Click on the titles below for resources that will help you get your financial “house” in order:
+ Creating a Budget That Really Works
The real trick to saving more is to create a budget and stick to it. Laurie Campbell, a program manager with the nonprofit Credit Counselling Service of Toronto, provides this four-step process to help you keep on top of your spending:
1. Establish a savings goal.
The first step toward creating a budget is to set a goal: it could be putting away a fixed amount in your RRSP every year, planning a kitchen renovation or paying for your child’s braces. Or maybe you’ve used $15,000 on your line of credit and you want to pay it off in two years. Your goal would be to apply $625 toward that debt every month.
Setting a goal lets you keep your eyes on the prize. “It’s the entire reason for the budget and keeps you motivated about saving,” says Campbell.
2. Track your spending.
This is the time-consuming part. For a month or two, you and your spouse should each write down every single cent you spend — from the 75-cent newspaper you pick up on your way to work to the bag of chips you buy at your kid’s hockey practice. Add it all up at the end of the month and apply this total against your net earnings to see if — and how much — you may be coming up short.
If you want to go the high-tech route there are software programs, such as Intuit’s Quicken and Microsoft’s Money, that allow you to track expenses, or you can simply log everything onto an Excel spreadsheet. Do what works best for you.
- TIP 1: To track daily expenses, stick a Post-it note in your wallet and jot down all your purchases. Then transfer them to a notebook or software program once you’re at home.
- TIP 2: Credit Counselling Service of Toronto offers a free booklet called Staying on Track, which is designed for just this purpose; to order one, call 1-800-267-2272.
3. Calculate where to cut.
Here’s where your real work begins. It’s time to evaluate each category and determine how you can trim, or slash, expenses. You may be surprised by how much money gets gobbled up by seemingly inconsequential things — going grocery shopping without your list (or when you’re hungry) might eat up $50 more than usual; the Friday night dinner, movie and babysitter combo can set you back $150.
Think about where you buy your groceries, shop at discount food stores, stop buying coffee out every day, and consider hanging out laundry instead of running the dryer. A lot of little changes add up to big savings.
4. Review and assess continually.
Now that you’ve got your budget in place and you know exactly how much to allot for things such as clothes, groceries and insurance every month, the next step is to keep yourself honest by continuously reviewing your financial affairs. Regularly assessing your budget lets you see if you’re getting closer to your goals. “Once you create a new pattern of spending for a few months, it becomes ingrained in your lifestyle and you’ll be able to meet your goals,” says Campbell. After the first month or two, you won’t have to write down everything you spend in order to keep your budget on track.
Here are some links to grocery coupons and other savings to help you on your way:
+ Sample Budget Worksheets
Sticking to a budget isn’t always easy. Despite our best intentions to stick to a budget, it’s easy to fall off the wagon and spend money we shouldn’t. Beware of these potential pitfalls:
1. Gift giving. Not surprisingly, the holiday season can be the worst time for people who are trying hard not to overspend, says Laurie Campbell of the Credit Counselling Service of Toronto. “We can go over the top buying presents for people, because it’s emotional spending,” she says.
2. No emergency fund. Not having money saved for emergencies can derail your budget.
3. Budgeting too well. A budget that’s too restrictive can make you yearn to break loose and indulge in impulse spending. So allow yourself some small indulgences. What to do if you slip up? “Don’t be too hard on yourself,” says Campbell. Just start fresh and figure out how you can do better next month. “The key is to learn from your mistakes.”
Below are 3 sample budget worksheets. We invite you to download the one that best suits your needs to help you budget your monthly expenses:
- The Detailed Budget Worksheet developed by Credit Counselling Services of Peterborough.
- The Interactive Budget Planner developed by Family Services Thames Valley in London, Ontario. This worksheet allows you to change your amounts and it automatically adds up the totals.
Tax Clinics, Credit Counselling & Other Financial Advice
Income Support Programs
For information on Income Support Programs you may be eligible for click here to access the Income Support Programs information located in the City of Toronto’s Welcome Home: A guide to Services for Tenants.
Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)
- The deadline for filing your tax return is usually at the end of April
- You can fill out and send your tax return on paper or electronically
- Print forms are available online, at postal outlets or Service Canada offices between February and early May.
- You can also request a copy by calling the CRA
- See the website for a list of free tax clinics
Chartered Professional Accountants Ontario
Free CPA Tax Clinics
- Volunteer chartered accountants prepare income tax returns free of charge for eligible individuals and families in co-operation with community agencies
- Clinics run from mid-February until the end of March
- Call or visit the website fro an updated list of clinic locations and to confirm eligibility
Toronto Public Library
- See the website for details about income tax clinics and information workshops
- Some clinics may require an appointment
Financial Empowerment and Problem Solving
- Workshops, income tax clinic, mobile worker
- One-on-one support, income tax clinic, mobile worker
- Information, referral and advocacy
Consolidated Credit Counselling Services of Canada
505 Consumers Road Suite 400
Monday – Thursday 8:30 am – 8:00 pm
Friday 8:30 am – 6:00 pm
Saturday 9:00 am – 2:00 pm
- Free credit counselling and budgeting assistance to people struggling with debt
Credit Canada Debt Solutions
208 Evans Avenue Suite 105 (Etobicoke)
55 Town Centre Court Suite 630 (Scarborough)
2 Carlton Street Suite 1304 (Toronto)
Monday – Thursday 8:00 am – 7:00 pm
Friday 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
Saturday 8:30am – 4:30 pm
- Free debt assessment and credit counselling
Four non-profit agencies provide budgeting, financial literacy and bill and rent payment assistance to people on low incomes. All have waiting lists.
- Serves Bloor Street East Danforth to Lake Ontario, Don Valley Parkway to Yonge Street
Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee
The office of the Public Guardian manages the financial affairs of people who have been formally assessed by a capacity assessor and have been deemed mentally incapable of managing their finances. A list of capacity assessors can be obtained from the Capacity Assessment Office. The person or agency who requests the assessment is responsible for paying the capacity assessor. Capacity assessors set their own hourly rates which can be as high as $180 an hour. The Financial Assistance Program is available to cover the cost of the assessment in specific situations:
- The person or a family member requests the assessment
- The person being assessed must agree to the assessment
- The person requesting the assessment is eligible for financial assistance and is willing and able to complete a financial assistance application
Office of the Public Guardian – Capacity Assessment Office
416-327-6766 or 416-327-6424
595 Bay Street Suite 800