Simple Tips for Financial Freedom – PART 2

Welcome to PART 2 of Simple Tips for Financial Freedom! If you missed PART 1, check it out here.

The key to having financial freedom is to get your money to a point of positive cash flow. If you are making a decent income but you still live paycheque to paycheque, it is because you have negative cash flow

Cash Flow is an accounting concept, but it can be illustrated simply, as follows:

Incoming Cash (Paycheques) – Outgoing Cash (Bills & Spending) = +/- Cash Flow

Many people think that they just need to make more money to get ahead. This often backfires, because as their income increases, people tend to spend more money and take out bigger loans. Here are my tips for pulling yourself out of that negative debt circle!

Don’t buy a home that will make you “house poor”. 

There is a great divide between what the bank will allow you to borrow and what you can reasonably afford. A standard affordability metric is that you should only be spending 35% of your income on housing costs (including utilities, home insurance, and property tax). Here is a fun/depressing mortgage affordability calculator! The term house poor refers to the situation where a person has over-extended their personal budget to buy a house. Someone who is house poor may appear to others to be doing well financially because they have the trappings of wealth, but they are probably struggling to pay other bills because they are up to their neck in mortgage payments. Just because the bank will lend you X dollars, does not mean that you should borrow X dollars. When you are shopping for a house, determine what your budget will be beforehand and then stick to it unequivocally. Don’t even view houses that are over your budget because you will be tempted to go over!

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My 1st house was the cheapest on the market! What, you mean, yellow and brown does not say “curb appeal”?

If you get a chunk of unexpected money, put it against your debt.

I know, I know. This one is awful! It’s painfully boring, but if you are serious about getting out of debt quickly, you need to put any “extra” lump sums against it. Maybe your employer gives you an annual bonus or you get a tax refund: pay that against your debt right away. Think of it this way, that money wasn’t part of your regular monthly budget so you aren’t going to miss it! Paying monthly amounts against debt is great, but its a very slow process, so you can really speed up the timeline with lump sum payments. If you absolutely cannot stomach paying the full amount, set aside 10% and allow yourself to buy a special “treat” with that. This one sucks in the short term, but it will be worth it over time.

Pay off the highest interest loans first – The Debt Avalanche Method

Once you’ve sorted out your monthly budget, determine the maximum amount that you can put towards your debts in a month. Next, order your debts by interest rate from highest to lowest (exclude a mortgage) and indicate what the minimum required payments are. If you don’t know the interest rates you are paying, now would be a good time to find out those details.
Here is a sample situation:

Personal Line of Credit 21% – Minimum payment $0
Credit Card 19.5% – Minimum payment $100
Auto Loan 7% – Minimum payment $300
Student Loan 5.5% – Minimum payment $150

Let’s say in this example, you had determined from your monthly budget that you could afford to pay $800/month against all debts. What you would do is pay the minimum payments on everything other than the highest interest rate debt. Attack that high interest loan with the largest payment you can! This is called the Debt Avalanche Method, which I prefer because you will pay the least amount of interest over time. Another option is the Debt Snowball Method (see infographic below) and this may be preferable if you know that you are a person who needs to see a quick return to be motivated to follow through with something.

Student Loan Infographic

Let’s see how that avalanche goes!

PHASE 1:
Personal Line of Credit 21% – Pay $250
Credit Card 19.5% – Pay Minimum payment $100
Auto Loan 7% – Pay Minimum payment $300
Student Loan 5.5% – Pay Minimum payment $150
TOTAL $800

Now this is where the magic happens! Once that Personal Line of Credit is paid off, you continue to pay $800/month but redistribute the maximum to the next highest interest rate loan.

PHASE 2:
Credit Card 19.5% – Pay $350
Auto Loan 7% – Pay Minimum payment $300
Student Loan 5.5% – Pay Minimum payment $150
TOTAL $800

PHASE 3:
Auto Loan 7% – Pay $650
Student Loan 5.5% – Pay Minimum payment $150
TOTAL $800

PHASE 4:
Student Loan 5.5% – Pay $800
TOTAL $800

BOOM! This strategy will pay off your debts the fastest and will result in paying the least amount of interest over time! You can set the payments as automatic bill payments in your online banking to help you stick to the schedule you’ve created.

Focus on the big picture. 

It can be very difficult to stick to a debt repayment plan if you are watching people around you go on vacations, buy new vehicles, and nice homes. It may feel like everyone else has more money than you, when in reality, they probably just have more debt than you.

People often say “money can’t buy happiness” but how many people’s actions follow that sentiment? 

I’ll tell you what does bring happiness: less stress and more time spent with the people you love. Be grateful for what you do have and focus on your goals and dreams for the future. Imagine what it would feel like to go on a vacation that you had saved cash for, and to not be fighting with your spouse about the credit card statement, and to drive around in a car that was fully paid for. It will be a struggle and you will have to make sacrifices, but it will be worth it.

Notice that I didn’t title this article Simple Tips for Financial Success. It’s called Simple Tips for Financial Freedom, because that’s how I feel.

FREE.

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How Cloud-Based Bookkeeping Can Grow Your Business

Many small business owners are frustrated by their current bookkeeping system. You are either spending valuable time to do it yourself, probably on a spreadsheet or struggling with software you haven’t had full training on, or organizing and delivering stacks of paperwork to your bookkeeper every month.

What we do at Coastal Tax and Accounting Services is radically different from traditional accounting firms. By using the best cloud-based accounting software and a hand selected combination of apps tailored to your business, we provide a solution for your books that goes beyond basic record-keeping and tax compliance.

What is “Cloud-Based”? It means online, a software that you log into from a web address from any PC or Mac computer, tablet, or phone. It means your financial data is stored on a secure online server that is automatically backed up. It means you see what your accountant sees and numbers are updated in real time. It means you can burn your file cabinet and never keep another paper receipt or print out a bank statement ever again. Seriously.

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Here are a few more of the many benefits of making the crossover to the cloud…

  • Issue invoices to your customers when you are away from the office.
  • Accept credit card payments through a simple “Pay Now” button on your invoices that are emailed to the customer.
  • Use your smartphone to take pictures of expense receipts… then throw them away! Do not organize them by date, by expense category, or by vendor. Just take pictures of any receipts you have and be done with it.
  • Stop logging in to multiple sites every month to find your bank statement, credit card statement, utility bills, telephone bills, etc. Have those bills automatically fetched for you through a secure portal and shared with your accountant.
  • Stop wasting time and gas driving to your accountant’s office to drop off paperwork.
  • Never pay for another software upgrade – online software is automatically and constantly updated to the newest version.
  • Have peace of mind that your financial data is backed up on secure online servers. Never worry about a hard drive crash or pay for backup storage.
  • Sync with your existing apps such as Google Calendar, PayPal, Square, Shopify, Dream Payments, and many more!

For a free consultation on Monthly Cloud-Based Bookkeeping packages offered by Coastal Tax please fill in the inquiry form. This helps us get to know your business a bit before meeting and also provides more information on the services we offer!

Welcome to the future!

-Alicia Loewen

How to File Your Taxes Without Leaving the House in 5 Easy Steps

See how easy it can be to file your taxes with Coastal Tax! Traditional accounting firms will require you to come in for appointments during the work day to drop off slips and sign forms, but this model doesn’t work for everyone. At Coastal Tax, the majority of returns are done entirely online! Contact Alicia at info@coastaltax.ca for more info.

Woman using phone and relaxing at end of the day with feet up

Tools Required: Printer, Scanner or good quality camera phone/tablet

STEP 1:  Email an inquiry to info@coastaltax.ca describing your tax situation to set up an initial phone call with Alicia.

STEP 2: You will receive an invite to our online client portal Intuit Link which is a secure site where we can share documents back and forth. Coastal Tax will have created a custom tax checklist and questionnaire for you to respond to. We do need your SIN to create the account. You are able to sign in to Intuit Link from your phone and take pictures of any slips you have and attach them to the checklist items. We have posted a short video about Intuit Link here.

STEP 3:  If you have a small self-employed business or rental income, we have an Excel template that you can use to summarize your income and expenses. Otherwise, provide us with your Balance Sheet, Income Statement (Profit & Loss), and General Ledger from your bookkeeping records.

STEP 4: There are a few CRA authorization forms that we will need you to print out, sign, and then upload scanned copies to Intuit Link. If you don’t have access to a scanner we recommend the free app Scannable by Evernote. If you have a decent camera phone this will convert a picture into a nice clear PDF file for us to submit to CRA.
CamScanner

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Pour yourself your favourite drink and wait for Coastal Tax to do the work. Maybe go on a ski holiday for the weekend or you could whip up that new curry recipe you’ve been wanting to try. Finally get to folding that mountain of laundry and take the dog/cat/pygmy marmoset for a walk. You’ll probably get a few follow up questions from Coastal Tax to make sure that everything has been covered.

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STEP 5:  Review the PDF tax summary you will get from Coastal Tax and let us know that you approve. Send your payment for our invoice via Interac eTransfer, Mastercard, or Visa and you’re done! You will receive an EFILE confirmation number shortly after and a PDF copy of your full tax return to keep on file.

Review the Tax Checklist now to get organized. If you need to catch up on previous years see the post Tax Tips for Late Filers!

Cheers!

Alicia Loewen, Coastal Tax

Simple Tips for Financial Freedom – PART 1

Perhaps the first question to ask is: Why should you take my advice?

I achieved freedom from debt by age 30. In less than 8 years I paid off a combined total of $72,000 in Student Loans, Auto Loans, Loans from Family, and Credit Card Debt. I do still have a mortgage, which even at a conservative estimate represents less than 60% of the value of my property. I also currently have about a third of my annual family income socked away for a rainy day (or maybe a Tesla).

For the first time in my life, I feel wealthy, not my because my family income is higher, in fact, it’s significantly less than a few years ago.

Family income

I love a good bar graph!

I feel wealthy because I now have positive cash flow due to paying off debts. If you are making a decent income but you still live paycheque to paycheque, it is because you have negative cash flow, and this traps you in a negative circle of continuing to work and make debt payments, while never really getting off of the hamster wheel.

Cash Flow is an accounting concept, but it can be illustrated simply, as follows:

Incoming Cash (Paycheques) – Outgoing Cash (Bills & Spending) = +/- Cash Flow

Positive cash flow means you have money leftover in the bank when your next paycheque comes in. You can then use this leftover money to increase your savings, splurge on a special item, or take a guilt-free vacation because it wasn’t paid for on a credit card! It takes some sacrifices and self-control, but the payoff is well worth it!

So, if you feel like taking my advice, here are my tips for getting your personal finances to the point of positive cash flow!

  • Know your spending habits. 

    I’ve heard people say things like “Oh, I never look at my bank/credit card statement, it’s too depressing.” If you really want to change your financial situation, your very first step is to figure out where your money is going. I like the free app Mint by Intuit for personal finance and budgeting. You connect your bank feed to the program and set expense categories for vendors. This really helps to determine your problem areas.

    mint

    This is not sponsored, I just like the app! Looove me some pie charts too.

  • Create a budget and stick to it. 

    Once you’ve reviewed your current spending habits, you can determine limits that you are comfortable with. Be reasonable with yourself. If you’re currently spending $1200/month on Restaurants, Bars, and Coffee Shops, it’s not likely that you’re going to stick to a $300/month budget. Aim to cut your spending by at least 15% on non-essentials.

    • Some people like using a “cash budget” which is a method where you:
      1. Determine how much money from your paycheque you need left in the bank to cover your bills (preferably on auto-pay so you don’t forget to make any bill payments). Leave this in your chequing account and don’t touch it.
      2. Calculate what will be left over after bill payments. From this amount, transfer some right away to an emergency savings account. You can set up an automatic transfer through your online banking to come out on the same day as your payday, so you won’t even miss the money.
      3. The remaining money is your “cash budget” for 2 weeks and you withdraw this amount in cash. You use this cash for all your variable spending: groceries, clothing, coffee, alcohol, etc. You do not touch your debit or credit cards. The nice thing about this method is that you can see if you are running out of cash too quickly and need to reign in your spending to make it to the end of the pay period.
    • A modern version of the cash budget method is the Mogo app. It’s a prepaid Visa that you would load with your cash budget amount for the period. You get a notification after every purchase with your updated balance. So cool!
  • Resist the urge to trade up a vehicle. 

    Everyone loves having a new vehicle! After a few years, your old one just doesn’t seem to be that exciting anymore and you walk in a dealership “just to take a look around” and end up walking out having made a spontaneous purchase on a new car. It seems like a good deal because of “low interest rates” or “the payments aren’t that much more than I’m already paying”, and that may be true, but you are certainly locking yourself in to payments for an even longer term. Let me crunch some numbers for you! For this example, I’m going to ignore the interest expense and just look at the cash flow effect of an increased auto loan payment.

    • Let’s say your current auto loan payment is $300/month and you want to buy a vehicle that will be $450/month. To afford an additional $150/month in after tax cash you would need to make $230/month more money or get a $1.44/hr raise!¹ Think about it this way… Would you be happy to keep your current vehicle if it meant you got a $1.44/hr raise?
    • Now the second component besides the increased payment amount is the increased term of the loan. Maybe you traded in a vehicle for $300/month and got a new one for $300/month BUT the new vehicle has added 5 more years onto the life of the loan. For those 5 years, you need to make $450/month² gross income to cover the payments. This represents $5,400 per year and $27,000 over 5 years! Think about it this way… Would you be happy to keep your current vehicle if it meant you got a $5,400 annual bonus for the next 5 years after paying off the auto loan?
    • I realize this is a pretty crazy concept to wrap your head around, so let me use my personal finances as an example. I used to pay $300/month for my car loan (2008 VW City Golf) and $400/month for my truck loan (2009 Chevy Silverado). I worked at paying off those debts and now both vehicles are paid. That $700/month savings represents $12,800 in annual salary that I don’t have to make. I can cut down to part-time hours if I wanted because I now need to work less to cover my expenses. If I continue to work the same amount, it means I have an extra $700 every month to spend or save. CASH FLOW, my friends! Sure, I’m not driving a fancy car, but maybe I’ll go to Europe next year, or work 4 days a week instead of 5.
  • Don’t buy stuff you can’t afford.

    This clip from an old SNL sketch says it all. If you want to buy something non-essential and you have to use a credit card to pay for it – don’t buy it. Of course, I’m guilty of this as much as anyone. That’s how I racked the credit card up in the first place! It takes a serious change in your mindset to stop being okay with putting purchases on a credit card. If it helps, take the card out of your wallet and leave it at home.

 

Thanks for reading PART 1 of this post – Jump to Simple Tips for Financial Freedom – PART 2!

Until next time,

-Alicia Loewen, Coastal Tax

 

¹Calculation is based on $48,000 annual salary vs. $50,760 annual salary working full time.

²Calculation is based on $48,000 annual salary vs. $53,400 annual salary working full time.

Disclaimer: I want to take a minute to recognize that not everyone has access to the same advantages in life that I’ve had. My status as a Caucasian, straight, cis-gendered female from a middle class family with access to good education puts me at a starting point of significant privilege. If you are using a credit card to put food on your table, I feel for you, and I really do hope your situation improves. This post is not written for you. This post is geared towards people making a middle-class income who are wanting to get a handle on their personal finances.

File Your Taxes Online with Coastal Tax

At Coastal Tax, we make it as simple and painless as possible to file your taxes! Check out this short video about Intuit Link, the secure client portal we use to collect your tax documents. There is no in-person meeting required. This is the easiest way to have your taxes professionally prepared without leaving the house!

From the software company that brought you QuickBooks and Turbo Tax, Intuit Link will allow you to:

  • Review a custom checklist set up for you by Coastal Tax based on last year’s tax return
  • Use your smartphone or tablet to snap pictures of tax slips or receipts and attach them directly to the checklist
  • Respond to a short questionnaire created for you by Coastal Tax

Pricing starts at $80 for a simple return (up to 3 slips or items).