In case you hadn’t heard, November is Financial Literacy Month here in Canada. It’s a whole month dedicated to financial literacy (duh) and since that’s not exactly a super-clear definition, let’s take a second to chat about what that actually means.
Financial literacy, in simple terms, is understanding money and financial products, and how it all works. In my opinion, financial literacy also includes understanding how you behave with money, and learning about your patterns with it. So November, aka Financial Literacy Month, is a whole month dedicated to helping you understand your money better.
When you run a personal finance blog, Financial Literacy Month is basically the high holidays—but it’s understandable if you’re more focused on upcoming holidays like Black Friday, American Thanksgiving, Christmas or Hanukkah.
But while there’s plenty going on in the lead up to the holiday season, it’s also a perfect time to build up your money-knowledge muscles. It’s still two months away from the new year, so you can start 2019 off with some levelled-up knowledge about your finances, and there’s plenty of time to apply what you’re learning to your holiday spending, your tax situation for this year, or both.
To help you do that, I’ve got ten ways you can celebrate FLM this year, and no matter how much time you want to spend on it (or how much existing knowledge you have) there’s something you can add to your list to celebrate.
Note: Many of the links to products I personally use are affiliate links in this post. I’ll get a small commission if you sign up, at no cost to you!
1. Track your spending
Am I ever going to shut up about tracking your spending? Never. In my experience and strongly held opinion, it’s the absolute best way to learn more about where your money is going, and get information that can help you change your spending patterns or save more money.
I’ve been a big fan of tracking your spending manually, but if you’re looking for another option—or to automate tracking for a specific part of your budget—I highly recommend KOHO, for a few reasons.
My beef with automated tracking is that it never actually changed my behaviour. It’s all well and good for your budgeting app to send you notifications after you go over budget, or to look at the data in retrospect, but it honestly never stopped me from going over budget in the first place.
KOHO doesn’t let you do this, because it’s a prepaid VISA card. You have to load the card with the amount of money you want to spend—that week, that month, whatever works for you—and you can’t spend more than is on the card. It’s linked to the KOHO app, which tracks where your money is going and gives you an at-a-glance view of how much you have left to spend, but there’s no going over budget. (It also has handy features to help you save for fun purchases!)
So in terms of automated tracking, it actually works.
Get $20 when you start using KOHO
I’ve been using and loving KOHO for over 6 months now, so I’m thrilled to have partnered with them on an awesome deal for you guys. Sign up to start using KOHO, enter the code HALFBANKED when it asks who referred you, and you’ll get $20 added to your account as soon as you make your first purchase on your KOHO card.
2. Start investing
Investing is one of the things that most makes me think of dudes in fancy suits, in some swanky office—but investing is for everyone, and you can do it from the comfort of your couch. Blazers very much not required.
Plus, investing is heckin’ important. If you haven’t heard of compound interest, reading up on its power is officially on your financial literacy to-do list.
I always knew that investing was important, but my personal roadblock was always “how.” I know I want to invest in a low-cost portfolio that fits my goals, but like… how do I go to there. Thankfully, once upon a time I heard about roboadvisors, found Wealthsimple, and the rest is history.
If you’re ready to add starting to invest to your FLM to-do list, I’ve built a free, five-day email course to help you figure out the details and the “how” for yourself—and it’s so beginner friendly that it starts from literally zero. No previous knowledge of a single investing term required!
3. Understand your retirement savings options
Here in North America, governments want us to save for retirement, and they’ve set up some pretty sweet tax advantages to help us do that in a few different accounts.
(Sidebar: do I think that shifting the balance of responsibility from companies offering pensions towards individuals needing to save entirely on their own is great? Not really, but it’s where we’re at, so better get all the benefits you can from the accounts available!!!)
4. Compare your banking options
It’s important to understand that while your current banking set-up may be comfortable, not all banking options are made equal.
These days, you can get pretty close to a full-service banking setup without paying a single bank fee. For my personal banking (not business banking) I haven’t paid a bank fee in over three years thanks to Tangerine—that’s for two chequing accounts, a credit card, and multiple savings accounts, all of which are paying me over 2% interest right now.
If you comparison shop and decide that your current bank is the right fit for your needs, bank fees and all, that’s great—at least you know. But switching isn’t as hard as it sounds in your head, and even adding a high-interest bank account like EQ Bank’s Savings Plus account (which pays 2.3% interest, no promo rate required!) to the mix can be a big, not to mention easy, boost to your banking.
There are great financial products out there pals, and yes, a savings account is a product. Part of financial literacy is understanding that those accounts are products, and making sure you’re using the right ones for your unique setup.
Like, I would never use a super-cleansing face wash, because I don’t need it, but you’ll take my super-rich moisturizer from my cold, dead, dry-skinned hands. Just because it’s right for me doesn’t mean it’s right for you, but knowing what’s out there? Priceless.
5. Read your insurance policies
Ok, before you give up on me for this boring recommendation, hear me out.
If you have insurance, you’re paying for it on a monthly basis. Do you know what you’re paying for? Do you know what’s covered—and more importantly, what’s not? Is there anything you need to do to keep your coverage valid? You need to know those things, and the quickest way to do it is to actually read the policy documents.
Because no one is perfect, this is on my to-do list this year. I will put my hand up and admit that while the sign-up process with Sonnet Insurance made my coverage really clear… I still haven’t read our home insurance policy in its entirety. So to celebrate Financial Literacy Month, I’m going to!
6. Comparison-shop (for anything)
Buying a new couch? Comparison shop. Planning to shop on Black Friday Cyber Monday? Comparison shop (preferably before you’re getting bombarded with deal emails). Buying insurance? Comparison shop.
This is something I’m admittedly still working on, and it hasn’t historically been a strength of mine—it took me two years of paying bonkers-high car insurance premiums before I comparison-shopped my insurance rates, and honestly, it was just because I didn’t know how to buy insurance.
That’s one of the main reasons I’m so hyped for financial literacy this month. When you know how things work, you know how to use them, and how to get better prices on the exact same thing.
If you don’t know how they work, most financial products will cost you more, and over time that can seriously add up. Being an informed, comparison-shopping consumer will always save you money, and that includes when it comes to financial products.
7. Review your credit cards
What’s in your wallet?
Sure, it’s a financial company’s slogan, but it’s actually one of the best places to start if you’re reading this thinking “Well, I don’t actually use that many financial products.” Your wallet is one place that will represent your most commonly-used financial products, including your credit cards.
The world of credit cards can be daunting, and there’s a lot of choice out there. You can get a card that has an annual fee, or one that doesn’t. You can get a cashback card, or one that offers travel points (and perks). You can get a lower interest rate card, or one that has preferable rates on foreign transactions.
But before you dig into all of that, find out more about your current card by asking yourself some questions. Do you like the perks you’re getting? Are there any you didn’t know about? Could you be earning more rewards with a different card, or by adding a second card to your wallet?
I can’t give you one single card that’s best for everyone, because a lot of finding the right card is knowing how much you spend every month, and on what. If you know that, however, the calculator I always send to friends is this one from Ratehub. Make sure to expand where it says “Monthly spending by category” and put in your numbers for the best recommendations!
8. Do some light estate planning
Do you need a will? Or life insurance?
Answering those questions accurately, and sitting down to actually learn when you’d need both, is a great way to spend some time celebrating Financial Literacy Month.
The answer might be yes, it might be no, or it might be “a little bit.” Maybe you need a small amount of life insurance! Or a really simple will. Once you’ve answered for yourself whether you need each, you can shop around to compare life insurance rates, and check out some of the online will-creation tools that can make the whole process a lot easier.
And if you’re reading this entire post in order, a spoiler for the next section: I learned everything I know, and everything I needed to know, about buying life insurance from Stop Overthinking Your Money!, by Preet Banerjee. It’s an amazing read, and one you should check out before buying insurance.
But also if you need insurance please don’t wait too long, like, your deadline is this month to get that book read if that’s the only thing standing in your way.
9. Read a personal finance book
If you’re here, reading a personal finance blog, I can guarantee you will like personal finance books.
Here’s the thing: When you’re new to money media, it’s easy to prefer shorter, more digestible pieces of information instead of sitting down to tackle a full book. But unless you’re getting into really technical investing books, can I just share that almost every money book I’ve read in the past few years has been SO MUCH FUN?
In between the fun, they can teach you a lot about managing your finances, from budgeting and spending to credit scores to insurance and more. Especially if this Financial Literacy Month is happening close to the beginning of your money journey, the books on my resources page—my personal faves—are excellent additions to your shelf and your brain.
10. Share this post
Is this blatant self-promotion? Yes. Is it also a way to help boost financial literacy? Also yes.Here are ten things you can do to celebrate Financial Literacy Month - and boost your money knowledge - this November. Click To Tweet
You’re here, reading about money, and getting your financial groove on. That’s amazing! But how many people do you know who might not know what an RRSP does, or be too embarrassed to ask? Or might not know there are fun books that exist that can help them figure out how to spend within their means, without stressing about money 24/7? (Worry-Free Money, btw.)
A quick share of this post might not boost your financial literacy, but you never know who in your network could use a handy to-do list of ways to get better at money by understanding how it works this month.