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Setting goals is important to a successful financial plan. (Credit: Wikihow)

September is a great time to set goals

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September is an exciting time. While it marks the end of the lazy days of summer, it’s also a time of fresh starts. There’s a new social season ahead, new programs to participate in, and if you’ve got kids, a new year of classes.

While slower sales have dominated the news lately, a less-frenzied market also creates opportunities for buyers.

But maybe you’re not quite ready to buy. Perhaps you’re still trying to figure out what’s affordable in Vancouver, which RBC Economics recently said hit a new record low for affordability. In fact, you’re probably wondering how Sean Cooper took little more than three years to pay off his mortgage on a Toronto bungalow.

Assess your finances

With all the other fresh starts taking place in September, why not take a second look at your financial habits and figure out how you can buy the kind of home you want? It might not be one of the UBC condos or detached Point Grey homes for sale; a simple Kitsilano condo might do.

With a benchmark price of $691,900, condos are the most affordable option for buyers in Metro Vancouver. Yet saving up for even this most affordable of local options is tough. A first-time buyer is often feeding a monthly rent of $2,000 and up, making it tough to set cash aside.

What’s a hopeful buyer to do?

A first step is to review income, savings, spending and debts – in that order.

Check your income

Knowing how much income you have is key to knowing how much you have to spend. Based on the “pay yourself first” rule, it’s also what you can tap to put aside some money each month for your down payment. Consider your savings as part of your overall monthly expenses – and see if you can cut back on non-essential spending in order to save a little more. Perhaps you can cut your cable service, and rely on Netflix, or eat out a little less each week.

Do you have any significant, outstanding debts? Perhaps you can pay them off faster by putting your savings on monthly expenses towards debt (while continuing to meet your savings target).

Set goals

Once you have a grasp of your finances, set some goals. How soon do you want to pay off your debts? How much money do you want to save, and by what date? Goals give us something to focus on, and the reassurance that sacrifices aren’t permanent. You might even find yourself more relaxed about the rest of your life, because there’s greater certainty of success.

Finally, have a plan for what you’ll do once you reach your goal. Perhaps you’ll identify some properties you can buy with your savings. If you needed to eliminate debt, perhaps you’ll turn your attention to saving for a down payment. Perhaps you’ll use those savings for something else entirely.

Whatever your financial goals, September is a time of new beginnings. Set some targets and get going!

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