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#RFDChat - Goodbye Debt! Tackling Holiday Debt & Much More

By Jeff Chan

Join #RFDChat On Jan 17, 2013 & Learn How To Tackle Your Holiday Debt!

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Q&A - Answered By @TD Canada

Q1: How can we reduce credit card debt, especially after a season of spending?
Q2: What types of debt management tools are available to get our finances under control?
Q3: What is the best way to avoid the temptation to overspend on credit cards?
Q4: How can we break the credit card habit and put a stop to our addiction to debt?
Q5: How can we change our spending habits and start saving money every day?
Q6: What’s the best way to find opportunities to save money on everyday purchases?
Q7: How much should we have in an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses?
Q8: How do we use budgeting to find opportunities to cut expenses?
Q9: How should you use a budget to manage our finances?
Q10: Is it better to focus on reducing debt or should we also try to save money?
Q11: Is there such thing as good debt?

Q1: How can we reduce credit card debt, especially after a season of spending?

Getting out of debt after a season of spending is possible if you have a plan in place. However, before creating a debt repayment plan, you need to be disciplined to cut back on your spending. You may be surprised to discover some costly habits that have been sabotaging your finances. Maybe you've got a "cheap" muffin and coffee habit – which ends up costing $3 per day or over $1,000 a year. Track your spending on a fresh piece of paper or a spreadsheet on your computer – then create a budget to determine how much you can afford to put towards your debt repayment given your current income. This TD site can help you: here.

Ideally it’s always best to pay off your credit card balances in full, so you’ll avoid paying costly interest charges. But if that’s not possible then pay off as much as you can (more than the minimum balance). The more money you put towards your bills, the less you’ll have to pay on interest charges – and the less expensive those holiday purchases will turn out to be. Here’s a TD debt repayment calculator that can help: here.

Once your debt is paid off, you can then re-allocate that money towards savings so that your money can now grow.

Back To Questions

Q2: What types of debt management tools are available to get our finances under control?

There are a number of tools available to help get your finances under control.

  • Financial Consumer Agency of Canada’s (FCAC) Financial Toolkit: Here you’ll be able to learn about managing your debt. They’ll ask you questions to better understand your situation and provide you with practical tips.
  • TD’s Get Organized site: TD can help you review your accounts, define your goals, create a budget and manage cash flow.
  • TD’s Debt Consolidation Loan Calculator: TD can help you find out how much you’ll save if you merged all your consumer debt into one monthly payment.
  • TD’s Debt Repayment Calculator: This tool will show you how long it will take to get out of debt.
  • TD’s Debt Management Tool: This tool helps you list your outstanding debts, find out how much you owe and what your debt service ratio is.

Back To Questions

Q3: What is the best way to avoid the temptation to overspend on credit cards?

One of the best ways to steer away from overspending on credit cards is by creating and sticking to a budget. Budget a monthly amount that includes necessities like paying the bills and groceries. Then add an amount that you can shop with that will still leave you with a safe cushion of savings. Make it reasonable and stick to it!

Other tips to help you from the temptation of overspending are:

  • Don’t bring your credit card with you when you shop. Instead, learn to shop with cash.
  • Before you head out, create a shopping list of items you NEED and WANT. If possible, jot down prices so you’ll have an idea of how much everything will cost. You might find a few items in the WANT column scratched out once you total up the costs. Once it’s finalized, stick to this list.
  • Buying gifts? Personalize them. Instead of spending more money to buy a gift, give them something from the heart! Examples can be photo albums, personalized frames, digital movies, or baked goods. The best part is that they will likely cherish it more and you didn’t have to overspend in making it. It’s a win-win!

Here’s a neat budgeting tool from TD to help you get started:Try the tool

Back To Questions

Q4: How can we break the credit card habit and put a stop to our addiction to debt?

Today people tend to overspend for a number of reasons, whether it’s keeping up with their friends, the neighbours – or simply the self-entitlement by having ‘things’, and, credit cards make it that much easier to overspend because of their sheer convenience. Almost every store accepts a credit card, but, no store will make you buy the item you want from them. You make that decision.

Wants vs. Needs
If you’re someone who has an addiction to debt, we recommend that you first stop bringing your credit cards out with you. Then re-evaluate your ‘wants vs. needs’. If you want to buy something, ask yourself, ‘Can I go without this?’ If the answer is yes, don’t buy it. Or alternatively, try the ‘3 Day Rule’ where you write down all the things you really want – and, after 3 days, if you still really want them then figure out how to adjust your budget to allow for this new purchase (i.e. forego going out for coffee for a few weeks, eat at home for a month?) Chances that many of these impulse purchases turn out to be less important once the novelty or initial ‘glitz’ wears off. Breaking your addiction to anything, including debt, is usually successful when you can take your mind off things. Why not substitute a day at the mall with a day of ice skating or staying at home with family and friends?

Think of The Consequences
If you let your spending get the best of you, there may be severe consequences if you don’t have the cash to support your payments. On top of stress and its effects on your family, the financial toll includes calls from collection agencies, a negative credit score and ultimately - bankruptcy. If you feel like things are starting to spiral (or they already have), then you’ve achieved the first step – Acknowledgement of the problem. That’s usually the biggest step but the right step. Next, speak to someone at your bank who can guide you in getting back on track!

Back To Questions

Q5: How can we change our spending habits and start saving money every day?

Make it automatic. Contact your financial institution and arrange for automatic transfers from your chequing to your savings account on a regular basis (monthly, weekly, bi-weekly). If you have your pay cheque deposited directly to your bank account, time the transfer so that it takes place on the same day as you receive your pay. This way, you “pay yourself first” like David Chilton says in the Wealthy Barber. Choose an amount that is reasonable and try to increase it over time.

Year-round Savings Snowball Start fresh in January and automatically deposit $1/day into a savings account. Do this every day in January and you should have $31 in savings. In February, increase the amount to $2 daily, $3 in March and so on until you are saving $12 a day in December. Even before you factor compounded interest, you should have saved $2382 by New Year’s Eve. This is a great exercise in starting small and increasing your savings over time.

Set up a budget. It’s important to follow a budget to cut down on unnecessary spending. A great tool to help you get started is TD’s Cash Flow Calculator

For example, if your goal is to have a kitchen makeover in the next 5 years, then visualize it – cut out your favourite photo and stick it on your fridge. Calculate how much the kitchen would cost and how much you’ll need to save over the next 5 years. Then open a savings account, personalize the account title “My New Kitchen” and then set up an automatic transfer of funds to begin saving towards your new goal. Try implementing this idea towards all your short/long term goals related to life, finances and retirement. The key is to visualize it and then implement it.

Back To Questions

Q6: What’s the best way to find opportunities to save money on everyday purchases?

Try eliminating things like daily coffees, magazines, or junk food. Put the equivalent of what you spent on these items into your savings. Over time, you’ll get the same sense of satisfaction from the savings as you would from purchasing.

Empty your wallet/purse of change at the end of the day into a “savings jar” or piggy bank. You’ll be surprised how much money you can save if you don’t have easy access to it!

Start pre-authorized transfers from your chequing to your savings account that coincide with your paycheque. Many online banking platforms allow you to set these up for any amount you choose.

Save every time you spend. Most financial institutions have a savings program that automatically transfers money every time you use your debit card. TD’s savings plan is called Simply Save and it puts money aside whenever you use your TD Canada Trust Access Card for debit purchases or ATM withdrawals. The plan automatically sends an amount as low as 50 cents to $5.00 per withdrawal from your chequing to your savings account.

Use RedFlagDeals. Another great way of saving is simply looking for the best price possible. So keep on visiting sites such as that help you save on everyday purchases.

Back To Questions

Q7: How much should we have in an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses?

Having an emergency fund is important for unexpected expenses which may arise, or to simply keep money aside for a rainy day. Typically you would want the balance of your emergency fund to be the equivalent of your three-month take home salary. However, how much you put aside could differ depending on your lifestyle and needs. What I would recommend is taking a snapshot of all your monthly expenses for one month, including mortgage or rental payments, food, transportation and other major fixed expenses. Tally up the totals and simply multiply by 3, to get an idea of what your optimal emergency fund should be.

Having full access to your fund is important. When deciding on investment options, consider products that are fully redeemable rather than those with locked-in terms (such as GIC). A popular choice is a High Interest Savings Account. It’s flexible, earns high interest daily and can be withdrawn anytime without penalty.

To learn more about planning ahead, check out TD’s Planning site.

Back To Questions

Q8: How do we use budgeting to find opportunities to cut expenses?

Budgeting is the key to understanding where your income is going every month – so that you can stretch your dollar and find more money to build your savings. If you’re looking to cut expenses, then you need to review all of your Variable and Fixed expenses. Make a list, write each expense down (with the monthly costs), tally up the totals and review.

1. Variable Expenses: This is the first area to tackle because you can control how much you spend on things like groceries, gifts, clothing, entertainment, restaurants etc. Here are 3 examples:

  • Cut out specialty lattes – Even just one $4 latte a week could save you $208 a year
  • Brown bag your lunch – Substitute a homemade lunch with a $10 takeout lunch even just once a week – it’ll save you around $520 a year
  • Bottle up your water- If you gave up just one $1 bottle of water a day, you could save $365 each year

If you follow these tips diligently, then you’re on your way to saving over $1,000 a year! Learn to incorporate this into your daily routine and embrace even being a bit frugal (so you can spend money where it matters). Find more tips by checking out TD’s Get Saving site

2. Fixed Expenses: These expenses typically cannot be adjusted … or can they? This consists of the necessities including rent/mortgage, utilities, insurance, cable, phone etc. Look into bundling your insurance, get rid of those extra T.V. stations you don’t watch, shop around for a better internet package, waste less water, conserve electricity by waiting for off-peak times (you can typically defer the start time on dishwasher or laundry cycles). Another way to cut money is to reduce the interest paid on your credit card, which will help you payoff your debt faster. Contact your credit card provider and find out if they have another credit card with a better rate and simply transfer the balance over.

Back To Questions

Q9: How should you use a budget to manage our finances?

A successful budget should help you hold yourself accountable to what you can and can’t spend. The following is a five step process to help you get started in building your budget.

1. How much money do you have to work with? Write down what you end up getting paid every pay cycle. If you’re paid bi-weekly, multiply that number by two to find your monthly income. And if applicable also include government payments, investment income or additional income (including child support etc). Here’s how you can work out your numbers:

Example: Bi-weekly Pay: $1,500 X 2 = Monthly Pay: $3,000
Total Monthly Income: $3,000

2. Find out where you’re spending your money. Review the last three months bank statements to learn about your spending patterns. Categorize your spending in the following sections: rent or mortgage payments, utilities (water, electricity, heating costs), groceries and household items, entertainment (restaurants, other outings) etc. Track them on spreadsheet or consider programs like Quicken or

3. Now that you know where you’re spending your money, you need to make sure that you’re meeting your fixed expenses:

• rent or mortgage payment: $1,200
• utilities (water, electricity, heating costs): $160
• insurance (car insurance, home insurance, life insurance): $150
• communication (home phone, cell phone, internet, television): $150
• loan payments (car loan payments, etc.): $200
• savings (RSP contributions, TFSA/non-registered savings contributions): $150
Total fixed expenses: $2,010

Now subtract your total monthly fixed expenses, from your total monthly income. If we use the above example, it would be $3,000 - $2,010 = $990. You’d now know that you have $990 monthly or $495 ($990/2) every two weeks to spend on other expenses like food, gas, personal care, etc. because your fixed expenses are now accounted for. If you plug in your numbers and you’re not in the black, don’t worry, creating a budget is the first step to better organize your finances so that you’re not spending more than you’re bringing in.

I’d also recommend that you consider putting at least 10% of each pay towards savings (i.e. RSP contributions, TFSA contributions) as you want to ensure that you’re taking care of your future financially too. I included that in our example ($1,500 X 0.10 = $150).

4. With that taken care of, you have crossed off your fixed expense items and you’re left with the $990 monthly ($3,000 - $2,010) or $495 ($990/2) every two weeks, to take care of discretionary expenses like:

• groceries
• auto expenses (gas, car care)
• entertainment (restaurants, other outings)
• personal expenses (clothing, etc.)

5. The most important step; sticking to your budget.

Back To Questions

Q10: Is it better to focus on reducing debt or should we also try to save money?

There are many schools of thought on whether to pay off debt first, given that the interest rates are typically higher than rates of returns on savings. While there are compelling arguments on both sides, I still feel that the practice of saving, regardless of interest rates, is important because it establishes a positive discipline, and helps you develop a nest egg that can grow and compound over time. The key is to save money automatically and this can be easily done as most banks are able set up pre-authorized transfers that can take place weekly, bi-weekly or monthly.

One short term savings strategy that I like is putting the re-occurring savings into a High Interest Savings Account (HISA) that's held within a Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA). I think this combination offers a lot of benefits because: 1) Funds are automatically saved (no temptation to spend). 2) Funds are earning higher interest than a regular savings account. 3) Savings are accelerated because income is growing tax-free. 4) Funds invested in a HISA are principle guaranteed up to $100,000 by Canada Deposit Insurance Corp. This saving strategy can help you build your nest egg until you’re ready to diversity into other kinds of investments. To learn more about savings tips, tools and calculators check out TD's Get Saving site

Back To Questions

Q11: Is there such thing as good debt?

This is a good question and the answer is – yes, there is.

Good Debt can be referred to as the kind of borrowing that will pay off for you in the future – like a mortgage, student loan or even an RSP loan. A reasonable mortgage with payments you can handle would likely fall in the “good debt” category because you’re investing in something that will likely increase in value over time and, when all is said and done, you get to own a home! Or additionally, student loans may fall in this category because the payoff is education and possibly more earning power in the future. An RSP loan will allow you to make a contribution now, with the benefits of either lower taxes or a tax refund – plus you get to invest the funds that’ll grow tax deferred until you’re ready to retire. In these situations, the type of debt you’ll be carrying is considered good because you’re using temporary credit to get ahead in your future.

The type of debt that you should be cautious of is consumer debt, especially if it’s more expensive to service like high interest retail credit cards for example. This kind of debt should always be paid off as quickly as possible; otherwise you’ll be paying high amounts of interest with little to show for it.

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