6 ways to improve your finances

With new year’s resolutions/goals well underway, I thought now would be the perfect time to share a few ways to improve your finances.

Are you looking to improve your finances this year? If so, try not to be overwhelmed. I know it can seem like a daunting task to pay off debt, save for the future, and constantly monitor your money, but it’s really not as bad as it sounds. You may even find it to be a fun challenge (or am I the only one that feels that way?).

1. Create a budget

If you’re attempting to improve your finances, the number one thing I would recommend is creating a budget. Having a budget it the place is one of the most beneficial things you can do to make your money work for you, instead of against you.

When you do create a budget, make sure you are being realistic with the categories you have laid out. Do you really need to keep your gym membership? Can you get rid of or lower your cable TV expenses?

You should always be spending less than you make. Check out my friend Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s pie chart for budgeting, which shows you how much you should be spending in each main category.

Sticking with a budget may seem difficult at first, but I promise that if you keep at it, you will start to see positive results.

2. Track your spending

In order to create a budget, you need to know where your money is currently going. Do you know how much you spend on hydro every month? What about groceries and entertainment? If not, now is the time to start tracking what you spend. This information is essential if you want to budget successfully.

You must track every single penny you spend, including your daily $2 coffee and your random $5 dollar store purchases. Everything. Keep all of your receipts and enter them into your expense tracking spreadsheet once a week (or more often if you are able). Keep a small notebook on you, for those times when a receipt is not available.

It takes a few months to get used to tracking your spending, and I must admit, in the beginning, it will probably be hard and feel like such a pain – but believe me, it’s necessary and it will be worth it. After a while, tracking your money becomes second nature.

3. Pay off debt

A debt of any kind is detrimental to your financial health, so try your hardest to get rid of debt once and for all. This should be your number one goal. You don’t want debt looming over your head as you go about your life. It will always be a negative source of energy that will constantly wear you down.

If possible, figure out a way to pay off your debt in 3 years or less. Any longer than that and it will seem never-ending and likely leave you feeling discouraged. If this means you need to take on extra hours at work, a second job or simply scale way back on the categories in your budget, do it. It will be worth it in the end.

Think of how much better your life would be without a mountain of debt to worry about. That extra money can go towards saving for your future and enjoying your life right now.

4. Live within your means

No matter how much money you make, you always want to live within your means. The amount of money you spend every month should be less than what you bring home. If it’s not, you are just digging yourself further and further into a debt hole that may eventually become too big to climb out of.

If you can get a grasp on living within your means, you will be able to use your savings to pay off debt and put money aside for an emergency fund, your child’s education, a down-payment on a home – anything you want! Wouldn’t that be nice? It is possible!

My philosophy has always been “sacrifice now so you can live better later.” Do you agree?

5. Save for your future

Saving money is extremely important, yet many people put it last on their list. I couldn’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard people say that they only save “whatever is left over after all of the other bills are paid” (which is usually nothing at all) and that is a big no-no.

You should always pay yourself first. Think of your savings as a fixed expense that you can’t get rid of and make sure that is the very first “bill” that you pay each month.

When you start to see your savings as an important “bill” to pay, saving your hard-earned cash will be easy.

6. Don’t give up

Finally, please don’t ever stop trying to improve your finances. I want to encourage you to always be learning, but don’t try to learn too much at once. Give yourself time to learn about one thing at a time and once you are comfortable with that, move on to the next. Don’t try to learn all there is to know about savings accounts, RRSPs, debt reduction, emergency funds, and education plans all in one month. Pick what is most important to learn first and go from there.

Remember that YOU are the only person that can take control of your finances. No one else is going to do it for you, so take the time to improve your finances and you will enjoy the benefits for years to come.

Everyone can do it – it’s not hard. It just takes time, dedication, and perseverance. Believe it, and you will achieve it!

What have you done to improve your finances lately?


  1. teachermum

    Absolutely the most important thing for anyone to do that earns money and even important if you don’t yet, in preparation for when you do!

    I think #1 and #2 could almost be reversed to get an idea of the big picture. So many people really have no clue where their money is going and you need to have an idea of that before you can even begin a budget (well, at least one that will have any chance of working!)

    We almost never eat out in restaurants, but it wasn’t until I tracked every penny that I saw how much we spent on fast food. Just one run a week after church with no drinks sure adds up-throw in one more stop every week or two-I was not happy with that number at all!!! My guesstimate for that category would have been WAY off had I not tracked!

    I don’t even want to think about how much we spend at Timmy’s, and it isn’t even a daily stop here! While it isn’t really an issue at this stage in our lives and dh does not want to live like a pauper when we don’t have to, it is a scary number to add up when we have coffee at home….

  2. LauraJT

    Thanks for the great article Cassie. I absolutely love Gail and her shows, they have been inspiring me to pinch pennies (hence the couponing) and follow a budget for the last 5 years. In this time I’ve been able to pay off University debt, get married and buy a home, and I just turned 26. I couldn’t agree more with the first poster, it’s the little things! The Tim Hortons, which is a 2-3x daily occurence in our house, working right next to a SDM, and a Starbucks. My goal this year is to really cut back on those.

  3. Robbie

    These are the steps I follow. I track everything. I can’t believe how much I was spending on coffee each day. I just wish I had followed these steps years ago.

  4. lori

    I really appreciate your articles, Cassie plus I am a daily follower of Gail Vaz Oxlade’s blog.
    I have taken so much from both your sites. We are fairly good with our money at this stage of our married life but we’ve found teenagers to be very expensive with their elite activities and travels across the world. But we are blessed to be able to give them such great experiences, and they also work part time to cover their own expenses, and have really grown to be responsible and not brand-name driven kids because we’ve given them the responsibility since they were young.
    My goal is to meal plan and use up stuff in the freezers thanks to your blog. Tried your garlic, cheddar biscuits tonight from your recipe section and the teenagers gave them three thumbs up! thanks again for all you do to keep me and us on track. Keep up the great ideas and articles.

  5. Michelle

    I use this website called http://www.mint.com it logs on directly to your bank and you can organize your spending that way either by their default suggestions (based on where the item was purchase) to being able to specifically categorize something that suits only you. I have been using this website for almost a year now and absolutely love it!

  6. Carrie

    Another thing is to find a savings account with the highest return and a banking account with no or low service fees. I have moved my saving to ING direct for the interest and the bounce $$ for signing up.

  7. Jan

    I’m over 60 and have followed my mother’s simple advice since I was a teenager. She told me the easiest way to save and not spend money was to leave it at home. Don’t carry any credit cards, debit cards when you go out. If you plan to buy groceries, only take the amount you estimate to spend.

    It’s so easy to say to your friends, when you’re invited to an impromptu lunch or shopping expedition….”Sorry, I don’t have any cash with me! Count me in another time.” Hard to argue with that.

  8. Cassie Howard

    Great tips, everyone. Thanks for sharing!

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