How To Achieve Your Financial Goals In Less Than A Year

Posted on: February 20, 2020

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How To Achieve Your Financial Goals In Less Than A Year with Alanna Abramsky

In this episode of The Glass Is Half Full, Richard Killen a Licensed Insolvency Trustee interviews Alanna Abramsky who saved $20,000 is less than a year. She will share the secrets on how to achieve your financial goals in just a short time. She is now a Money Coach who is based in Toronto helping people on how to budget, save and invest.

RichardToday my guest is Alanna Abramsky.

She has a very, very interesting story because she was able to save in the space of a little over a year, a little under a year, $20,000. And I’m going to ask her to share with us how she did that, and perhaps what motivated her to do it as well.

Wow, saving $20,000, Alanna, in under a year on a reasonably good, but not humongous, salary. Pretty amazing stuff. But before I ask you how you did it, tell me what motivated you?

AlannaI’ve been living in Toronto for about five years at this point, and I was working in the production industry in a lot of live events, and I thought I was kind of ready for a change. So I decided to go travelling, and I wanted to do this big trip around the world, and that really was my main motivation to save all of this money because I had heard of people who had travelled before, and they had to come home early from their trip because I had run out of money. And so I had this goal in mind where it was like, I didn’t, I don’t want to be one of those people who had to cut their trip short because ran out of funds. So I had this, you know, I did some research, and I had this idea in mind of where he wanted to go and how much it was going to cost. And that number that $20,000, like that was my end goal. So that really was my motivation. It was time for me to get out of Toronto and see the world while I was still young enough to do so and yeah, I just kind of,
RichardSo you had the motivation?
AlannaYeah.
RichardThe desire to travel and see things and all that and you had an actual target.
AlannaYes.
Richard$20,000
AlannaThat was the big thing. It was that goal. I think everybody has financial goals. Mine in that particular year was to save the $20,000, so I didn’t have to stress out while I was traveling.
RichardAnd you did it.
AlannaI did it. Yeah.
RichardMany of our viewers, perhaps most of our viewers since they’re tuning into a TV program, put on by an Insolvency Trustee, may not have a heck of a lot of money, so the thought of creating a budget and managing their money the way you had to, they might think that’s beyond their reach. What would you say to people in that position, thinking like that?
AlannaSo I’ve been living in Toronto for about five years at this point, and I was working in the production industry in a lot of live events, and I thought I was kind of ready for a change. So I decided to go travelling, and I wanted to do this big trip around the world, and that was my main motivation to save all of this money because I had heard of people who had travelled before, and they had to come home early from their trip because I had run out of money. And so I had this goal in mind where it was like, I didn’t, I don’t want to be one of those people who had to cut their trip short because ran out of funds. So I had this, you know, I did some research, and I had this idea in mind of where he wanted to go and how much it was going to cost. And that number that $20,000, like that, was my end goal. So that was my motivation. It was time for me to get out of Toronto and see the world while I was still young enough to do so and yeah, I just kind of,
RichardSo what’s the best way to create that budget? What mechanical logistical way would you go about it?
AlannaYes.
RichardWhat did you do?
AlannaThis is yeah, this is something that I think everybody should do, it doesn’t matter where you are in life, but the first thing I think you need to do is to get real with what you’re spending right now. I think it’s a really important thing to do.
RichardWhat do you mean by get real?
AlannaSo I always suggest to the clients that I work with to print out the last 2 to 3 months of their debit and credit statements and then go through all of those debit and credit statements and highlight them per category. So let’s say you have RBC MasterCard or something like that, print out the last 2 to 3 months and highlight all of your dining out expenses and then add up all of those dining out expenses over the last three months and then find an average of what you would be spending in that dining out category. I think that’s number one, and you want to do it for every category that you’re spending money in. So you want to figure out what kind of fixed expenses do I have first? So those fixed expenses are the expenses that don’t change monthly, and you want to figure out what kind of variable expenses you’re spending. So these would be, you know, those expenses that fluctuate like our grocery bill. Our grocery bill’s never going to be the same every time we go to the grocery store. Unless, of course, we’re buying the same thing every single time. So, like dining out is typically
RichardThat sounds like a boring diet.
AlannaI know, doesn’t it? Yeah, chicken and rice every week.
RichardGood chicken.
AlannaMaybe, I don’t know. So then you want to figure out what your variable expenses are on average, so and that’s where you’re going to figure out, that’s where the credit card and debit statements come into play.
RichardSo you’re dealing with facts.
AlannaFacts. You want to analyze your real data because I don’t think enough people do that. And I think you know, I have a lot of clients myself, who every month they have no idea where their money goes, and it’s because they don’t understand what they’re spending.
RichardThat’s, I was going to ask you that, when you’re doing this with some of the people, families, what not, how surprising are those initial results?
AlannaIt’s crazy. It’s, I’ve had clients before who, you know, they, they’re dealing with a lot of credit card debt. They’re dealing with big lines of credits, and I take them through this activity where I just say, all I want you to do is just go take the last three months and figure out your averages in each category. And I have some clients who are spending $10-$11,000 a month and they’re not making that kind of money. And a lot of it is on these items we don’t necessarily need, but they’re living this lifestyle that they can’t really afford. So I think this is step number one really is to analyze the real data that you have, get real with your numbers because that is going to make you a lot more aware, moving forward of maybe areas you need to cut back on. Maybe there are things in your life that you could do differently to increase cash flow, so that what I say, that’s step number one. And you also want to account also for those irregular expenses that we have. So maybe they’re not monthly expenses, but something like property tax if it’s not included in your mortgage.
RichardCar insurance.
AlannaCar insurance. If you’re paying an annual fee.
RichardYou get an annual bill.
AlannaYeah, an annual bill, and sometimes people pay it monthly. Vacation is typically, you know, the summers are usually a lot more expensive for a lot of us, because whether we go to cottages or hang out with friends or whatever, so you want to incorporate those irregular expenses and be aware that they’re coming. So December, for example, is a really expensive month for everybody, and we all know that December is coming. So if we sit down and we get real with our numbers, you know, what did we spend last year for the holidays? Well, I need to incorporate that into my upcoming expenses, those regular expenses. So when January hits, we’re not all of a sudden freaking out, and we’re in masses amounts of debt like we need to prepare for these expenses in advance.
RichardSo getting into the specifics it’s been using what you did, as the template for all of this, how did you manage this? You’re talking about groceries. You’re talking about eating in eating out, your own food preparation. All the money that goes into it, just putting something in your stomach kind of thing, is, it can get complicated, get convoluted a lot. Right? And there’s other things, like travel. You mentioned travel, all kinds. There’s a domestic day to day travel, there’s the, you know, the reason why you did all this in the first place, kind of travel. How did you do it? How did you break it down for yourself?
AlannaSo the first thing that I did actually was, I was, you know, I started reading all of these different blogs about, I kind of had an idea of where I wanted to go. So I started reading blogs about, realistically, how much was it going to cost every single day to live in, travel and live in some of these areas, in the way that I wanted to travel? I wasn’t an 18 year old backpacker like I didn’t want to stay in hostels all the time. So, you know I had to incorporate a couple hotel stays and car rentals, that kind of stuff. So that was step number one was actually figuring out how much I was going to spend on a daily basis in some of these places that I was going to. So then I had my number. That’s how I came up the $20,000. That’s what I wanted. Like all flights, that was my target. That was like all my flights, hotels, food, you know, going out, tourism. So from there, what I did was I sat down and I went through that exact activity, looked at exactly what I was spending now. So I went through my credit and debit statements. I looked at everything I got real with my numbers. And then what I did was that I created a budget for moving forward where I could cut back in certain areas. So for me, I loved dining out. I still do, but I was spending way too much money and dining out that I didn’t need to be spending because my priorities had shifted. So now my priority was travelling, so I cut back in dining out. That was a big one. I ended up saving about $200-$300 bucks a month in dining out. I got rid of my cable bill. I just stopped. It was like, I don’t need cable. I went out and I actually bought, the old school bunny ears, those digital analog boxes. And that is like it’s a $15 charge at Best Buy, cut my $60 cable bill, and I could still get, you know, all the big
RichardIt’s a $15 one off charge
AlannaThat’s what, that’s once, it’s a one thing plug, screw it into the back your TV and you get your, like, Global and CTV and CBC. And now with Netflix, you can pretty much watch anything that you want.
RichardSo you’re talking to somebody who grew up with that?
AlannaYeah, exactly. I can still remember that at our cottage.
RichardNot that I want to talk about age.
AlannaYeah, and then, I never had a car at the time, but, I stopped taking public transit as much because, you know, $3 every time you ride, $3.25 every time you ride, it really started adding up. So I went out and I invested in a bike. And it wasn’t a nice bike. It was about a bike. I bought a bike and it got me to and from or I would walk everywhere. The biggest thing that I actually found the greatest impact on was grocery shopping. So what I did and I still do it to this day, but I usually grocery shop on Sundays and what I do, usually when I go to the grocery store, there’s typically a 50% off produce cart that they just usually restock.
RichardMake sure you eat it today.
AlannaYeah, well, yeah, or just like, make sure you prepare it today kind of thing, but even still, like it lasts 3 to 4 days. It’s not the freshest stuff in there, obviously, because they’ve had to make room for the new fresh stuff coming in. But all of the produce I’ve ever had there was perfectly fine. So on Sundays, I would go out, I would spend about $30 in produce for the week, which was more than enough to last me the whole week, and I would just go
RichardCompared to what have you been spending?
AlannaOh, previous to that? I was probably spending closer to, like, $70 or $80. Yeah. Yeah, and It depends also where you go grocery shopping, I like shopping at No Frills. I think their produce is good, but I find Loblaws to be quite expensive. But all of those grocery stores typically have some kind of 50% off cart. So I started going to that cart, and then I would go home, and I would food prep for the week. And that saved me a ton of money. One of the big things I always
RichardSo instead of going out and spending money to pay somebody else, to prepare your food, you were investing in the, what do we call that?
AlannaInvesting in myself.
RichardSweat equity.
AlannaYeah, exactly. Yeah. And I mean, for me, I like cooking. And I like, you know, I can follow a recipe, and I could basically create anything. Yeah, well, I mean, it takes time, though, right? You have to, like, you have to weigh, like, you know, time value for money. So for me, I like my priority was like I wanted to save this money. So it was okay.
RichardAgain, you had your target.
AlannaYeah. I had my target. And there was nothing.
RichardA goal in your target.
AlannaYeah, exactly. So the transportation was the big one. The dining out was a big one. I always say to clients like, look at how much you’re spending at your bank. I think there’s a lot of the major financial institutions right now are spending their charging way too much money on bank fees and there’s a lot of no fee banks out there, now.
RichardDid you start investigating all these little nooks and crannies?
AlannaIt was like everything, I was like, where can I start to save money? I called my telecom companies like I reduce my cell phone bill by about $40 a month. Like I said, I got rid of my cable. Same thing with my internet. I just switched my internet provider, saved myself about $20 a month, and it doesn’t seem like a lot at first. But when you have, you know, when all of a sudden you’re cutting back by, like, $500 a month and you can put that into, you freed up in cash flow to put into your travel fund, it added up.
RichardTo about $1,600 a month or something?
AlannaYeah, it was, it was like, it was probably, it was probably cut back.
Richard$20,000 a year.
AlannaYeah, I probably cut back around, I would say, $1,000 bucks a month, and then whatever extra I had and from work, it would throw into savings.
RichardIt wasn’t all savings.
AlannaNo, but the biggest thing for me, I think was dining out. That was like I was going out. And it’s easy to do in Toronto. It’s expensive. And so easy. There’s six restaurants for every eight buildings or you know, every eight shops or whatever. So
RichardSo I got a question for you because I know that people are listening to this and, yeah, fine, it’s all well and good, but did you think you were depriving yourself of anything during all of this, or was your goal so strong that it compensated for and any negative feelings you might have had over these changes?
AlannaYeah. No, I didn’t. I never felt like I was depriving myself. There were times I would say that some friends, you know, would ask me to go out for drinks or food or whatever. And, you know, I just said no.
RichardOr you said, you buying?
AlannaYeah, I said, why don’t you guys come over instead and I’ll make something here.
RichardI would have said, you buying?
AlannaYeah. Yeah. So I didn’t go that far, but, I never really felt like I was depriving myself. There were sometimes in the winter when I was biking to work where I was like, I should just jump on the streetcar. But I was, like, so motivated to just save that money. That, I think that winter actually was a pretty harsh winter, I think I only took the streetcar twice in the whole winter. I was that crazy person, that was outside on my bike, like with my parka on
RichardYeah, I think I saw you.
AlannaRiding, riding to work.
RichardAlanna, can you explain to me, about this mindset, mindful spending, what do you mean by that?
AlannaSo I think now, especially in our day and age, it’s really easy to spend money. And, you know, I blame a lot of the credit card companies for that because they created that tap system where people don’t even have to think twice about the money that they’re spending. And I think that’s a huge issue
RichardDo you know what the big thing about that is, you don’t have to remember your PIN.
AlannaYeah, like you don’t have to remember anything. You can go to
RichardJust remember where your card is.
AlannaAny store and swipe it on this machine and you’ve made a transaction. So people haven’t been mindful of how much money they’re spending because it’s so easy now to spend money with technology. They’ve made it so simple. I think now, even on your Apple Watch, you can, you know, with Apple pay, which is like, I haven’t even tested that one yet, but I think now the biggest problem that a lot of my clients see when they, when I work with them, is that they just they don’t know where all of their money goes, and it’s because they’re not being mindful of where they’re actually spend spending their money. They kind of have an idea of how much money they have coming in, but they have no idea where it goes. So I think that first, you know, when you, you know, first step is analyze the data. The second step is to be mindful about spending moving forward because, yeah, because I think once you start to, you know, think about like, is this something that I really need or is this something that I really want? And if it is something that I want, do I want to get out of debt more than me wanting this thing that I’m about to purchase. And I think that’s kind of that mindfulness those, you know, creating new habits where you think, is this the absolute priority?
RichardMindful spending.
AlannaMindful spending. It’s and it’s hard. It takes time. But, I do think that when you actually start to track your spending, it just kind of naturally starts occurring because then you start to see where all your money starts going.
RichardI firmly believe in that as well. I’ve heard you mention that you equate spending to a gym membership and you’re the personal trainer in that particular gym membership?
AlannaYeah, so I like to consider myself a personal trainer for your finances. You know, I think financial health and, our everyday health are very similar in a lot of ways. So for me, if I’m not aware of the food I’m putting into my body, I’m not going to feel good, and I have to be mindful to be healthy inside. Same thing goes for your wealth. And so what, when I work, when I work with my clients, you know, all of those all of the people that I work with, they need that accountability. They need somebody to talk to, to be like, well, maybe instead of doing it the way you have been doing, why don’t we try it a different way and the same way that if you went to a gym and got a personal trainer, they could sit down with you and say, look, you have this. We need to change this and do this. We’re going to give you these exercises. Maybe don’t eat this food, Maybe eat this instead. So when I refer to myself as a personal trainer for your bank account, I do a lot of the same things with clients that I feel like personal trainers do with their clients in the gym. Just looking at what you have and say, look, this hasn’t been working for you so far. Maybe we should do this instead, or, you know, maybe try doing this and moving this around. So that’s kind of where that came from.
RichardOne of the things important things that goes with being a personal trainer in a gym context and physical context like that is, the relationship that develops between the trainer and the trainee is going to be a sympathy, and if you want, a trust.
AlannaYeah. And the accountability, to people, need that accountability partner sometimes. Because if there’s nobody there, you know, at the end of it being like, hey, did you do this, this week, then a lot of people just won’t do it.
RichardDo what?
AlannaAnything
RichardAnd now you’re a money coach, you helped over 300 people.
AlannaI have so far. Yeah, in the last year and 1/2 I would say two years.
RichardNow, this you say, 300 people, does this represent a real cross section of humanity or particular type or age group?
AlannaNo, I have a lot of clients. My clients range in age from, I have some clients who are just getting into, like, they just are, you know, finished university and now they’ve got a lot of student debt. I’ve got a lot of clients who have very high net worth. And they have a lot of investments and need help. I have clients who you know, have medium incomes and they just don’t have any money and they’re in debt. So, my clients range from anywhere I’d say, like 25 years, all the way up to 70-72 years old.
RichardThat old, eh?
AlannaYeah, yeah. So I basically as a financial coach, what I do with them is accountability. I look at what they have currently and think about different ways that I can help them and not it’s not doing very, it’s not going out and getting new products necessarily. It’s looking at what they have now. And how can we be
RichardModify.
AlannaHow can we modify what you have now, too, you know, create a really solid foundation, create a really solid budget, look at your cash flow, so moving forward we can, you know, we can help you. If they struggle with that, we can help you get out of debt. I can help you do that. But we need to, first of all, educate you on what you have, how that works, and then from there, you know it’s moving forward and it’s really coaching them through the process and educating them. I think education. I think the lack of financial education in Canada’s it’s really creating a huge issue for most people because I have clients who have a lot of credit card debt and they don’t understand how their credit card debt is calculated or they don’t understand compound interest or they don’t understand, you know, why am I, why is my credit card debt not going down if I’m just paying the minimum amount due. Like they don’t understand how all those things are calculated. So as a financial coach, I help to first look at it and then educate them so they could make better decisions moving forward. And then it’s that accountability to be better moving forward and have those checking points because when they have those that accountability partner, they typically get the work done.
RichardAlanna, it was great having you on the program. You have a savings guide that is available to people, tell us what it is and how to get it?
AlannaYeah. When I got back from my trip, I created a blog called thebudgetbabes.org and I had a lot of people in my trip who were asking on how I saved all the money? I then started writing blogs about saving money. If you go onto that blog, there is a little e-savings book guide that shows how I saved all that money in there. On top of that, I am the head of financial, the head of a financial coach with a company called Enriched Academy. And we empower Canadians to be better with their finances and educate them with their finances, so you can go to enrichedacademy.com, to check out more. We have a 12-course system on what to do with your finances moving forward.
RichardThat’s great. So that’s how people get it? This is the book I wrote, which you’ll find that, talk a lot about much from the same things from a different angle.
AlannaThanks, Richard.
RichardThank you for being here, Alanna.


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