Category Archives: Save Money

How Energy Saving Products can Help you Save Money

Many energy saving products have hit the market in the last few years, and many of them can help you save power and use renewable energy sources, thus saving money and preserving the environment. In this article we will present the best energy saving products and explain how they are used.

The first on this list is the solar charger. The solar charger is a device that makes use of the sun’s energy to charge the electrical devices that are present in your house, without the need for solar panels for your home. You can charge many electrical devices like iPods, iPhones and Digital Cameras. Just leave the batteries inside the device and without 5-8 hours the device will be 100% charged and ready to be used. The energy saving bulb is the second product that will help you save energy. Try not to use incandescent bulbs because it is known that around 90% of the electricity is required just to heat the tungsten metal filament – and is wasted.

The energy saving plug is another product on the list of energy saving products. It is a great energy saving device which helps you save big quantities of energy. Just plug your electric devices in this plug, and all the rest is taken care for: the plug will automatically shut the electricity if the devices are turned off. For example if you plug your PC into the electricity plug, and shut your PC off – the electricity will be automatically shut off. The plug automatically shuts down if your PC is switched off or on standby position – which helps you save electricity and decrease risk of fires at home due to electricity sparks.

The third product is the electricity monitor. By making use of the electricity monitor you can get to see the amount of electricity you are using, how much the electricity is costing and how much carbon dioxide emissions you are releasing to the environment. By using of the electricity monitor you can get information on how much you need to save in order to lower your power bill.
Another electricity saving product is a solar panel. By using solar panels you can harness the power of the sun to generate electricity for your home, and use a renewable energy source that does not harm the environment. Solar panels cost between $2,000 to $5,000, depending on the size and technology used, however this is an investment that you will return in 3-8 years.
Energy saving products help you become aware of how much electricity you are using, and improve your efficiency by reducing the electricity you use, and increasing the use of energy from renewable sources. Start using them today and help preserve the environment (and save money at the same time!)

Author: Dan Vanter

Dan Vanter is a writer that is dedicated to home made energy products and using it to save money on your electricity bill.

Are you on top of your Finances?

An occasional late fee on your credit card or a few extra dollars each month in insurance payments may not have been such a big deal in the past, but now every dollar counts. Find out how you can get on top of your finances and keep your pockets full with these easy tips.

Save on credit card payments

This may be one of the easiest areas of your financial life to save in. The top ways to save yourself from having to pay unnecessary fees on credit cards boils down to two simple acts: pay on time and never overdraw your account. The first of these is particularly important considering that many credit card companies drastically raise your interest rate if you pay late. You could see a jump of as much as 15% in interest, all for making your payment a few days late. An easy way to stay on top of your credit card is to sign up for online banking so that you can access your account from your computer and your mobile phone.
You should also check with your bank to see if you can categorize the purchases that you make on your credit card. Many credit companies will allow you to pay toward “everyday” purchases such as gas and groceries first, so that you don’t have to pay interest on these smaller totals from month to month. Then, you can pay towards your bigger debt balance with the money that you have left.

Save on mortgage payments

Most of the saving strategies for mortgage payments are applied at the beginning of your term. If you are on the market for a new home, you should first “clean up” your credit by paying off as much of your debt as you can before applying for a loan. This will increase your appeal to your bank or any other lenders that you may choose. Next, you should focus on saving up as much money as possible for a down payment on your home. You can significantly cut your mortgage term if you pay more towards your home at the outset. This may also earn you a better interest rate with your lender. Both of these benefits add up to paying off your home years earlier than you may have expected.

Save on insurance

The need for insurance, whether it is auto insurance, home insurance, or life insurance, is simply a fact of life. However, making sure that you protect your financial well being doesn’t have to be unpleasant. Find an insurance agent that you get along with well and this could open the door to fruitful negotiations on premiums and deductibles. The best and easiest way to save on insurance is to get a bundle package; that is, buy all of your insurance policies from the same companies in order to take advantage of discounts.

When it comes to auto insurance, you can keep your payments low by driving a safe, reliable car and taking care not to sully your driving record with too many violations. You can also save when you purchase home insurance by installing safeguards such as a security system and more smoke detectors in your home. Overall, you can ask your agent for discounts on all of your policies based on any professional organizations that you belong to.

Author bio: Michael Edmondstone is a personal finance expert that specializes in advising consumers on how to keep more of their hard-earned money.

10 Ways to Lower Your Monthly Bills

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One simple way to make money is to save it. If you’re maximizing your money-making power in the workplace and at home, putting in long hours and working over the weekend, you should make sure that your hard-earned dollars aren’t being thrown away on bills. Try out some of these personal finance tips to make sure that you’re retaining as much income as possible.

Energy

1. Compare electricity prices. In most areas, there’s more than one option available, so shop around to find out how you can get the best possible rate. You might consider asking frugal friends and neighbors which electricity providers they’ve chosen to help you make the best decision. If you find a cheaper option but want to stay with your current company, call and let them know that you’ve found a competitive rate. Often, you’ll be able to get the same lower rate from your current company.

2. Use energy efficient light bulbs in your home. Look for the Energy Star seal and keep your eyes open for good deals. You can often buy in bulk online or find extra-low discounts at Salvation Army stores or outlets.

Insurance

3. You can lower your car insurance bill if you pay by the year rather than by the month. You’ll get a discounted rate for paying up-front because you’ll be saving your insurance company the trouble of monthly billing. Another way to lower this bill is to take a defensive driving class. This costs $25 in most states, but you might want to call your insurance company and verify that the discount will be worth your while.

4. Compare insurance prices, then bundle your insurance. Insurance companies offer multi-policy discounts, so take advantage of this by using the same provider for both car and homeowner’s insurance.

Phone/Cable

5. Cancel your home phone line and use your cell phone exclusively. Just check to make sure that it supports your local emergency services before you disconnect your home line.

6. If you’d rather keep your home phone line, call your provider and ask for help reducing the cost of your phone plan. Most companies are happy to help you find and cancel superfluous charges because it’s better business than losing a customer.

Other

7. Cancel your gym membership and walk or run instead. You can also purchase your own free weights and other exercise equipment, which will save you money over time. A one-time purchase is almost always preferable to repeated charges.

8. Limit your credit card use. Keep only one or two cards, using them for large purchases, emergencies, and travel only. Make sure you pay them off every month to avoid being charged interest.

9. Cancel monthly subscriptions that you can do without. Even if you’d like to keep a few, you can get a better rate by subscribing to online versions.

10. Pay all of your bills online to save on postage and checks.

Bio: Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident education blogger and performs research surrounding College Scholarships. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

10 Websites Which Will Save You Money

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By now most people realize that shopping online will save them money. You can save money by shopping online not only because you can save money on travel and time on queues, but also because online stores are able to offer you cheaper prices on their products than a store with a shop front (i.e. overheads) could. However, not only can you save money online by doing your shopping, there are also hundreds and thousands of websites dedicated to helping you save even more on those online purchases and here is a top 10 list of websites which will save you money.

 

Coupon Code Websites

 

Coupon code websites, also known as promotional code websites, offer you discounts, free extras and cash back deals on just about any product or service you can think of; all you have to do is search the site and click through on a coupon which catches your eye to redeem the discount. There are numerous coupon code websites out there and this means the chances of you finding a coupon for your favourite online store or much needed service are high if you know where to look.

 

1 Retail Me Not http://www.retailmenot.com/

 

Retail Me Not offers you the choice of coupons from over 40,000 different retailers, but there is also more to the site than just the actual savings. When you become a member of the Retail Me Not online community you have access to the site’s blog and discussion forums, plus you’ll receive regular emails about upcoming events and competitions, so not only can you save money but you also have the chance to pick up some great prizes. As part of the Retail Me Not online community users share their tips and advice for saving money online, plus the site is well designed and easily laid out so you don’t feel you’ve stumbled into an online scam with a lot of flashing ads and glaringly ugly headings. So if you’re wondering where to start in your search for online bargains, click these coupons and their extras.

 

2 Coupon Codes 4 U http://www.couponcodes4u.com/

 

Another very user friendly coupon code website, and one which gives you a little advice before you start using the site on how the coupons work, and things to look out for before you choose a coupon. For those new to coupon code websites Coupon Codes 4 U will remind you to check expiry dates for example, and the site has a short list of the moth’s top retailers with coupon codes available. Coupon Codes 4 U also accepts coupon submissions from its users so if you come across a coupon which doesn’t suit you but you want to share it, you can submit it to the site for someone else to make use of.

 

Cash Back Websites

 

Many comparison websites will receive a commission from retailers they link to when a user clicks through to that retailer’s site. With cash back websites, they pass on this commission to the user, sometimes in full and sometimes just a portion of it. Regardless of the percentage, starting your online shopping at a cash back site could mean getting sometimes hundreds of dollars back on a purchase you would have made directly from the retailer’s site anyway.

 

3 Quidco http://www.quidco.com/

 

Quidco is one of the cash back sites which passes on 100% of their commission from retailers to their members. Originally founded to help students save money online, Quidco charges members just £5 a year which is deducted from one of their cash backs to keep the site running. This means Quidco is completely independent so you’re not bombarded with advertising and you don’t have to worry that you’re being directed to retailers who are sponsoring the site, rather than the ones which are really best for you.

 

4 Manufacturer websites

 

Often retailers and manufacturers will offer specials and cash back deals to encourage sales. These may be online or in store, but you generally have to buy the product and then apply online by entering your receipt number to redeem your cash back. When you’re in the store you are usually caught up in the savings you are going to make when your cash back cheque comes, so it is important to remember to go to the manufacturer or retailer’s website to redeem your cash back offer – it is usually as simple as filling out an online form and waiting for the cheque to arrive in the mail.

 

Discount Websites

 

The internet is a great place to find great bargains, if you know where to look and there are entire websites dedicated to discounting the products you are looking for.

 

5 Kitchenware Direct http://www.kitchenwaredirect.com.au/

 

It can be expensive to kit out a whole kitchen, especially when you want to fill your kitchen with all the great brands your friends can’t afford. That’s why you need to shop online for your kitchenwares at a dedicated online discount store. Kitchenware Direct invites you to become a member of the site and receive notifications about special offers – sometimes the site may offer free shipping (which can normally be expensive on bulky or fragile kitchen items – or will offer site wide discounts off their prices which are already cheaper than the stores.

 

6 Banana Blue http://www.bananablue.com.au/

 

Banana Blue is an online supermarket and shopping for your groceries online is a great way to save money. The weekly shop can take a substantial bite out of your budget and if you can save money on your groceries it will make a big difference to your bottom line. By shopping online you buy only what you need and none of those impulse items, plus Banana Blue is backed by IGA Group and guarantee you 100% quality and freshness.

 

Comparison Websites

 

You don’t have to do all your shopping online to use these websites to save money. There are a number of comparison websites online which allow you to shop around for the best prices on products before you leave the house, so you know you’re getting the best deal. Comparison websites are also used to keep retailers or service providers competitive in their pricing, which means you can save even more.

 

7 Fuel Watch http://motormouth.com.au/pricesearch.aspx

 

Fuel is one thing you can’t buy online, but you can use the internet to help you find the best price out on the road. Fuel prices fluctuate according to the day of the week, the time of the day and the street that you’re on so you can save a lot of money by entering your post code into Motor Mouth and finding the cheapest fuel at that exact time. Fuel prices are updated in the morning and afternoon each day, and the site collects prices for all major cities.

 

8 Grocery Watch http://www.grocery-watch.com/

 

After the Australian Government tried and failed to launch a site in 2008 for groceries which reported the prices of items in a similar way to the fuel watch sites used around the country, in 2009 social media took over and Twitter was used to launch a working Grocery Watch website. The site offers you a free membership, with which you can make a list of the items you will be looking for, find any coupons or discount offers which are available and prints your shopping list with the location of the cheapest items on the list.

 

Online Auctions

 

We’ve all heard of eBay, but it’s not the only place online you can save by beating other shoppers to the bid. The best way to save money with online auctions is to stay across the board of all auctions, and find an auction site which works with the way you shop.

 

9 eBay http://www.ebay.com/

 

Once you register for the free membership to eBay you can view hundreds of thousands of new and used items for sale at prices far below those you would find in any store. You also don’t have to worry about buying used items if you don’t want to because there are many eBay sellers who use the site as their main income to sell their products new, still in the packet, but at reduced online auction prices. eBay also has proven conflict resolution systems in place and take the privacy of their buyers and sellers very seriously so it is a great place to start your online shopping adventures if you’re new to all this.

 

10 Bid Rivals http://www.bidrivals.com/au/

 

Bid Rivals is an online auction site with a difference, but the difference is that it is more like a traditional auction in that you can make live bids, onscreen. Bid Rivals has very cheap items in a range of categories and you actually purchase the bids, rather than pay an amount for the item. When you sign up to the site you are given one free bid and you can also buy bid packages. You can then visit live auctions where you choose to spend your bid in the hopes that no one else bids before the time runs out on that item. Because the cost of the bids is much less than the cost of the actual item you can make savings of around 60-70% if you get your bid in before the time ends, and after everyone else has spent their bids.

 

Article brought to you by Fred who writes for Credit Card Finder, where he helps people to compare credit cards and choose the best credit card online.

27 Ways to Save Energy & Money Heating Your Water

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A hot shower is a great way to relax and refresh and can be a real comfort in the cold weather. However, when you consider the costs of this luxury you may start looking for new indulgences. Instead of giving up your reliance on hot water, follow these tips for ways to conserve energy when heating your water, to save on your energy bills, and look after the environment.

1 Turn the water heater on only when needed

It will cost you nothing to go and flip the switch on when you need hot water, and off again when you don’t, because the heater remains on (and consuming energy), even when you’re not using the hot water.

2 Stick to showers

As long as you don’t stand under the shower for hours at a time, a shower will use less water – and therefore need to heat less hot water – than filling a bath.

3 Use the shower closest to the water heater

If you have more than one bathroom in your home it is likely the water will have to travel a further distance to one of your showers. Therefore, using the shower closer to the water heater means the water has a shorter distance to travel and will lose less heat in getting to you – this means you can use less hot water, because the water you are getting is hotter.

4 Only use hot water when necessary

When you rinse your dishes or wash your hands, you don’t need to be using hot water, as cold will work just as well, and doesn’t use any energy.

5 Turn down the shower temperature

If you can go without the steam facial, then you don’t need to have a super hot shower – you can use less hot water and have a warm shower to save energy.

6 Have a cold shower

Perhaps not an option in winter, but a cold shower is refreshing in summer, and if you’re not going to miss having a hot shower, why not take the opportunity to conserve energy?

7 Turn the water heater down when on holiday

If you are going away and no one will be in your house, turn the temperature setting on your water heater right down. You won’t need the water to be heating while you’re away, and if you have a natural gas water heater you can turn the heater right down to the pilot light to save energy.

8 Wear your pyjamas more than once

If you do your washing in warm water, consider what you are washing – how dirty do your PJs really get that you need to change them every night? The less washing you have to do, the less hot water you will need to heat.

9 Have shorter showers

Shortening your showers will use less water, and in turn less hot water needs to be heated, conserving energy.

10 Share showers

If you have a husband, wife or partner then you’re obviously happy with them, so why not conserve energy by cutting down the number of showers your household takes by sharing a shower?

11 Turn off the tap when shaving

If you use hot water when you shave that’s fine, but there is no reason to leave the water running while you shave – fill up the basin and then turn off the tap to conserve energy.

12 Turn off the tap when washing

If you are washing dishes by hand, when you are not filling the sink or rinsing the dishes, turn off the tap and save water.

13 Don’t supersize your hot water heater

A larger hot water heater will use more energy to heat up the water, therefore, if you’re living in a household with two adults why choose a family sized heater?

14 Use a lower temperature of hot water

Turning your hot water heater down a couple of degrees will mean you use less energy when heating your water, and just a small change is likely to go unnoticed.

15 Low-flow shower head

If there is less water coming through the shower head, then less hot water needs to be heated – conserving energy.

16 Insulate the hot water heater

If the base temperature of the water in your hot water tank is warmer, it doesn’t have to work as hard, or use as much energy, to heat your water. It is easy enough to wrap your hot water tank with insulation.

17 Insulate your hot water pipes

If the water is hotter when it arrives at the tap or shower, you will need to use less, so insulate your hot water pipes so the water loses less heat in transit.

18 Time your showers

It is easy to lose track of time when you’re relaxing in a steamy shower so while you go into the bathroom with the intention of having a short shower, are you really? Set a timer for each shower and see how much time you really need to get clean.

19 Repair leaking taps

If your hot water taps are leaking have them repaired straight away because while you can catch and reuse the water leaking from a tap, if it’s hot water, you’ve already paid to heat it, for it to just leak out and all that heat to go to waste.

20 Use a front loading washing machine

Front loading machines use less hot water than top loaders and when you are doing a load with hot or warm water, you will need less energy to heat that smaller amount of water.

21 Use a pool cover

If you have a pool then you are paying to heat the water, so make sure when you’re not using the pool, the cover is on to not only save on water evaporation, but also to keep in the heat.

22 Position your pool in full sun

If you’re yet to install your pool, see whether you can position it in full sun in your backyard. This will mean your water heater doesn’t have to work as hard to heat the water, and can conserve energy.

23 Trap the heat in your hot water tank

Some hot water tanks will allow you to place a heat trap on top to keep the heat in the water, rather than letting the heat escape and using more energy to reheat the water.

24 Use a tankless hot water system

These hot water systems heat the water only when it is in use as it runs through the system to be heated, before heading into the taps to be used. Therefore, you’re not paying to heat your water when you don’t need any.

25 Upgrade your hot water tank

An old hot water heater can be costing you money as it is doing an inefficient job of heating your water. New hot water heaters are very energy efficient and after the initial investment will save you money.

26 Use a timer for the hot water heater

Most homes use their peak amounts of hot water in the mornings and evenings. Therefore, instead of having to remember to turn the hot water heater on and off to save energy when you’re not using it, set a timer to turn the heater off over night, and back on again in time for the morning rush.

27 Solar hot water system

Solar hot water systems can be a significant investment, but over time they are going to save you energy. Using energy from the sun to heat your water you are choosing the environmentally friendly option so you can feel good about your choice for the planet too – just keep in mind many solar hot water systems require a tankless system as back up, which can potentially increase the cost.

When a little commonsense and forward planning can help you conserve energy when heating your water, why wouldn’t you make the change? Not only will you be saving money on your next bill, but you’ll also be helping reduce your impact on the environment.

Author Bio: Fred Schebesta writes about saving money at Savings Account Finder.

Top tips from financial experts

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Hi everyone. Here are some excellent money and personal finance tips care of Yahoo Finance Canada.  They asked some of their favorite personal finance experts for their top tips and these four themes emerged. I hope you apply these tips! Here they are:

BUILD YOUR MARGIN OF SAFETY

Benjamin Graham, the father of value investing, considered it vital for investors to build a margin of safety into their calculations. According to Graham, if you’re buying a stock, you should insist on paying a price so low that even if the market turns sour and the stock turns out to be a dud, you still recover most of your money.

It’s an excellent idea to apply the same thinking to all aspects of your personal finances. The next decade is shaping up as a tumultuous time. You should plan your future with a margin of safety so that unexpected expenses or emergencies can’t derail you.

A good place to start is by stowing a couple of months of living expenses in a savings account or money market fund. A stash of cash ensures that if your job disappears, or you fall ill, you can survive until you find a more permanent solution.

Another way to increase your margin of safety is to eschew debt. “There are only two reasons you might want to consider borrowing — for your first home and for your education,” says Jim Otar, a certified financial planner and founder of retirementoptimizer.com.

If you’re newly married and thinking about buying a home, leave yourself room to breathe. Norm Rothery, chief investment strategist at Dan Hallett & Associates, says newlyweds often buy as much house as they can afford. But if one of you loses your job, or if one of you decides to stay home when Junior comes along, panic can ensue. “It’s a good idea to make sure that you can afford the mortgage on one salary — just in case,” says Rothery.

As you edge into retirement, a margin of safety becomes even more vital. Don’t assume your portfolio will generate double-digit returns. Don’t even assume the market will always go up.

The greatest danger comes if you hit a major market downturn in the first couple of years after you quit work. Say you start out with a $200,000 portfolio that you are counting on to produce 7% annual returns — in other words, $14,000 a year in income.

That doesn’t sound wildly unrealistic. But what if the market falls by a third in the first year of your retirement? What if it plateaus for the next five years while you keep on withdrawing $14,000 a year? By the time the turnaround finally comes, you will have only about $65,000 left. Even a vigorous recovery won’t provide enough profit to maintain the level of withdrawals you would like.

To avoid this dire situation, insist on a margin of safety. Experts say you should count on withdrawing no more than an inflation-adjusted 4% of your initial portfolio every year. If you have a $200,000 retirement portfolio, withdraw only $8,000 in income the first year. Every year bump up that amount by the rate of inflation. History demonstrates that keeping your withdrawals to 4% should allow you to weather even the market’s worst storms.

SEEK GOOD ADVICE

Did your financial planner warn you to get out of the market ahead of last year’s crash? Probably not. If there’s one thing that the recent market turmoil has demonstrated, it’s that experts have no more insight into what is going to happen next than you or I do.

If you want to prosper over the next decade, you should think twice about whether you really need professional advice — and how much you’re willing to pay for it. If you’re a typical Canadian, who invests primarily through mutual funds, you already hand over about $2,000 a year in fees for every $100,000 you have invested. You pay that year after year after year. You don’t notice the bite, because mutual funds deduct fees before reporting results to you, but as a general rule, the fees on a typical fund chew up a quarter to a half of the after-inflation gains your money will generate.

You can slash your fees and keep more of the profits for yourself by investing in low-cost index funds. (For more on this strategy, see the Couch Potato portfolio section of moneysense.ca.) If this plan doesn’t appeal, you should look for ways to drive a better deal with your financial planner.

Start by understanding what a planner can — and can’t — do for you. The right planner can be a huge help if you’re dealing with complicated tax issues or estate planning problems or insurance questions. But financial planners are not investment gurus. They can’t reliably predict which stocks will pop, which mutual funds will do best next year or how the economy will perform in the months ahead. No one can. If you’re looking to a planner primarily for market tips, it’s time to think again.

While you’re thinking, devote a bit of attention to how your planner is getting paid. Most planners work on a commission basis and earn money for selling you products. The more products they sell you, the more they make. “No matter how conscientious they may be, there is an inherent conflict of interest if your financial planner only gets paid when they sell you something like a mutual fund,” says Marc Lamontagne, a fee-only planner with the planning firm of Ryan Lamontagne in Ottawa. “If you’re looking for independent financial advice from an advocate who works for you, and not the mutual fund company, you should choose a financial planner who is compensated in a way that aligns your interest with theirs.”

The best plan is to seek out a planner whom you can pay by the hour. This removes any conflict of interest. You’ll pay more upfront for the advice — $500 to $2,000 would be typical for a detailed consultation, complete with budget and portfolio plan — but most of that is a one-time expense. (You may want to pay smaller amounts for an annual update with the same planner, but that’s entirely up to you.) Once your plan is in place, you’ll save money over the long run because you won’t be paying hidden fees for unnecessary products. For a list of fee-only planners, visit moneysense.ca.

PAY DEBTS. OR SAVE. BUT NOT BOTH

It happens time and time again. A young couple pinches pennies, lives on Kraft Dinner and forgoes vacations so they can pay their mortgage, cover their daycare bills — and contribute to an RRSP. They complain about feeling trapped and penniless.

No wonder. By trying to simultaneously save and pay down debt, they guarantee slow progress on both fronts.

A better strategy is to focus first on erasing debt. This guarantees you a good return on your money. Simply paying down credit card bills gives you an after-tax return of 18% a year with absolutely no risk. Even paying down your mortgage provides you with a guaranteed after-tax return of 5% or so. Those returns are better than you can expect in an RRSP. And since you can carry forward your RRSP contribution room to future years, you’re not losing the ability to save for your retirement. Once your mortgage and other debts are paid off, you can redirect the income that you were previously using to pay down debt and pour it into your RRSP.

If nothing else, this debt-first strategy will improve your mood because it will allow you to focus on a single goal. “Many Canadians are stretched to the limit in their 30s and early 40s,” says Malcolm Hamilton, a consulting actuary with the benefits consultant Mercer. “They have debts to repay and children to raise. Not much is left for retirement savings. The important thing is to live frugally and pay down your debts as fast as you can without cheating yourself of what should be an enjoyable part of your life. For young families with children, frugality is a virtue… savings, not so much.”

DON’T PREDICT. PREPARE

It’s tempting to try and predict how the future is going to unfold, then bet everything on that scenario. Most of the time, though, that strategy doesn’t work. Economists who spend every day following the market rarely get the future right. It’s optimistic to assume that you can do better than the pros in a few hours of your spare time.

A better strategy is to prepare yourself in a way that will pay off no matter which way the future bends.

Exactly how you do this depends upon your individual situation. Is your problem that you’re not saving any money? Then buy a pocket notepad. “Keep it with you wherever you go,” says Debbie Gillis of K3C/Kingston Credit Counselling in Kingston, Ont. “Track what you spend every day for a few months. Write down every cent you spend. This is a very powerful tool. It shows very clearly just where you are spending your money.” Once you know where you’re spending, it’s often obvious where you can trim back spending.

For many of us, problems are more subtle. Consider your investing portfolio. Is it risky enough to generate the returns you need? Or too risky? David Martin, an associate with Second Opinion Investor Services in Halifax, says he sees many clients who are either too cautious or too aggressive with their investments.

He recommends you look ahead to see how much money you will need down the road, then work backwards from there. Using realistic assumptions, figure out how much you will have to save to amass the amount you desire. One common mistake is for people on the verge of retirement to still have a high-risk portfolio, full of stocks, when their goals could easily be met with a more conservative mix. “You have to have a plan with goals and objectives and you have to invest according to it,” says Martin. “Don’t take on more risk than you have to.”

Bear markets are going to occur every four to six years and you have to be prepared to weather them. Richard Deaves, author of What Kind of an Investor Are You?, says your best bet is to pick a mix of stocks and bonds that fits your needs and temperament and stick to it no matter what the market is doing. “There is abundant evidence that even sophisticated market practitioners have little success in timing the market,” says Deaves. If in doubt about how to build your portfolio, consider a 60-40 blend of stocks and bonds. This mix provides both growth (in the form of stocks) as well as a solid base of income (from bonds). Once a year, rebalance things, taking a bit of money out of the investments that have done the best over the past year and investing it back in the areas that have lagged. This simple technique ensures you always buy low and sell high.