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It’s Money Season: Five Steps to Less Stress in Your Money Life

Seasons change – winter, spring, summer and fall. We have a holiday season, hockey season and bathing suit season and we have Money Season.  Each brings up specific images, memories, decisions and actions.

With the January to April Money Season upon us, images and memories will come up and decisions will need to be made. We have all had to make choices around our money and we have all certainly made good ones and bad ones over the years.  For many, Money Season is cause for extra stress and anxiety.  A BMO study showed that the looming March 1st RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan) deadline causes stress for 60% of Canadians, often causing them to make rash decisions. More than 70% of Americans say that tax filing is “stressful” or “very stressful” and studies show that this stress leads to health issues, more fatal car accidents and more challenging relationships.

Reduce your stress, get better results, and have more fun with your money by making the time and taking action now – before the deadlines arrive.  Here are five great steps that you can take to make your Money Season merry.

Your life does not get better by chance. It gets better by change. ~Jim Rohn

Get clear on what is important
We spend all kinds of money on things we don’t care about, and often don’t even want because we don’t have a compelling reason not to. Instead of following the oft-given advice to tracking expenses, start your money life game plan by getting clear on what is important to you.

When you have a compelling reason to do something differently, it will change the way you think about your money. Your priorities, dreams, and goals can guide your Money Season decisions. Brainstorm the dreams you have and the goals you will achieve to get there.  Start by matching your money to your goals, instead of spending on things you don’t really care about.

Have a conversation
We don’t talk about money in our society.  More than 60% of us are spending more than we make or living close enough that a late paycheck would make us nervous, but we don’t talk about it.

Start a conversation. Talk with your spouse, your best friend, your banker, a financial advisor, or a money coach.  Just start talking. Whether you are on your own or you are making financial decisions with a spouse, schedule time to look at your money life. Set up a regular Money Meeting and use it to create your game plan, make decisions, tackle the tasks, and adjust the plan. Grab the Money Life Toolkit for an agenda with which to host your own Money Meetings.

Divide and Conquer
Spread out the money crunch by contributing regularly instead of trying to come up with lump sum amounts. Set up monthly savings amounts into your RRSP or Roth IRA (Individual Retirement Account) avoiding having to come up with it at the deadline.

If you have a business or work on contract, set aside 25-40% of what comes in for your income taxes and other deductions, so you aren’t scrambling in April.  Check with your accountant for the percentage that makes the most sense for your situation.

Look at your big annual expenses and divide by twelve to set aside an equal amount each month, ensuring that the money is there when you need it.

Use your tax return to get closer to your goals
We seem to forget that our tax return is our own money being returned to us.  It is not found money or free money or a gift from the government.  When we see it as free money, we think about it differently and often spend the money before it even arrives.  Article after article will show you how you can blow that tax return on stuff and more stuff, but this year, do it differently.

Go back to your compelling reasons and consider how you can use that money to bring you closer to your goals.  Consider paying down debt, pre-funding expenses, or saving towards a great goal. You could use it to create an emergency fund, or make a lump sum payment on your mortgage. Still not sure?  Here are nine ways to use your tax return to get you thinking.

Plan something fun
Take a break from the planning, organizing, and decision making to enjoy life!  It is easy to get into a funk around your money, which can filter into the rest of your life.  Keep your spirits up and remind yourself why you are doing all of this anyway.

Get out of the house with someone fun – your spouse, your kids, your girlfriends. Go for a hike or skate in the park. Go to the art gallery or out for coffee. Host a potluck or organize a euchre tourney.  Plan something cheap and cheerful and fun  – play, laugh and celebrate life.

This Money Season, make new decisions.  Take new actions and create new images for the future.  Small steps lead to big results.  Work hard, play hard, and create the money life that works for you.  Enjoy!

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Karen Collacutt

Personal finance expert, Karen Collacutt, CFP, CMC is founder and CEO of Make Friends with Your Money. Working with successful women who make good money and wonder where it all goes. Karen helps them understand and match their money to their goals. Together, they create peace of mind and a confident money life.Coach, speaker and change catalyst, Karen delivers a fresh perspective on how to make friends with your money. www.karencollacutt.com.