Scarborough Observer

Getting SMART with your money

Learning to manage finances can be tough, especially for immigrants, debt expert says

Managing finances and budgeting can be challenging for everyone, especially for newcomers to the country, Elena Jara, director of education with Credit Canada Debt Solutions, told a seminar on budgeting at Morningside Library on Nov 5.

“Financial literacy is not difficult, it can help create a better lifestyle for yourself,” Jara said. “It’s for everyone of all ages, but particularly important for newcomers to Canada.”

The aim of the program is based on being SMART about money. If you do run into debt, it is best to be realistic about how much debt you can hold. Also looking carefully at what are considered needs, like rent and food, versus wants, like fancy cell phones or a vacation.

The five keys to being SMART with your money

• Be Specific.

• Have Measurable goals.

• Make Achievable goals.

• Be Realistic with your money.

• Set Timely goals.

— according to Elena Jara

Jara also said people don’t take advantage of deals when shopping. She reminded the audience to make use of programs like Pricematch. Available at chain grocery stores, it allows shoppers to compare prices at various stores, which will often  honour the price difference if consumers find a better deal.

Flea markets are another option, according to Jara. She said they offer steep discounts later in the day.

“Think outside the box. There are endless possibilities,” Jara said. “If you feel you’re paying too much for your cable or cell phone, call Rogers and say you got a better offer from Bell.

“It’s a competitive world, they’ll want to keep your business.”

Jara encourages people to elicit the support of family members or their partners to help monitor and adjust finances as needed.

“Use family or your partner to help keep you focused,” Jara said.

Keys to budgeting

1) List all your fixed and variable expenses in a month.

2) List all sources of reported monthly income.

3) Calculate the difference.

— according to Elena Jara

“You are the head of your own company, CEOs get rewarded for good decisions and take the blame for bad decisions,” Jara said. “Think about the good and bad of your buying decisions.”

Jara also said it’s important to think logically about your financial health and factor in the results of good and bad choices.