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How to DIY your personal finances and gain control

DIY personal finance is a relatively new concept. We all want to have a solid financial plan, maintain a healthy financial life and be able to reach our financial goals.
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Managing our financial lives can be challenging at times—luckily, help is available.

DIY personal finance is a relatively new concept.

We all want to have a solid financial plan, maintain a healthy financial life and be able to reach our financial goals. Yet many in Dawson Creek question if this is something we can actually achieve on our own. Don’t we need to leave the decision-making to the professionals and pay for financial advice?

Thankfully there is an abundance of online personal finance resources available. These days it’s entirely possible to gain control of your finances yourself; there is no longer any need to pay fees for external help.

As a bonus, you can completely customize your approach. This means creating your own goals, making your own decisions, choosing your investments and going at a pace you feel comfortable with—100 per cent personalization. There’s also a very real sense of accomplishment to be had from designing your own financial roadmap.

The importance of financial literacy in personal finance

Financial literacy is the basis of a solid financial foundation. When you understand the ins and outs, you can make better financial decisions all around, in saving, spending and borrowing.

“There are countless free online resources available to Canadians looking to improve their personal finances,” explains Caitlin Wood, Chief Content Officer for Loans Canada and Rate Genie. “Consumers should check out the Government of Canada’s website as it covers many money and finance topics. With both Loans Canada and Rate Genie, we are always publishing content to empower Canadians to improve their financial knowledge.”

If you’re interested, McGill University offers a free online financial literacy course. It takes a few hours to complete and is open to all. Taught by professors from the school’s Desautels Faculty of Management, when you finish all of the course modules and you’ll receive an official McGill Personal Finance Essentials attestation of completion.

As Wood recommends, another great resource is the Government of Canada website. It covers multiple aspects of managing your money, including budget making, banking, credit reports and credit scores, insurance, retirement and estate planning.

Canada’s largest personal loan comparison website, Loans Canada.ca, is another great tool that can help you make good financial decisions. The site supplies quotes from different lenders, selects the best lender for you and helps save time.

How to improve your financial health

Learn how to create a budget. Budgeting lets you track and control your spending; you can see clearly where your money is going. A budget can also help you set aside an emergency fund, as well as meet other financial goals.

Where to start? Try Mint, a free online budget tracker and planner. Another great option is YNAB (You Need A Budget), personal budgeting software based on The Four Rules principle. Both show you how to gain control of your money and make smart financial decisions.

Be sure to set aside a regular amount for investing. It may seem out of reach, but investing is a key component of financial planning. It allows you to grow your wealth and can help you reach your financial goals; it’s critical when saving for retirement or your children’s education.

Open your own tax-free savings account (TFSA), online or in-person at your local bank. If you’re comfortable with online banking, try a robo advisor. Online investment management services such as Wealthsimple or WealthBar are both easy to use.

Finally, devise your debt management plan. Begin to pay down what you owe, only taking on new debt that you can handle. Good debt can actually increase your credit score.

If you still feel you need help, seek the services of a credit counsellor. They can assist with all aspects of personal finance: basic budgeting, credit health, credit improvement and creating debt repayment plans. If a more drastic solution is required, such as debt consolidation, debt relief, consumer proposal or bankruptcy, they will advise you.

Managing our financial lives can be challenging at times. Luckily, help is available. Start with the resources listed above and if you need advice or direction, just ask.