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How to achieve your financial goals with these proven methods

January 2018 is soon coming to a close and by now you probably thought long and hard about your new year’s resolutions. Perhaps you pledged to call your mom more often, meditate once a day, lose 10 pounds, and become financially richer.  Have you acted upon your goals?

Spending money responsibly is one of the most important goals that you could achieve. The benefits of developing good financial habits are well worth the efforts. Having your finances under control could enable you and your family to abstain from straying into debt, enable you to keep a solid credit rating and help you to attain the financing you may need to buy a new home or a car or borrow money for business ventures.

One financial goal that could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year is minimizing the amount of expensive coffee you buy per week, as well as the amount of money you spend on dining out per week.

On average, coffee costs about $4.00 per cup and dining out for lunch costs about $15.00. If you were to buy coffee and dine out every weekday, you would be spending whopping $4,800 per year! – that’s the equivalent of about four vacation getaways or about six plasma screen TVs. You get the point.  Conversely, If you were to just bring coffee from home and brown bag your lunch, you could save $4,800 per year and apply that money towards other bills or a savings account.

Related: A stop buying expensive coffee calculator and save more money

The problem is that sticking to this new year’s resolution is easier said than done. Even having an immense desire or motivation to stop buying your latte and chow mein for lunch is not enough to ensure that you will stick to this financial goal. A strong body of research reveals that motivation is not enough to attain your goals, including your monetary ones.  Fortunately, there are proven methods that could help you stick to your financial goals. In the following post, I will discuss seven proven methods that could help you minimize your spending and maximize your savings. These proven methods are 1. Writing down your financial goals., 2. Attaching your new financial habit to an existing one,  and 3. Modifying your environment to minimize spending.

  1. Write down your financial goals

Over 100 different studies in a variety of experimental situations have arrived at the same conclusion: Individuals who explicitly say when and where their new behaviors will happen to have a greater probability of adhering to their goals. Heidi Grant Halvorson, a professor at Columbia University states, “deciding in advance when and where you will take specific actions to reach your goal can double or triple your chances for success.

So one strategy you could perform to become more financially wealthy this year is to implement a plan on how you could spend less money on coffee and food.

You could write down a statement such as:  “If situation Y is encountered, then I will initiate goal‐directed behavior X!”).

Here is an example that applies to purchasing less coffee when at work.

“Every time I go to work, I will drink coffee (or tea) from the coffee machine at work and not buy coffee (or tea) at Starbucks/Second Cup/Timmy’s etc.”

Another example is:

“Every time I go to work, I will brown bag my lunch and not purchase lunch from the cafeteria/restaurants/fast food places/convenience stores.

You could also add the conditions in which you will purchase coffee and dine out and how much you will spend.

“I will only buy coffee (or tea) once a month on the weekends for no more than $5” and “I will only dine out once a month on the weekends for no more than $20.”

Remember write down your financial goals in advance and specifically, state when and where you will take specific action to reach your monetary goal.

Related: Achieve Your Goals: Research Reveals a Simple Trick That Doubles Your Chances for Success

  1. Attach your new financial habit to an existing one

While old habits are hard to break, new habits are hard to shape. This is mainly because our behavioral patterns are hard-wired in our brains. The promising news is that through consistency and repetition, you could shape new neural pathways and create and maintain new habits.

If your goal is to stop dishing out money on dining out, then you could turn this goal into a habit by attaching this new habit that you wish to develop to an existing one.

Here is how you could make it happen:

Immediately after you clean up the kitchen table in the evening, pack yourself a portion of this evening’s dinner in your Tupperware for tomorrow’s lunch. In this example cooking dinner and cleaning the kitchen after dinner are old habits that you are accustomed to performing, packing a portion of tonight’s meal in Tupperware for tomorrow’s lunch is the new habit you want to acquire According to a study published in the journal, Neuron, the best way to convert “wishful goals into solid, automatic habit…[is by] being consistent.”  Work toward your goal every day, even if you don’t feel like it. You can set aside a specific time each day, or a specific context. For instance, you can brown bag tonight’s leftover dinner right after you clean up the kitchen table (a specific context) or at exactly 7 p.m. every evening (a specific time).  James Clear, a prominent author on habit formation states, “The more regular the behavior, the more easily your brain can convert it into a habit.”

  1. Modify your environment to minimize your spending

Sometimes changing the environment will help kick your brain into gear and change your daily habits. According to the journal, Psychology Today, “Environmental cues are essential when it comes to habit formation, in part because the brain is excellent at connecting an environment with a specific situation”. For instance, someone who regularly buys a cup of java from Timmy’s on the way to work might find it difficult to resist one even when they are not craving caffeine. Simply seeing Timmy’s logo (environmental cues) will be enough to send them racing to the drive-thru window.  “If you find yourself constantly giving up on your goals, take a look at your surroundings.” If you always buy a coffee at Timmy’s on the way to work, perhaps you could change your driving route to one where you don’t encounter a Tim Hortons. Without the environmental cues, you are less likely to crave a coffee.

On the flip side, if you want to develop a certain habit like brown-bagging your lunch or only drinking coffee from the coffee machine at work, make the habits you want to perform more visible. Place your lunch box in sight on your kitchen counter right after work and place a nice mug on your office desk.  In other words, make the habits that you don’t want to perform less visible and the ones that you want to perform more visible.

In conclusion, the three proven methods that could help you reach your financial goals are 1. Writing down your financial goals., 2. Attaching your new financial habit to an existing one, and 3. Modifying your environment to minimize spending. Don’t be discouraged if you have not been able to stick with your monetary goals for this year. With the above-proven methods, you could make the changes and develop healthy money habits. The pay off will definitely outweigh any latte or burger that you consume.  


About S & P Accounting Services

S & P Accounting Services is a professional accounting firm situated in North York, Ontario. We are chartered accountants with extensive experience with audit, review, tax and bookkeeping. We strive to operate in accordance with our principles of quality, professionalism, and integrity and are dedicated to excellent service.  We aim to ensure that our clients receive the highest quality of financial, tax and accounting services and advice. We happily serve clients in Toronto, North York, Mississauga, Vaughan, Richmond Hill and in other cities in the GTA.

If you have any questions or inquiries about our accounting services, please contact S & P Accounting Services.

S&P Accounting Services LLP
2727 Steeles Ave. W. Suite 300
North York, ON, M3J 3G9
www.spaccountingservices.ca

Disclaimer: We strive to ensure all information on our site is accurate and up to date. However, the contents of the site are naturally subject to change from time to time. That means, we can’t always guarantee the accuracy of all information on the site. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR CHECKING THE ACCURACY OF RELEVANT FACTS AND OPINIONS GIVEN ON THE SITE BEFORE ENTERING INTO ANY COMMITMENT BASED UPON THEM.

This post was written by Biz Source, a content creation company and is for illustration purposes only. For professional advice, please contact S & P Accounting Services.

T’is the season to be giving! Ten questions to ask yourself prior to donating

When you donate to charities you help make a positive impact on the lives of many Canadians, people around the world and on your life as well. Charities depend on our donation dollars to help Canadians and people around the world.  Yet, before you go out and support an organization, it is important carefully research the charity.  Here are the top ten questions you could ask yourself prior to donating to a charity.

1.Who can I donate to?

Although there are plenty of important causes in Canada, only registered charities can provide you with a donation receipt and thus help you reduce your taxes. The key word here is registered. Registered charities differ from not-for-profit organizations such as clubs and sporting leagues. Registered charities function under specific rules that are set out by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Some of the stipulations that charities must follow include: ensuring that the money that they raise goes to charitable activities, keeping proper books and records, and sharing their financial and activity information annually with all Canadians through the CRA. There are other rules that charities must adhere to which you can read more about on the CRA website. In exchange for adhering to these stipulations, charities earn the right to a charitable registration number. This number is important to you, the donor because it makes you qualify for a tax credit.

Related: The difference between a registered charity and a non-profit organization

2. How can I find out if a charity is registered?

You could ask the charity for its registration number and verify its status on the List of Charities. You could also call the Charities Directorate at 1-800-267-2384.

Related:  The information that must be on an official donation receipt 

3. What can I donate?

You could donate cash, land or listed securities such as stocks to a registered charity or other qualified donees. Note that although gifts of service are valuable to charities, they don’t qualify for a tax receipt. These include donated time, skills and effort.

A good example of a gift of service is the following scenario. Let’s pretend that you are a software company and you offer to build a website for XYZ charity. After the website is completed, your company suggests that instead of invoicing the charity $16,000, the charitable organization issue you with a tax receipt of $16,000. Is the charity able to issue you a tax receipt? No, the charity is not able to issue you a tax credit because the website that you built for the charity is considered a gift of service and its an example of how you donated your time, skill and effort.

Lets now look at another scenario. You are still the same software company, yet in this case, you created a pre-designed software product, specifically a website template designed for charities (not only for XYZ charity but many charities). Your software company sells this product for $4000 and as long as you have documents to verify that this the fair market value of the product, then XYZ charity could issue you a donation receipt for $4000.

So the difference between scenario 1 and scenario 2 is that the former scenario is an illustration of a gift of service whereas the latter scenario is an example of a gift of property. In scenario 1, your software firm created a website specifically for XYZ charity, which could not be sold in the free and open market and therefore doesn’t qualify for a tax credit.  On the contrary, in scenario 2, your software company designed an off the shelf software that could be sold in the free and open market, and thus qualifies for a tax credit.

4. How much do I need to donate to receive a tax credit?

You could donate any amount to benefit from a tax credit. Just ensure that you have an official donation receipt.  Note that a charity is not required to give a receipt when it receives a donation. The CRA advises charities to tell potential donors when they will or will not be issued a receipt.

5. How do I claim a donation?

When you file your income tax and benefit return, there is an area on your return that is specifically for claiming your donations. Remember to fill out the donations section on your provincial and territorial tax and credit form. Additionally, ensure that you store all supporting documents such as official donation receipts, canceled cheques and pledge forms and stubs in the event that the CRA decides to review your return.

Related: The documents you will need to claim your charitable donation

6. Do I need to claim my donation receipts on an annual basis?

You can claim your receipts up to 5 years after you’ve made the donation, You can also combine your receipts with those of your spouse or common-law partner. In fact, donations of over $200 are equivalent to a deduction at the top tax bracket regardless of whether or not the donor is in the top tax bracket.

7. Is it fine if a registered charity gives me something in return for my donation, such as sporting or ballet tickets?

Yes, this totally fine and it is called an advantage. When a charitable organization gives you something as a token of their appreciation in exchange for your donation, the charity is required to subtract the value of the advantage from the amount of your donation to calculate the eligible amount to put on your donation receipt.

For example, you donated $1,500 to a registered charity called ABC Ballet Company. In order to show their appreciation, the company gives you three tickets to a performance that are valued at $150. You are therefore considered to have been given an advantage of $150. The eligible amount of the gift is $1350 ($1,500  $150).

8. What if the organization that I donated to is no longer registered. Can I still use my donation receipts to claim a tax credit?

Yes, if the charitable organization was registered when you first made the donation, then you can still use the receipt to claim a tax credit.

9. What are some tips that could help me ensure that I donate wisely?

a. Prior to donating check out the List of charities to verify that the organization is qualified to give you an official donation receipt.

b. Do not donate to an organization that pressures you to give immediately or if you aware of any signs of fraud.

c. Ensure that your online donations are secure.

d. Write cheques to the charity and not the individual.

e. Beware of donation schemes that promise a tax receipt for more than you donated.

10. What are some warning signs that a charitable organization might be engaged in fraud?

a. The charity calls to thank you for a donation that you have not made.

b. Organizations that use names similar to popular charitable organizations.

c. Canvassers who do not disclose details about the organization they serve.

d. Requests from the organization to send cash or money orders instead of cheques or credit card. Cash could not be traced and cannot be canceled.

e. Overly friendly canvassers that ask you personal questions.

f. Organizations that use free email addresses like Gmail or Hotmail to enable people that are part of the organization to conceal their identity.

g. Strange call display numbers such as 123-456-789 or 888-888-889 which might mean that the caller is trying to hide their phone number.

If you suspect an organization is engaged in fraud, report the suspected fraud to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.

An infographic about top five tips to donating wisely

An infographic about the top five tips to donating wisely.


If you require additional consultation or want to learn more about our professional accounting services, please do not hesitate to contact S & P Accounting Services.

Polina Presman, CPA, CA

T- 416-371-6017
F- 416-667-0404

Shani Marzin, CPA, CA

T- 416-731-9031
F- 416-667-0404

S&P Accounting Services LLP
2727 Steeles Ave. W. Suite 300
North York, ON, M3J 3G9
www.spaccountingservices.ca

Disclaimer: We strive to ensure all information on our site is accurate and up to date. However, the contents of the site are naturally subject to change from time to time. That means, we can’t always guarantee the accuracy of all information on the site. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR CHECKING THE ACCURACY OF RELEVANT FACTS AND OPINIONS GIVEN ON THE SITE BEFORE ENTERING INTO ANY COMMITMENT BASED UPON THEM.

This post was written by Biz Source, a content creation company and is for illustration purposes only. For professional advice, please contact S & P Accounting Services.