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How to Track Your Spending and Reduce Debt in 2019

The financial reality of the holidays always sets in during the new year. For many Canadians, now is the time that December bills start arriving in their inbox or mailbox, which all too often means additional debt that needs to be repaid. If this sounds familiar — and you’re ready to reduce your debt in a major way — tracking your spending is a great place to start.

Consumer debt is more than a number. It makes life less affordable, as more families are struggling to meet their long-term financial goals and basic living needs. According to our 2018 Affordability Index, three-out-of-four Canadians are carrying personal debt, such as credit card debt and lines of credit, and just 20 per cent say they have enough money to afford their basic needs.

With this in mind, what goals will you set to reduce debt in the new year? A great first step is to keep track of your spending; knowing how, when and where you spend your money can help you identify areas of change.

Here’s how to track your spending more effectively in the year ahead.

Set your goals for 2019. Start by taking a holistic approach to your goals, including the need to reduce debt. The Wallet Diet has a good goal template to consider, which includes how you want to improve health, relationships and yourself. Debt is always part of the bigger picture and making it part of your roadmap means it won’t fall by the wayside.

Test drive a new app for January. There are so many free (and paid) budgeting apps out there now to make tracking your spending a cinch. Greedy Rates runs down quite a few of them here, including all-encompassing powerhouses like Mint, all the way down to helpful niche apps like PocketGuard.

Here are a couple of others that may be new to you:

  • Spending Tracker: While not fully automated like Mint, having to manually enter your purchases can be great for people who usually “swipe and forget”. All you do is enter your purchases, bills, and get the overview on a regular basis.
  • Mylo: While not a tracker per se, Mylo rounds up all your credit and debit purchases to the nearest dollar and invests them for you. It’s a hands-off way of putting your money to work.


Keep a spending diary. Beyond just tracking your spending, it’s important to investigate your emotional relationship with money. Do you spend more on paydays? Do you go out for meals on days where you’re more tired? A spending diary leaves room for the “why” behind your consumer debt. Simply Frugal has a blog post on creating and keeping a spending journal that gives you a starting point.

Start a budget worksheet that’s easy to use. Budgets are a great thing to have but sticking to them can feel monotonous. Boomer and Echo has a post that explores the pitfalls of a budget and how to create a better one. Give the post a read before creating your next worksheet — the advice to change your budget as your income and expenses change is a great one.

Starting to track your spending at the beginning of the year will give you a better idea of where your money is going and how you can reduce debt by making changes at home. Hopefully these tips can give you the motivation to get past holiday spending and make 2019 a frugal-friendly year!

Do you have a tool you love to track spending with that you want to share? Join the conversation on social media, using the hashtags #LeaveDebtBehind, #NewYearMotivation, and #DebtAdvice.

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