Should you pay down your debt or build your savings?
It's important to both pay down debt and save.
VANCOUVER -- This year has forced millions of Canadians to make difficult financial decisions. And while the economic recovery is uneven, for people with some money left over at the end of the month, the question might be what to do with it. But there are some things you can do to manage your money during the pandemic.
Spend it or save it? That's the big question. And in these uncertain times, you want to choose wisely. As quickly as we make it, we seem to spend it, and can sometimes get into the red. But Andrea Bloome has devised a whole system to zero her credit cards and plan for her future at the same time.
"My best plan is to take the money before I ever even see it," she says. "So I don't even know it exists."
Penny Wang, a money expert with Consumer Reports, agrees with her strategy, and says it's important to find the right balance.
"It's difficult to tackle two financial goals at once, but if you take a two-pronged approach, you can save for retirement and pay down your debt at the same time," she says.
Start by taking a good, hard look at where your money is going. Several online tools can help you track your spending, including Mint.com, which is free, and YNAB, which stands for You Need a Budget, and costs $84 a year.
Then, look for ways to free up cash. You'll have the biggest impact with big ticket items, like housing or transportation, but small fixes can make a difference too. Savings from making coffee yourself or cooking at home can add up over time.
Next, prioritize your debt. High-interest credit cards should go first, and then lower interest debt like student loans. Setting up automatic payments, like Bloome has, can help make it mindless.
"It makes it much easier because that way you don't have to remember each month to send in the money and you know that your debt is being paid down regularly," Wang says.
At the same time, slide even a small amount into a rainy day fund for unexpected bills like car repairs. And continue to feed a retirement plan. If you have access to a plan at work, opt in.
It isn't always easy, but balancing debt against savings is the smart thing to do.
With files from Consumer Reports