For many of us, 2021 went out with less of a bang and more of a whimper. As we head into times of even more uncertainty, you may be reassessing your priorities and values, or feeling nervous and exhausted. Or, more realistically, feeling Everything, All The Time. For this reason, we’re dispensing with the usual budgeting advice from experts and have asked our experts and contributors to share their honest financial New Year’s resolutions.
Whether your own financial resolution this year is to give yourself a break, to financially arm yourself for the long march into the future, to treat yourself with your hard-earned cash or to simply keep trucking along, remember: There’s no wrong way to approach this new year, as long as you’re deliberate about it.
Read on to see what our writers had to say.
Kim Kirton: Buying Space to Breathe
I’ve been in the business of building impact-driven initiatives and Social Enterprises for the last seven years, and I have personally bootstrapped hundreds of thousands in external funding for projects. Alongside all of the funding opportunities, I’ve also taken out business loans to help further fund my ideas and support my business and team during the pandemic. So as you can imagine, the past two years have been really tough keeping things afloat.
This upcoming year, I am determined to be debt-free and achieve financial freedom, personally and professionally. This consists of paying off all my debt, creating emergency savings and starting the early foundations of investing. To make this a reality and accomplish this goal within the year, I’ve decided to accept a lucrative short-term contract gig with a large firm that pays me more regularly. This new contract allows me to devote specific funds to pay off my debt while also building my business and, frankly, breathing a bit.
I see taking this short-term contract as my side hustle, one which allows me to make the right decisions when it comes to my business, rather than compromising for financial reasons. I’ve always told myself that entrepreneurship is about starting a business—when really it’s more a mindset and a spirit that I take with me in whatever I do.
READ MORE: Kim Kirton shares her small business grant-writing tips
Robb Engen: Building Slowly
I’m a big fan of goal setting and keeping things simple. When it comes to my financial goals for the New Year, there’s no need to deviate from a plan that’s already working well.
Money is finite and must include trade-offs. We can’t afford to do everything and that’s why I prioritize my goals to get the most out of my money and my enjoyment of life.
At the top of the list is a goal that my wife and I have been working towards for many years – maxing out all the unused contribution room in our registered accounts (RRSPs and TFSAs). I’m happy to say that we’ve caught up on both my wife’s and my unused RRSP room. My TFSA is also fully maxed out as of 2021.
Goal #1 for 2022 is to fully catch up on my wife’s unused TFSA room. She’ll have available room for $37,500 as of January 1st, 2022. I will also contribute my annual TFSA limit of $6,000 (goal #2).
We prioritize education for our two kids and strive to contribute $5,000 to their RESPs each year (goal #3). We do this by contributing $416.66 per month. Contributing $2,500 for each child maxes out the $500 CESG matching government grant.
Finally, because we caught up on my TFSA contributions last year, we expect to have about $6,500 in extra cash flow for 2022. Instead of saving or investing that amount, we’re going to put that money into our travel budget and (fingers crossed) go to Europe next summer.
READ MORE: What is the TFSA Contribution Limit?
Jordann Brown: Up to the task
Instead of worrying about maxing out my self-directed TFSA, hitting Coast FIRE, or getting into crypto, for me, 2022 will be the year of taking care of the little things. The pandemic has been stressful for me, and I feel like I’ve spent most of it treading water, just trying to get to the next month without blowing my budget on takeout during the latest round of lockdowns. I’ve been so stressed out that I haven’t had the energy to give my finances proper attention, and so I’ve accumulated quite a list of items on my financial to-do list. None of these items are difficult or time-consuming, but the stress of the pandemic has sapped my ambition to tackle them.
Before the New Year, I’m going to write down every financial to-do I can think of, and instead of feeling guilty about letting them languish on my list, I’m going to start tackling them, one by one. No task is too small to escape my list, from finally getting a will to optimizing my backup debt products, and finally finding a small business accountant.
Barry Choi: Pivoting Priorities
Between my wife and I, we spend a combined $250 a month on our cell phones and home internet. That’s $3,000 a year which feels criminal. Every year I tell myself that I need to call in and renegotiate, but I always end up being too lazy. Honestly, it’s a bit silly that I’ve never looked into this earlier. Plus, with so much competition available these days, it’s never been an easier time to take my business elsewhere.
My second resolution is to spend money. At the start of the pandemic, my income dropped by 75%. This was obviously significant, so I went into survival mode and saved every dollar I could. I also avoided spending by turning down invites and cooking meals at home. Although saving money is never a bad thing, my income has recovered and I miss my friends. I need to get back to spending on the things I enjoy for my own mental health.
Stephanie McLarty: Divide and Conquer
This year I’m finding myself in a fortunate position I’ve never been in before: I’m receiving a one-time lump sum from the sale of a business.
It’s exciting to receive a windfall, but I have newfound questions circling my head. Should we pay off our mortgage—that would be huge for peace of mind—or invest the proceeds instead? How much was the penalty to pay off our mortgage anyway? What do we need to think about for tax?
READ MORE: Should you pay off your mortgage or invest?
There are two steps my husband and I will take:
- Write down our goals and prioritize them. Besides tackling our mortgage and adding to retirement savings, we’d like to build a laneway house at our rental property and reduce the carbon footprint of our home as we stare down climate change. Namely, investigating a home battery system and installing solar panels.
- Engage professionals. As much as I love personal finance, we can’t do this all on our own. We need advice from our accountant. We’ll also engage a fee-based financial advisor to create a holistic financial plan. And in doing so, we’ll have to pull out all our documents, including those mortgage details we didn’t think twice about.
READ MORE: Stephanie McLarty on what she learned after her business almost went bankrupt
Jessica Wei: Mind Over Money
In 2021, my finances got a huge boost. My freelancing career took off, and for the first time, I started seeing five-digit months of earning. I closed the year having earned 150% of my previous full-time salary.
I also received a sizable inheritance, which allowed me to max out my TFSA and boost my emergency fund.
That being said, my feelings about finances are complicated. I’ve never had more money coming in, but as a freelancer, I feel as if it could all collapse at any time. As a result, I prioritize work over more meaningful aspects of my life. Meanwhile, thanks to the inheritance, my savings are in stellar shape—but it doesn’t feel earned, and there’s not a day that goes by where I wouldn’t give it all back and more just to see my grandmother again.
This is the year that I stop chasing every dollar, and budget time and savings to pursue passion projects that might be more challenging, and less lucrative. I also want to put my money where my values are: Buying less, but higher quality; putting 10% of my after-tax income into a high-interest savings account earmarked for charitable donations; and investing in companies I care about.
READ MORE: ESG Investing: All You Need to Know
Last word: How to succeed at your New Years Resolutions
Start by writing them down! At the end of the year, ponder the past year and plan for the next one using this annual planner. It can help you grow from your mistakes, celebrate your wins, and chart a renewed path for the months ahead. Then, review your goals on a quarterly basis. Where are you at in terms of progress? You may even want to recruit an “accountability partner” — a trusted friend or colleague who will check in on your journey. Good luck!