It’s not easy to regain control of your financial life, as it usually seen in a negative light in that you are experiencing financial difficulties. This is also what I thought before meeting Marc Blais. He is an accountant, financial coach and author and he has a very psychological and sociological perspective on personal finances.
Regaining control of your life
According to Blais, regaining control of your financial life simply means taking control of your life, overall. One of the main reasons that we feel like we’re crumbling under the pressure of expenses is because we “have not defined ourselves as a person, or that we have no clear life goals”. Blais points out that when you do not have any goals, “you do anything and go anywhere”.
“That's why many people don’t have control of their financial lives,” he said. “In fact, if you don’t take control of your life, someone else will do it for you.”
The dangers of consumption
The main downfall when managing your personal finances is to succumb to the temptation to buy. If you don’t have specific life goals, you may be tempted to spend your money buying goods you don’t need. Blais says that marketing techniques to convince us to buy superfluous products are increasingly powerful and effective. Sales techniques are now a blend of marketing and psychology.
Blais explains that large companies see and understand certain people’s fears, and they play on them. “The products for sale in stores, like perfumes, cars and clothing, are designed to appeal to our weaknesses.”
There are two things to remember here. First of all, we must be aware that the environment in which we live seeks to make us buy constantly. Lighting, smells, colours, music; everything is designed to make us consume. In the end, when you are about to make a purchase, ask yourself the question: is it really useful?
Blais says that there are two ways to avoid these traps. First, “don’t consider the mall as a place to go randomly visit “. Second, “try to establish your real needs”. Don’t go to the store with just a general idea about the purchases you intend to make; you must be specific. Identifying a specific need is like saying, “I need a blue shirt” rather than “I need new clothes”.
What are your goals?
You must set goals, above all. Let's say you want to go on vacation next winter. You must first define your project, including the destination, duration, and overall cost…then plan on what date you’d like to leave. Lastly, calculate how much it will cost you to go on vacation at this destination on this date. For example, if this vacation is planned for this time next year and the cost is $2000, you should save $167 a month for a year.
If you want to accomplish this project, open a dedicated account for it and calculate the amount you must deposit into it each month to reach your goal. This method also works for longer-term projects such as buying a house, saving for your children’s education in an RESP, or saving for retirement through a TFSA or RRSP account.
According to Blais, you need to have separate accounts, a firm intention and a well-thought out objective in order to increase your chances of accomplishing each of your goals.
Does this apply to everyone?
Blais says that regardless of your income, whether high or low, you should be able to make life choices.
Once again, it's up to you to ask yourself the right questions. Maybe you don’t need to buy a car because you can use public transportation.
Do you really need certain things, like designer clothing? Do you really need to become an owner? In Germany, for example, high-income earners generally don’t own property because they don’t view buying their own home as an investment. If they want to invest in real estate, they buy income properties.
Cut the credit card in half?
According to Blais, using a debit card to pay for things causes a bit of pain, because the money you spend “belongs” to you and you had to work to get it. But when you pay with your credit card, it doesn’t feel as painful. In fact, almost half of all people feel no pain when using a credit card, affirms Blais. Today, many Canadians live on credit and are dealing with ongoing financial stress. So be sure to be vigilant with your credit card.
Some people are very good at managing their credit spending by paying off their credit card balances every month. Despite this, credit presents a danger that can compromise your projects and put you in an uncomfortable financial situation.
Lastly, the best way to become wealthy is to do it your way. If you know what's important to you, you should align your financial life accordingly.
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