Pat yourself on that back!

The BMO holiday spending survey results were released last week and 76 per cent of Canadians reported they spent less than they had planned over the holidays. On average, Canadian households shelled out $1,029 on food, drinks, gifts and entertainment; $300 less than what most were expecting to spend.

Around 25 per cent of that same group listed ‘reducing household debt’ as their number one priority for 2012. Pulling in second place, with 24 per cent of respondents, was a resolution ‘to save more for retirement’.

The top three ways to achieve these goals are:

• Spend within your budget. Use online financial tracking and budgeting tools to keep a close watch on your spending. These tools are free with your online banking. Once you know where your money is going, you can find ways to cut back. If overspending knocks you off budget, ask your three- year-old niece or nephew to hide your credit cards in a secret spot in your kitchen. By the time you’ve found your cards, the wave of spending temptation will have passed.


• Tackle your debt head on by paying a little extra whenever you can scrounge up a few dollars. If you’re paying high interest rates, negotiate for lower ones.

• On payday, before you pay your bills or hit up the ATM, automatically contribute savings to a registered investment plan like an RRSP or TFSA. Many employers will set this up for you or you can ask your local banker for assistance.

I’m confident that Canadians can achieve their 2012 financial goals. Stay motivated and focus on building your net worth.

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