Why September is the ideal time to do a financial check-in

Consumers spend more money during the summer than during any other holiday period, which is why September is an ideal time to re-evaluate your personal finances, says finance expert Rubina Ahmed-Haq.

When you crunch the numbers, consumers actually spend more during the two and a half months of summer than during the much shorter winter holidays.

According to a BMO survey released in June, Canadians planned to spend an average of $5,605 during the summer.

By comparison, a separate survey conducted by Field Agent Canadalast year found Canadians only expected to spend about $885 during the 2014 Christmas season.

All the trips away, the child care for kids, the fun summer camps, dining out on restaurant patios – it takes its toll, said money expert Rubina Ahmed-Haq.

“No matter how you look at it, the bills in summer really do pile up.”

Rubina

Rubina is an experienced financial journalist who grew up in a super-saver household. She shares money management lessons on CBC’s On the Coast every Wednesday afternoon. (Supplied)

That’s why September is an ideal time to re-evaluate your finances. If you want to get yourself back on track and in a position to afford those holiday gifts, here are three tips to help.

1. Crunch the numbers

Before you do anything else, you need to have a clear picture of how much damage you’ve done to your personal finances this summer, Ahmed-Haq said.

Tally up your expenses and calculate how much of that is debt that you’re carrying around.

2. Rank your debt

List your debt in order of most expensive to least. Your credit card and store card debt would be first, followed perhaps by your line of credit, and then by any personal loans you have may have taken from a friend or relative, she said.

Include any overdue utility, cell phone, or internet bills in your tally.

“Maybe because you were so busy having fun, you forgot about all those monthly bills,” said Ahmed-Haq.

3. Prioritize

Now it’s time to decide which bills you have to pay now and which ones you can put off until October.

Call your bank or talk to your mortgage specialist to find out if you can skip a mortgage payment.

“lt’s called taking a vacation from your mortgage,” Ahmed-Haq said, who also noted many banks offer it.

“That’s going to free up some extra money so you can pay your credit card bill, for example,” which if gone unpaid will rack up higher interest charges and immediately affect your credit score, she said.

Ahmed-Haq also recommends temporarily suspending any subscription or membership services — the gym, magazines, newspapers and the like — that you could put on hold until your debt is paid down.

Start planning ahead

September is a great time not just to clean up your finances, but also to do a general financial check-in, Ahmed-Haq said.

This is typically the low season for financial advisors, so consider making an appointment. If you manage your own money, block off half a day to go through all your investments and make sure you’re satisfied with your portfolio.

Ahmed-Haq recommends checking your RRSP contribution to make sure it’s at the level you want it to be.

To prevent yourself from falling into debt again, start setting aside money to cover your upcoming holiday spending as soon as you can.

“Even $50 a week will add up to $700 in 14 weeks. So if you start saving on Sept. 1 you’ll get there by Dec. 8.”

To keep yourself on track, Ahmed-Haq recommends using your January 2015 credit card statements as a reference point.

“Just take a quick little look at it and say to yourself, ‘I don’t want to be there again.'”


To hear the full interview with Rubina Ahmed-Haq, listen to the audio labelled: September, the best time to do a financial check up

Source:  CBC News Posted: Aug 29, 2015 11:00 AM PT

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