New year, new spending habits

Money mistake #1: Not paying off debt quickly

If you’re in the red, you’re not alone. In 2022, Canada’s mortgage load experienced the biggest year-to-year jump in more than a decade, and everyone is feeling the pinch as inflation raises the price of everything from groceries to holiday gifts. Budgets are tight, which makes paying off bills trickier.

Not all debt is created equal. Some debts, like a low-interest line of credit or a student loan with an interest-free grace period, might not be as pressing as those with higher interest rates. Overall, though, debt reduction is always a good strategy. That’s because, of course, over time the interest owed on a loan will really add up. In fact, an estimated 41% of Canadians carry a growing credit card balance every month. (Having a credit card that pays you back is key; read on for advice on finding the right one for your family.) Start off the new year with a clean slate—or, at least, a strategy to get you in the black as as soon as possible.

Not sure where to start? There are three main methods for tackling debt. You could try the snowball strategy, where you pay off the smallest line of credit or credit card balance first, rolling payment amounts together for a bigger impact as your debts are eliminated. Another option is the avalanche method, where you focus on wiping out the debt with the largest interest rate first, then snowball that payment onto the next-largest debt, until everything is paid off. Or, if you have a low-interest line of credit tied to your home equity, for example, you could consolidate several small debts into one easy-to-track payment.

Money mistake #2: Using the wrong credit card


Paying with plastic comes with some perks. In addition to being super-convenient, purchasing groceries and covering household bills with a credit card can also help you bump up your credit score. According to Equifax—one of the two credit bureaus that track Canadians’ credit histories—having two or three active credit cards, in addition to other types of credit, like a line of credit, looks good on a credit report. And a good card will pay you back in rewards that ultimately save you cash. In short, using the right card is a win-win.

When comparing credit cards, consider the account terms, including the interest rate and the rewards, to choose one that meets your family’s specific needs. If, for example, you aren’t avid jetsetters, a travel rewards card might not be worthwhile.

A woman holds her smartphone and a credit card
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

The Walmart Rewards Mastercard and Walmart Rewards World Mastercard have no annual fees, and they pay you back for purchases at Walmart stores, gas stations and just about everywhere else. If you’re more of an online shopper, the Walmart Rewards World Mastercard lets you earn 3% in Walmart Reward Dollars at Walmart.ca. You can watch your Walmart Reward Dollars add up, then put them toward all kinds of free stuff, from cleaning supplies to new snowsuits for the kids, or anything in between.

Money mistake #3: Not talking about money

Despite how more relaxed we are than generations ago, it’s still generally considered taboo to talk about your income, your investment portfolio or your retirement savings plan. Most people shy away from financial discussions with colleagues and friends. For those who grew up in a household with a no-money-talk mantra, it can be particularly difficult to have open and meaningful conversations about finances, even with a partner.

Not sure where to start? Begin by introducing simple exchanges about household spending into dinnertime conversation—even with the kids. Let them hear about, and get involved in, discussions around saving up for a family trip, for example.

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