Personal Finance

What else can I do to improve my finances?

  • Last Updated:
  • Dec 17th, 2019 9:48 am
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[OP]
Deal Fanatic
Sep 23, 2007
5061 posts
1155 upvotes

What else can I do to improve my finances?

So it feels like I woke up after years of messy relationships and business issues. Now reviewing my finances and figuring out how to stay on top of things. I'm looking for anything in addition that I can do to earn more or lower costs. Here's my financial picture:

Banking: I don't pay any fees
Credit Card: I picked the best one for me and I like to keep just 1 card (HSBC Premier world Elite) because travel is my biggest expense on credit card
Mortgage: Nothing I can do as it is locked for another 2 years or so. The rate I have is not the best but far from the worst. Probably save up some cash to pay off a chunk of it when it is unlocked.
RRSP: Reviewed my numbers and will be contributing close to max for 2019. Probably try to max it every year from now on.
TFSA: Maxed
Spare cash: Already in an account earning a bonus rate I am comfortable with. Not the highest. I plan to do something with my cash such that next year I shouldn't be holding such a large reserve. Meaning the incentive to open multiple accounts to take advantage of special bonuses should be rather low.
Investments: It is growing and I will contribute to it steadily as I still have spare cash after expenses, TFSA and RRSP.

Reward programs:
-I drive and use Esso exclusively for gas. For groceries No Frills is my go-to place. Earning PC points for these.
-I use Aeroplan so I get points for most flights I take. I also shop clothes at only 1 retailer and earn Aeroplans for it as well
-I use Great Canadian Rebates. I buy a lot of stuff from Amazon. If I need electronics, I buy from either Amazon or Best Buy, both of which I can earn GCR rebates.
The above are the majority of my expenses aside from condo fees and mortgage payments and property taxes which come off as per-authorized debits out of my bank account.

So do you see anything else I can do to maximize value? Like any other reward programs you can recommend that is better than what I am using now? Something like GCR is great because it is on top of what I am already doing.
15 replies
Newbie
Apr 2, 2019
48 posts
32 upvotes
For online purchases use the portal rakuten.ca to save further.
Jr. Member
Dec 1, 2019
129 posts
112 upvotes
Could be splitting hairs here, but depending on what you have invested in, you are potentially losing money on 'hidden' foreign withholding taxes. Dividends from US equities are charged a 15% tax crossing the border. Dividends from other countries can have tax rates of 5%-10%.
Optimizing to minimize withholding taxes means holding US equities in your RRSP only as Canada has a tax treaty with the US that reduces the 15% tax to 0%. In taxable accounts you can claim the foreign tax credit.

If you are using a buy-and-hold investment strategy, Canadian stocks and ETFs get preferential tax treatment when it comes to dividends in a taxable account.
The downside is capital gains tax if you ever do sell your investments.
Deal Addict
Jun 18, 2018
1327 posts
819 upvotes
Toronto
Could put that "spare cash" in a HISA that can earn like close to 3%.
Deal Addict
User avatar
May 11, 2014
4412 posts
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Iqaluit, NU
For cashback, I would compare whether GCR or Rakuten gets you a better rate. Additionally, if Aeroplan miles is somethIng you want, going to aeroplan.com/estore might be worthwhile. Amazon during BlackFriday was 10x miles. airmilesshops.ca is also another option.

I am assuming you bank with HSBC hence why the HSBC card? Any specific reason why this card? If you are using the $100 rebate and get the $50 discount, then it's alright. The BA avios is a decent earn rate through them.

For gasoline, Esso is pretty expensive. Unless it is out of your way, Costco gas is pretty cheap. If there is a Co-op, these tend to pay annual rebates on the litres of gas you buy.

PayTM, if you pay your credit card bill via this, you can get upto $2 in rewards a month you can redeem for Esso Gift Cards. Be careful as linking your bank account to pay it, It taKes a bit Of time for the bill payment to register.

one more thing.... dont overfret over it. You have maxed your registered savings, you sound fairly frugal, does it really.matter as long as you are takIng care of yourself and still can max your savings? Of course saying this on RFD is one thing :P Enjoy life and dont overdo it.
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Member
Dec 7, 2012
403 posts
761 upvotes
Are you willing/able to take on a room mate to earn extra $ to sock away into an investment account?

Just generally speaking, trying to live more frugally one month to see how far you can stretch your paycheque is a great motivator to save.

I'll have to look back to your post but when travelling do you collect all the hotel points during your travel.

Assume you don't have the expense of kids yet. If/ or when that comes up make sure and start an RESP to get the province and feds grant money.
Deal Guru
User avatar
May 7, 2007
12709 posts
5118 upvotes
1) You're in Ontario? Toronto? -- if so, move to a smaller city / province ......

2) Keep your Banana in your pants, Mr. Hunter ...... ( Joking ) :D
Deal Addict
Jul 27, 2017
2180 posts
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BananaHunter wrote: So it feels like I woke up after years of messy relationships and business issues. Now reviewing my finances and figuring out how to stay on top of things. I'm looking for anything in addition that I can do to earn more or lower costs. Here's my financial picture:

So do you see anything else I can do to maximize value? Like any other reward programs you can recommend that is better than what I am using now? Something like GCR is great because it is on top of what I am already doing.
OP, good to read this that you are frugal as well as collecting all those bonus points & are an HSBC premier member with WE CC, well done.

in the following something else to consider when looking at finances & not necessarily post back a response, unless you want to.

excluding mortgage what is your total yearly personal spending as a percentage of net income - what can you shave off that to get further cash flow?

what about higher income with less expenses?

what percentage of total spending is combined travel, entertainment, eating out & are those expenses personal or business related expenses that you get the money back to you personally?

how soon can you be mortgage free?
[OP]
Deal Fanatic
Sep 23, 2007
5061 posts
1155 upvotes
Thanks for the great ideas all. I definitely picked up some ideas here so far.

-I'll compare Rakuten to GCR

-Most of my investments are in CAD equity. These tend to have the lowest MERs anyways. Though historically I not been terribly successful at choosing funds. Bad luck I guess. The few times I picked stocks, it didn't turn out so well.

-I have a HISA at 2.6%. Thinking to open another account to get closer to 3%.

-Yes I use HSBC

-Esso is expensive? I find that all stations in an area would charge the same price. I chose Esso because it has PC points which I can use elsewhere like on groceries whereas other programs I am stuck buying their overpriced stuff at the station. I spend maybe $200/month on gas.

-I'll look into PayTM.

-I've lived with a roommate before. Probably never again. But this could be an easy way to boost my income.

-Last couple times I travelled I used a tour operator to book everything. You have a point. If I book myself, probably save money and also rack up points in hotels too.

-I have a spreadsheet to calculate my % of committed expenses (mortgage, phone bills, insurance, reserve for car repairs, condo fees, property tax and a few smaller items). These are roughly 40% of my income. I plan about 15k for travel each year from now on (3 international trips, solo). 2019 I spent about 11k on travel. I can get quite spendy on dining out and I'll probably never cut this.

-My phone bill is $60/month. Ok with this. No TV plans. Phone is all I need.

-I pay about 2.4k for home and car insurance combined. I got demerit points before. Never in accident. Not sure how to get lower. I shopped around couple years ago and this was the best I can get. Yes I live in Toronto.

-Yes I have pre-payment privileges after about 2 years on my mortgage. I am debating to bank up money to buy another condo or pay down the existing mortgage.

Good point about not freting it too much. I'm not stressed at all about my financials. It's more like...I have OCD about min-maxing. It's a habit I will always keep. I can eat a $300 meal but I will also try to make sure it's a promo and I earn % on my credit card while at it. Retirement is definitely not an issue for me. But relative to others, I don't care too much about nice cars or the latest fashion trends. So even if I spend 15k on travel and eat out often, probably spend less than some people trying to keep up with the jones.
Deal Addict
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May 11, 2014
4412 posts
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Iqaluit, NU
BananaHunter wrote: -Esso is expensive? I find that all stations in an area would charge the same price. I chose Esso because it has PC points which I can use elsewhere like on groceries whereas other programs I am stuck buying their overpriced stuff at the station. I spend maybe $200/month on gas.

It depends on the city you live in. Esso with PC Optimum return is maybe 3 cents per litre.

Coops I have seen return 6-8 cents per litre in cash and equity.

Costco tends to be 5-8 cents a litre cheaper. If you cant spring a membership, get a gift card purchased by a member.

Maybe get a PC World elite Mastercard for gas purchases if Esso is still your best bet. Then you get more points and the card is annual fee free.

Also, Toronto/ontario sucks for gasoline choice.
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[OP]
Deal Fanatic
Sep 23, 2007
5061 posts
1155 upvotes
xgbsSS wrote: It depends on the city you live in. Esso with PC Optimum return is maybe 3 cents per litre.

Coops I have seen return 6-8 cents per litre in cash and equity.

Costco tends to be 5-8 cents a litre cheaper. If you cant spring a membership, get a gift card purchased by a member.

Maybe get a PC World elite Mastercard for gas purchases if Esso is still your best bet. Then you get more points and the card is annual fee free.

Also, Toronto/ontario sucks for gasoline choice.
Did some research. Looks like PayTM has gone downhill? update-paytm-new-credit-card-fees-all-payments-2307863/

In Toronto we don't have any Coops and our Costcos don't have gas stations. At least I haven't seen any.
Deal Addict
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May 11, 2014
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BananaHunter wrote: Did some research. Looks like PayTM has gone downhill? update-paytm-new-credit-card-fees-all-payments-2307863/

In Toronto we don't have any Coops and our Costcos don't have gas stations. At least I haven't seen any.
PayTM sucks now if you try to pay bills with a credit card. But if you pay your credit card bill with your bank account, there is no fee and you still earn points. I also deposit with Scotia debit earning Scotia points and then points to pay bills I cant pay with credit card directly
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Deal Addict
Nov 24, 2004
4116 posts
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BananaHunter wrote: In Toronto we don't have any Coops and our Costcos don't have gas stations. At least I haven't seen any.
There are some -- the one at Queensway and Islington has a gas station, and the one at Warden and Ellesmere does too, AFAIK.
Deal Addict
Nov 13, 2013
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Ottawa
JHW wrote: There are some -- the one at Queensway and Islington has a gas station, and the one at Warden and Ellesmere does too, AFAIK.
Please don't be one of those people who drive thirty minutes to Costco to save a few cents a litre. The savings is minimal. For Premium gas it is more substantial but still not worth a special trip.
Deal Addict
Nov 24, 2004
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fogetmylogin wrote: Please don't be one of those people who drive thirty minutes to Costco to save a few cents a litre. The savings is minimal. For Premium gas it is more substantial but still not worth a special trip.
I don't. None of the Costco locations with gas stations are convenient to me. I think I've fuelled up at Costco once, when I happened to be near one of the locations. I agree with you that going out of your way to get gas is a waste of time.

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