How would having more money saved make you feel? Less stressed? Happier? It's hard to imagine that seeing a bigger number in your savings account would cause anything but positive emotions. But saving money can be hard and the answer to growing your savings isn't always to contribute more (though that certainly helps) – sometimes it's about fixing a mistake you didn't even know you were making.
Here are some top savings mistakes and how to avoid them.
1. You don't know where your money goes
It may be time for a deep dive into your transaction history. Technology has made spending money more convenient than ever, meaning many of us have become less aware on where exactly it all goes. Try tracking your spending closely and see if there are opportunities to cut back and redirect that money to your savings. Every little bit counts!
2. You don't have an emergency fund
Nothing derails your savings goals quite like a big, unexpected expense. Having specific savings set aside in case you're hit with major home or car repairs, job loss or even an illness, can alleviate the financial impact. An easy way to start building your emergency savings is to take advantage of automation. Set up a pre-authorized contribution (the Servus MyGoals tool can help) to transfer money into a separate account that's off limits. This way you'll have funds to fall back on, should you ever need it.
3. You tackle your smallest debts first
It might seem like a good idea to pay down your smallest debt first before moving on to a big one, but this may not make the most sense in the grand scheme of things. Creating a plan to eliminate your high interest debt first (regardless of the total of the debt itself), is actually the better thing to do. You'll pay less in interest overall and free up your money faster so you can contribute to your savings instead.
4. Your money doesn't work for you
Your money isn't any good sitting under your mattress. Just like it's not any good sitting in an account that's not earning interest. If you haven't already, give investing a try. Depending on your life stage and your goals, there are tons of products designed to help you grow your money faster.
5. You're saving for "retirement"
Saving for your future is important. But if you're saving for the sake of it, without having a concrete plan of what you want your post-work life to look like, you aren't doing yourself any favours. Sit down with a financial planner and discuss what your goals for your retirement savings are and create a strategy to get there. Once you have a plan, take advantage of the short-term tax benefits by staying on top of your RRSP contributions.
6. You aren't maximizing a TFSA
If you don't have a tax-free savings account (or TFSA) – get one! There are two big benefits of saving with a TFSA. Firstly, the money you save (including the interest you earn) is not subject to taxes (hence "tax-free"). Meaning you can withdraw funds without having to pay any tax (unlike an RRSP). Speaking of withdrawals, that's the second big benefit – you can pull your money out anytime because it's not locked into a fixed term. This is why TFSAs are great for both your short-term and long-term savings goals.
7. Your saving doesn't keep up with your income
Got a raise? Great job! But did you bump up your savings contributions to go along with it? Think of your savings contributions as a percentage of your take-home income, rather than a fixed item in your budget. Factor in your other fixed expenses and come up with a number that works for you and stick with it.
8. You don't talk about your money
The final, and perhaps most important, mistake to overcome is not talking openly about money. Whether your focus is paying down debt, saving for a large purchase, or simply being more conscious of your spending, it's really helpful to have someone in your corner (as cheerleader and accountability buddy). Exchanging thoughts and details about finances (just like you would any other aspect of your life) with a close friend or family member creates dialogue, which can relieve a lot of stress and anxiety. The more comfortable you get talking about money, the better you'll feel about it.
Recognizing and correcting these common mistakes can lead to more money in your savings account. And if you need a little help along the way, a financial advisor can always offer objective support.