Canadian women feel pretty good about their finances — in fact, 65 percent of 35- to 45-year-old women we surveyed said they’ve mastered them. But this time of year can leave just about everyone feeling a little nervous to open the impending credit card statement.
Taking a big-picture look at your finances can be overwhelming, but setting aside some time during the post-holiday lull to think through financial goals can help. Here’s a round-up of some of the best personal finance advice Chatelaine has heard over the years.How Much Money Should You Really Be Spending On Groceries?
Deal with your debt
“Know what you owe,” writes Kira Vermond in this guide to getting out of debt. This means compiling a list of all your debt — mortgage, car payments, student loans, credit card debt and wherever else it may be hiding. It might add up to an alarming figure but this is the first step to taking control of it.
Define what financial happiness means to you
Gail Vaz-Oxlade, financial expert, author and host of Til Debt Do Us Part, advises clients to think about their core values when setting financial goals and to consider what needs to be given up to achieve them.
As she told Chatelaine: “So what is it you really want? Is it eating out and spending time with your friends? Or do you want to own a home of your own? Decide because you may not in fact want to own [a home] — you may simply be bowing to the pressures around you to own.”
Find creative ways to save
Women pay a premium on just about everything, according to a Washington Post article that cites numerous studies on the gender effect on price. The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs found that women pay an extra 48 percent for products like shampoo and conditioner. So it’s that much more important to think twice on how you’re spending your hard-earned coin. Here are some easy but effective ways to save.
Carry cash only: Studies have shown plastic makes it easier to spend more and a 2012 study in The Journal of Consumer Research suggested that those who use cash think more about price point that those who use credit.Subscribe To Our Newsletters For Personal Finance Tips, Straight To Your Inbox
Curb spending but don’t cut out all the fun at once: “Choose one category and be ruthless about it for three months,” advised MoneySense columnist Bruce Sellery on this Cityline segment. So if that means giving up buying lunch for three months or your yoga membership, at least you won’t feel like you’ve changed your entire lifestyle.
Save on monthly expenses: There are some necessities that can’t be cut out but can be reduced. Cellphone bills are a great example — you can negotiate your rate, adjust your plan according to your usage patterns and try to use Wi-Fi as much as possible.
If you’re one of those unicorns who is already good at saving, here’s an extra challenge. Try this method to save over $1,300 in just 52 weeks, which starts with putting away just $1 the first week of the year.
Negotiate your salary
Over half of women we surveyed said they earn less than what they deserve. Given women in Canada make 74 cents for every dollar men make, it might be time to lean in and ask for a raise rather than go grey waiting for a merit-based bump.
One common reason women don’t ask for raises is that they feel selfish and unlikeable but asking for what you deserve at work isn’t greedy. Neither is creating a culture where women feel comfortable to ask for more money, hopefully contributing to gender pay parity. “We must raise both the ceiling and the floor,” as Sheryl Sandberg herself says.
Watch: The best way to save money