Maybe you didn’t have enough time to research all your options. Maybe you decided you would take care of any issues in the future. Maybe you just clicked the wrong button. Whatever the reason, most people have made at least a few financial mistakes over the years.
You can’t fix mistakes if you don’t know you’re making them. Here are five common money mistakes to avoid:
1. Not saving
The fear of missing out is more popular than delayed gratification, which can lead to overspending. Unfortunately, that’s one reason why Canadians are carrying so much debt. In the first quarter of this year, the average Canadian consumer had $21,696 in non-mortgage debt, according to credit reporting agency TransUnion. A spending mentality has to turn into a saving mentality.
To make saving easier, automatically transfer a percentage of your paycheque directly into a savings account. Better yet, consider putting the money into a TFSA or RRSP. That can help reduce the temptation to dip into your savings.
2. Having credit card debt
Consider the amount of interest you have to pay when you have debt. Sometimes it’s necessary to go into debt—to buy a house or pay for a degree, for example—but mortgages and education loans offer much lower interest rates than credit cards, where rates may be as high as 20% to 30% annually.
If you do have credit card debt, pay more than the minimum payment each month. You’ll save a bunch in interest and late fees, and keep your credit score healthy, which can make it a lot easier to get an apartment or a lower mortgage rate.
3. Not properly budgeting
It’s easy to go astray when setting a budget, whether that’s forgetting to pay a bill or freaking out when you blow past your December limit because you forgot you had to buy presents. So before you commit to a budget, spend a month noting where your money goes. Then, when drafting your spending plan, you’ll have exact figures to work with and won’t be setting yourself up for failure. Allow for some wiggle room for both emergencies and enjoyment, so one unexpected cavity or night out doesn’t send your budget tumbling down. And create a new budget at the start of each month to account for busy birthday months or other financial ebbs and flows in your life.
4. Not using a TFSA or an RRSP correctly
Don’t just save: Yes, the “s” in TFSA and RRSP stands for savings, but don’t keep just cash in the account. If you do that, you might get a return of only 1% to 2% annually and your tax savings will be minimal. Spend some time researching riskier investments—including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and exchange-traded funds—to take full advantage of either tax shelter.
Know the maximums: Both RRSPs and TFSAs cap how much you can contribute. The RRSP contribution limit is either the maximum amount set by the Canada Revenue Agency—$26,010 in 2017—or 18% of your previous year’s earned income, whichever is less. You’re allowed a lifetime over-contribution of $2,000; but for anything over that, you could be fined 1% of the excess amount every month.
The 2017 TFSA contribution limit is $5,500, plus any unused room from previous years. If you over-contribute, you’ll be fined 1% on the extra amount each month. If you have multiple TFSAs, calculate your total contributions before putting in more money to avoid surprise fees.
Cashing out early: RRSPs are supposed to help you in retirement. But if you make an early withdrawal, you’ll have to pay a withholding tax. You’ll also need to report the money as income and potentially pay additional taxes. If, however, you’re withdrawing the funds to buy your first home or pay for education costs for yourself or your spouse, the money isn’t taxed unless you don’t repay the amount you withdraw.
5. Not shopping around for financial products
There’s usually a better deal out there. Whether it’s a credit card with better rewards, a lower home insurance premium, or a no-fee chequing account, you’re throwing money away if you don’t look for alternatives. You can also let your current provider know you’re checking out the competition, and see if they’ll incentivize you to stay.