Top Ten Personal Finance Moves (Good And Bad) I Made In 2013

1884342My favourite thing about the end of the year are all the top ten lists.  The top ten of everything is presented and even though most of the lists are just the highly subjective opinion of the author I still love to read and disagree.   What follows is my top ten list.  5 smart moves and 5 missteps.

First The Missteps

1) Buying wiper blades for the car that I kinda sorta thought I wanted to replace  and then 3 weeks later I did.  Sure it was only $20 but wasting $20 is part of the reason I have so much debt.

2) Wasting so much money on fast food and junk food on 2013 that I could have lowered my debt by another $1,500.  Being too lazy to cook cost me a bundle but I seem to have turned that around late in the year.  Unfortunately it was too late in the year to notice any real change in my cash flow.

3) Being cheap instead of frugal and it has cost me money.  I wore some tight shoes and messed up my toe earlier in the year.  I was too cheap to admit the shoes did not fit properly and wore them a few more times when I should have donated them to someone with narrower feet.   Now my toe is messed up and I am having to pay to have it fixed.  2 or 3 appointments with the chiropodist should fix it but that is not covered under the free government health care plan.   Being cheap is expensive.

4) Not realizing how important my 2013 goal of maintaining a minimum balance of $1,000 in my chequing account was.  Having $1,000 in my chequing account was one of my big goals for 2013 and I did nothing about it because I was so focused on debt.  I have paid $148 in fees on that account this year and that is pretty darn wasteful.

5) Missing my debt repayment goal.   I started 2013 with $21,000 in HELOC debt and wanted to get under $10,000.  I am ending 2013 with $23,000 in debt so that is a pretty big fail.  I was able to get my HELOC down under $12,000 but I added a $12,000 car loan to my debt.  I could have got the HELOC under the $10,000 mark but I had to loan one of my sons $1,900.  The HELOC will disappear in 2014 and the car loan is only $250 per month for 4 years so I will take my time paying it off.

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Now Some Smart Moves

1) Snow tires on my new car.  Snow tires keep me and my car safe and lower the chance that I will be in an accident.  Many people say buying 2 sets of tires for a car is a waste but swapping the tires seasonally means that the summer tires last longer and don’t need to be replaced as frequently.

2) Buying my first shares of a Vanguard ETF.  With a shout out to financial guru Suze Orman who has been preaching “buy Vanguard ETFs” for years I was happy to jump on the band wagon when they finally came to Canada.  I am now the proud owner of 107 shares of the high yield Canadian dividend fund that trades under the Toronto Stock Exchange symbol VDY.

3) Making $14 on this blog during 2013.  This is not a success as far as earnings go but it is enough to tell Revenue Canada that this little enterprise is a legitimate business and I can claim expenses (blog hosting, internet) for 2013 against future earnings – assuming that I have future earnings.

Finding 5 financial missteps was so easy.  Thinking up 5 things I have done right is a very tough.

4)  Not letting the mom guilt overtake me.  All of the Christmas gifts I have bought are spread out on the dining room table and there is almost nothing there.  I told my sons months ago that there wouldn’t be many presents for Christmas but when I see how little there actually is I want to rush out and buy them something to make Christmas exciting for them.  I am putting my restraint in the successes column but with 9 days to go until Christmas this one may still have to be moved to the fail list.  Being financially independent is a gift to my children in the future because they won’t have to worry about me – I need to concentrate on that.

5)  Meeting my savings goal for 2013.  My goal for 2013 was to have $10,000 in the bank and I will hit that near the end of December when I get my last pay cheque.   I started the year with just under $5,000 split between stocks in a TFSA  and a loser RRSP mutual fund.  I dumped the mutual fund and I am finishing the year with $3,670 in stocks in my TFSA, $4,000 in an RRSP GIC and $2,340 in stocks in cash in my RRSP for a grand total of $10,010 in the bank.

Bring on 2014.

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10 Responses to Top Ten Personal Finance Moves (Good And Bad) I Made In 2013

  1. I know you’re excited about dividends as an income stream, but watch out for those management expense ratios. If you invest in something like the S&P 500 or the TSX, the returns include dividends already… It just isn’t a portfolio full of dividend-paying stocks.

    • janesavers says:

      I am reinvesting the dividends and I am more interested in the increase in my initial investment than the dividends. The Vanguard management fees are less than 1%. I am hopeful that because a lot of Canadians are unfamiliar with ETFs and Vanguard that the value of the shares will increase as people become aware of the potential and I will be able to sell for a profit. The dividends are working out to $9 per month for my 107 shares and that is better than anything else I can find right now.

      I am also considering holding some cash in short term GICs in case interest rates start to rise and I can lock in with something safe for a long time.

      Now off in a snow storm to the work Christmas party when I would rather stay home and watch reruns of not great Christmas movies. Last Holiday is just starting.

    • Andrew says:

      Vanguard is generally accepted as having the lowest expense ratio out three, so I think you’re doing great on that!

      I’m not sure what index fund you have, but all mine pay dividends. It most certainly is just a portfolio of dividend producing stocks. According to the prospectus, Jane’s VDY should pay dividends every month, as well as at the end of the year.

      • janesavers says:

        It is called a high dividend fund and is made up of banks, utilities and natural resources and dividends are one way that I can begin to build wealth without taking too many chances.

  2. Kay says:

    It looks like you have done a great job this year. The things that you have done right seem much more significant to me than the missteps that you list. Great job with the ETF. I invest in VYM in the US which is probably similar to VDY.

    The mom guilt struck me since I struggle with this myself. I feel like my son has a lot of great toys already and I don’t want to focus on the “gift” aspect of Christmas but rather the idea that it is a time to spend with family. That being said, I went through a similar process this week as I considered the gifts I had bought for him and wondered if it was “enough”. I like how you are focusing on your financial independence and how that will be good for them in the future.

    • janesavers says:

      Mom guilt is such a huge emotion. In the past I have used spending money on them as a way to make myself feel better for the upheaval I caused in their lives when I left my marriage. Spending can fix almost anything temporarily but then you are left with the bill.

  3. Anisa says:

    Jane you are my hero.. my situation is about the same with you and you inspired me with your attitude and face everything with humor :) Thank you Jane

    • janesavers says:

      Thank you Anisa. What a great way to start my Monday morning.

      No one wants to listen to anyone whine but everyone can use a laugh now and then.

  4. hey janesavers,

    Its great to see that you actually took the time to outline the major moves you made with your money and I’m very happy that you’ve decided to use your money as leverage in the market to grow it even more. You may want to step away from ETF and mutual funds, because while they are viewed as “safe” investments, the return from them is quite lousy. Instead I would take the few grands that you’ve managed to save up and buy individual stocks that have a greater potential grow your account.

    It was a great read and good luck to you Jane.

    • janesavers says:

      I am out of mutual funds but the ETF that I have is paying a good dividend. I do have some individual stocks but I want to have a large percentage of my funds in safe investments.

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