In Toronto, with sophisticated urban shopping complexes like the Eaton Centre and Yorkdale and the boutiques along Queen Street West, Distillery District and Yorkville, there are so many places to spend your hard-earned cash on cute outfits, accessories, and whimsical fashions. It’s almost too easy to get lost in the thrill of finding the perfect pair of boots and spending more money than you can actually afford. So we’ve created a list of tips to help you shop smarter so you can still enjoy the many perks this great city has to offer without maxing out your credit cards.
Know the Ins and Outs of Your Finances
The best thing you can possibly do is to make sure you know exactly where you stand financially. How much money do you owe in total across all of your credit cards, loans, and lines of credit? What is the minimum payment for each of those accounts? Can you focus on paying down or paying off any of those debts before adding new debt?
If you’re uncertain where to start, we suggest ordering a credit report from one of Canada’s two credit bureaus – Equifax and TransUnion. It’s actually best to order your report from both of them because the information they have might differ slightly as the two companies generate their reports independently of each other. This is your opportunity to get an overview of your financial situation as a whole and to understand what your FICO score is and how it will affect your likelihood of being approved for any loans in the future.
Your FICO score is a three-digit number that reflects your financial history and tells lenders whether you’re a trustworthy borrower or not. Much like a grade on a report card, lenders use your FICO score to decide whether or not they should lend you money. This is also your chance to correct any errors you find in your report to ensure the information is as accurate as possible. Even one minor inaccuracy can negatively impact your score. If you find that you’re still overwhelmed and uncertain how to best start paying down your loans, another option to look into is debt consolidation.
Create a Budget
Once you know where you stand financially, you can create a monthly budget for yourself. Start off by figuring out how much you owe in credit card and loan payments each month and put aside enough money to – at the very least – cover all of your minimum payments. Next, add up how much money you’ll need for rent or mortgage payments, utilities, car payments, cell phone payments, groceries, etc.
Figure out exactly how much money you’ll have coming in each month, how much money will be going back out again to cover your bills and other expenses, and finally how much you’ll have leftover.
Of the money left over, decide how much you want to put aside into a savings account and finally, how much expendable income remains. Whatever is left is yours to spend as you please!
Practice the 24-Hour Rule
Just because you know how much expendable income you have available to you doesn’t mean you should rush to blow it all in one place or on one item. As tempting as major sales can be, give yourself permission to really think about any expensive purchases before handing over your money.
This is where the 24-hour rule comes in handy. Essentially it boils down to giving yourself 24 hours to think about a large purchase before coming to a decision. Walk away from the store or exit the browser tab and sleep on it. If you still want it just as badly after 24 hours, you’ll feel better about your decision and less likely to regret it than had you impulsively charged it to your credit card.
Keep Your Receipts
There’s nothing worse than buyer’s remorse and feeling like you’ve just thrown your money out the window in exchange for something you don’t even want anymore. This is why it’s a good idea to get in the habit of keeping your receipts. Whether it’s a new dress or a microwave, so long as you still have the item in the original packaging (or in the case of clothing, haven’t removed the tags), you can almost always bring it back to the store and either get a full refund or store credit.
The same often applies to online shopping. Amazon makes returns easy (and you don’t have to pay a cent when sending back items) but you’d be surprised by how simple it is to return the items you’ve purchased online from other retailers too. Get in the habit of reading the return policy before making an online purchase to be safe, but generally speaking any online retailer with a brick and mortar location will let you return the items you purchased in store rather than having to ship them back.
Get Perks and Rewards for Shopping
If you’re going to spend money, you may as well be rewarded for it, right? From cashback to travel points and access to exclusive events, most banks and major credit cards offer a variety of perks that are absolutely worth taking advantage of. If you’re a frequent shopper at a specific store or chain of stores, it’s worth looking into any loyalty programs they may offer as well.
When you live in a city like Toronto surrounded by an incredible array of great shopping options, it can be tricky to control your spending. It’s amazing how much more enjoyable you’ll find shopping when you know that you’ve got your spending under control.