Spend Your Spending Money In A Safe and Happy Way

Oh hey! So, this is my (Shannon Lee Simmons) first ever sponsored blog post on the website. As an advice-only, unbiased financial planner, I’m careful about what information I share or promote. I was always afraid that working with a financial institution could come across as biased, and as a financial planner, I knew I could only comfortably work with a company that shares my mantra of supporting people getting their finances on track.

But then, I was asked to work with Interac and got excited because I genuinely support using debit as the go-to spending method over credit or cash (It’s in my book again and again and again). So, if paying with debit is now easier for people, I think that’s great.

So, here we are!

In my book, Worry-Free Money, I talk about something called the Spending Vortex. It’s that moment when you feel like your paycheque comes in and it’s already spent before you even get to debate ordering a pizza. Poof! Usually, you’re left feeling broke, like you’ve overspent – and that makes most people feel frustrated.

A lot of times, this happens as a result of how you spend money. Sometimes you pay with debit, sometimes you pay with credit, sometimes cash. Maybe all your rent is due with one paycheque and then you feel like a baller on the next. But, with no spending strategy, you’re never really sure if you can actually afford something. This leads to a lot of money anxiety. But, it doesn’t need to be that way! Here’s how.

Step 1: Stop budgeting with 50+ spending categories.

Coffee shops, takeout, clothes, pet, housing, bills – the list goes on. Budgeting like this sets most people up for failure. You forecast your spending goals in these very restrictive categories than do you best to live within the confines of the rigid budget. It’s so unrealistic! What if one weekend your family comes over and you need to buy a lot of cheese? What if the next week you need to buy a new shirt for work? Enough already. There are only 4 types of money that you need in your budget: Fixed Expenses, Meaningful Savings, Short-Term Savings and Spending Money.

Fixed Expenses are expenses like bills, housing, insurance, minimum debt payments, etc. The bills you must pay each month whether you like it or not.

Meaningful Savings is money that is being put aside to improve your net worth by increasing your assets or decreasing your debts.

Short-Term Savings is money you should be stashing away for emergencies and spikes in spending.

Once you calculate this, everything left over is Spending Money. That’s the money that you have to blow to zero every pay period for your life – groceries, gas, takeout, clothes, fun, and entertainment – cheese (real and vegan)!

For example,

  • After-Tax Income: $3,000
  • Fixed Expenses: $1,700
  • Meaningful Savings: $400
  • Short-Term Savings: $200

Money You Cannot Spend = $2,300 ($1,700 + $400 + $200)

Money You Can Spend = $700 ($3,000 – $2,300)

Step 2: Calculate how much you have to spend each pay period.

Once you’ve calculated how much money you can spend each month, separate it by how often you get paid. For example, if you’re paid twice a month and your Spending Money is $700, each paycheque you can spend $350 ($700 divided by 2). You don’t have to budget this $350. It’s yours to spend each payday however you wish, as long as it’s within your limit!

Step 3: Separate the Spending Money from the rest of your money.

In the book, in my practice and to my friends and family, I always suggest having a separate chequing account for your Spending Money. It’s also good to stick one payment method. This helps you set an actual limit to your spending and keep tabs on it so you don’t have to worry about receiving a bill that you can’t pay off at the end of the month.

If you’ve separated your Spending Money into a separate chequing account, you can easily see if you can afford things. If it’s the day before payday and you have $50 left in there, the question “Can I afford takeout tonight?” is easy to answer. It becomes “Is there money in my spending account?” Yes? Great. And now you know to keep it under $50.

I also suggest spending out of this account using debit. Why? Because this way you’re actually spending your own money.  If you spend using debit, your bank balance will be an indication of how much money you actually have left to spend until the next pay period. In addition, it beats cash because there’s an electronic log of your transactions. You can see where you spent your money in case you ever need to go back and use that information.

If you like the convenience of contactless payments you can do that now with debit! When you think about paying with debit card, you’re likely used to using a PIN number to pay, but now there are options like Interac® Flash which gives you the convenience of contactless payment.  This means you can pay by just holding your Interac Flash-enabled debit card in front of the reader at checkout and you’re good to go – no PIN required. If you like to use your phone to pay, there’s also the option of using Interac® Debit on mobile so you can use your phone to pay with your own money. Since you’re using debit, you don’t have to worry about going over your budget because it’s all tracked in real-time, from your Spending Money account, and with a mobile banking app you can check your balances whenever you want.

Step 4: Spend safely and securely

A spending strategy is one thing, but you also need to know the payment method you use is safe. Contactless payment technologies make it easy to flash your debit card or mobile device quickly and securely to pay for everyday items like groceries, gas or your morning coffee using your own money.  Interac Flash is one of the safest forms of payment because your debit card number can’t be used to make a purchase on its own in store, and it has built-in spending limits that are set by your financial institution. For example, a transaction limit of around $100 means you can’t spend over that limit by flashing your card, as you’d have to insert your card and use your PIN to verify the payment.  There are also cumulative limits and once you reach that limit, you need your PIN to proceed. That’s great from a budgeting perspective but more importantly, it protects you if you lose your card. Also, the Interac Zero Liability Policy means you don’t have to worry about what happens if you lose your card because you are not responsible for losses beyond your reasonable control.

Take the stress out of your spending money! Once you know what you can safely spend to zero each pay period without jeopardizing your bills and savings, your work is done. I give you permission to spend your Spending Money without guilt, or a budget.