25 monthly contribution will set you on a path to success.
33. Rebalance your investments regularly.
Investments are divided into three primary asset classes; safety, income and growth.
It’s very important to ensure you are invested properly across the various asset classes.
In fact, over time, selecting the proper asset allocation will have a more positive impact on your return than any other factor, including your ability to pick the right security or fund.
Your ideal asset mix is comprised of any number of these three categories, with varying weightings, dependent on factors such as your investment objective, time frame and tolerance for risk.
Not only will these weightings need to shift over time, the natural fluctuations in your investment holdings can alter your actual asset allocation.
So, for your long term investments, review your investments at least once per year with a professional advisor, and complete any necessary rebalancing.
34. Reduce your investment fees.
If you’re paying someone for investment advice, or your portfolio is largely made up of equity mutual funds, there’s a good chance your returns are being diluted by high management fees, commissions and/or trailers paid to the different parties involved with managing your portfolio.
Because of this, it’s really important to do your research, and understand how much you are paying for the management of your investments.
Online brokerages have become so convenient and cost effective, that just about anyone has access to low-cost, broad based index funds and ETFs, that reflect the movement of the market, at almost no cost to the investor.
I’m not discounting the value of professional advice, but the vast majority of fund managers struggle to consistently beat the benchmark.
In 2019, take a look at your investment portfolio, you may find some money savings opportunities.
35. Stop trying to time the market.
If the world’s leading economists, central bankers and investment professionals can’t tell you with any certainty what will happen with the markets, neither can you, so don’t try.
Take a long term approach with your portfolio.
Stick to the fundamentals of asset allocation, dollar cost averaging, regular rebalancing, and keeping costs down.
That’s what will determine your success over the long term. If you want to walk the day-trading tightrope, set aside some mad money exclusively for that purpose, and go nuts.
36. Conserve Water to Save Money
Reducing your daily water usage not only helps the environment, it will save you money in the long run. Did you know? The average North American family uses 300 gallons of water per day. If that number sounds way too high, you’re right! Here are 33 ways to cut back your water usage and save money!
There you have it, 36 ways to improve your finances in 2021. The best part is that you can start today!
What are you doing to improve your finances in 2021?
What money saving tips have worked for you?
Please join the discussion in the comments below!