There is never a bad time to look at improving your finances, but many people view the beginning of a new calendar year as a good time to make changes. Little changes can make a big impact. The important thing to remember that creating new habits won’t happen overnight – they take time and patience – so don’t give up.

Track Your Spending

Knowing where your money is going is key to financial success. Without knowing what your expenses are, building a realistic, achievable budget is impossible. There are many ways to track expenses and there truly is something that will work for everyone. Keeping receipts, writing things down, tracking debit transactions, spreadsheets and phone apps are all options. It does take time to track expenses – but it is definitely time well spent.

Stick To A Budget

Budgeting gets easier after you have been tracking your spending for a few months. The easiest place to start is to figure out which weeks your income comes in and then deduct all of your fixed expenses (rent / mortgages, insurances, utilities) then allocate for the essentials (food, transportation, medical) and then the extras.

Pay Down Your Debt

Household debt reached 165% of disposable household income in fall 2015. Debt is a common problem. You need to figure out who you owe, how much you owe them and the interest. Then you can make a strategy to pay off your debt. Working on high interest debt is important. Setting realistic timeframes and goals is essential.

Save More

Saving is always easier said than done – but the key to doing it is commitment. Figure out what your savings goal for is then work backwards to figure out how much per pay you need to save to get to that goal in timeframe you want to do it. A concrete goal makes it much easier to stick to. You should also figure out what the best form for your savings to take is based on its purpose – savings account, TFSA, RESP, RRSP and on the list goes.

Waste Less

Of course this entails the old “wants vs. needs” analysis of your everyday spending (i.e. daily cup of coffee, eating out, etc.) but it is bigger than that. Look at all of your expenses and start comparing what else is out there – banking fees, internet packages, cell phones, home phones, cable and insurance are all things to look at.

Understand Credit Score

Checking your credit report and understanding how credit scores work is an important thing that many people do not do. Your credit score affects the interest rate on money you borrow – so it is important to have the highest score possible. There are steps you can take to improve your credit score. It is also important to check your credit report to ensure it is reporting your information accurately and to make sure that there is no unauthorized or fraudulent activity.