Hitting the Reset Button
We’ve all been there: in over our heads, panic starting to set in, wishing we could simply reach out, hit the big red button, and RESET! – start over from the beginning using what we know and what we’ve learned through trial and, yes, error.
Hasn’t everyone wished for a magic button they could press to start something over again? Especially for their finances? Maybe you made an investment that fell flat. Maybe you didn’t save enough in your youth and your retirement plan is set to be a struggle. Perhaps you’ve let credit cards or other items lapse into collections, leading to negative effects on your credit. No matter the case, hitting “reset” can be a significant challenge – but it is sometimes possible.
The first step to a “reset” of your expenses is categorizing them. Make a list, check it twice, and include everything – from fundamentals like rent or mortgage costs to leisure and luxury items. Once this is done, you can reboot your priorities and eliminate items that you don’t need or are not already in an obligation to pay.
Much like putting your body on a diet, cutting expenses rapidly will not be sustainable as a “reset” option without some form of exercise to supplement it and make your finances stronger. These are things like more active budgeting, implementing a tracking system for your spending, starting monthly contributions to savings vehicles like a TFSA, and converting your day-to-day spending to cash instead of card.
Debt and Credit Score
Because of the way credit scores are tallied and recorded, “resetting” them is a lot harder than making a bright line between your old spending habits and your new ones. Credit scores can take a while to rebound even if you’re doing better with your debt management and paying off outstanding items. If you have a low or poor credit ranking, it might take several months to a year before you’re back in “fair” or “good” territory. This timeline can be accelerated most effectively by paying off late and past-due items, as well as by limiting credit spending while still maintaining an open credit account with a low balance but a consistent pattern of use.
If you’ve come to the realization that you need to kick your savings goals into gear, one of the best ways to “reset” your mindset to be more saving-oriented is to set up autocontributions to specific accounts and savings vehicles (like TFSAs) so that they are “built in” to your budgeting process. That way, you won’t be as likely to inadvertently redirect money away from where you may need it in the future.
No matter what stage of life you’re in, or what situation you are in financially, there are ways to make up for mistakes. You can’t necessarily wave your hand and wish away problems that have beset your personal finances, but a “reset button” mentality – especially the all-in commitment it may require – could be a powerful first step to making things right.