11/27/2012 08:03 EST | Updated 10/01/2013 04:55 EDT

Four Ways to Balance Spending and Saving

File photo dated 02/01/07 of a piggy bank as squeezed savers are putting £13 a month less aside than they were a year ago, while growing numbers of people are saving nothing, a study suggested today.

It's the "B" word most moms dread hearing. That's right...balance. If I had a dime for every time I've heard it, or said it, I could retire right now. Whether it's juggling family and personal time, the oft referred to "work-life balance," working off the stress of the day by heading to the gym or trying to find time to read a book, it's never exactly on balance.

Busy moms (a somewhat redundant term) understand this concept well. After-school activities and practices for the kids, chauffeuring them and their pals all over town, being an effective parent without smothering or overindulging, squeezing in social obligations; it's a lot to deal with. If that wasn't enough, many moms are also responsible for managing their family's finances as well. Research conducted earlier this year by President's Choice Financial found that while 56 per cent of Canadians identify a man as "head of the household," 41 per cent say it is actually a woman who is responsible for managing day-to-day household expenses and bills.

So how are we doing balancing our saving and spending? According to new research, it seems as though we're doing reasonably well, despite the challenges we all face, especially when it comes to balancing spending and saving in uncertain economic times. As always, it's a matter of give and take, of sacrifice and compromise. An overwhelming majority of Canadians say that they still manage to save for the future, while many acknowledge that they have had to cut back on both spending and saving since the economic downturn of 2008. In fact, 43 per cent report that since 2008 they spend less, while 36 per cent say they saved less.

While nine out of 10 Canadians have some form of savings, which is indeed good news, 72 per cent also carry some form of debt. According to the PC Financial survey, 24 per cent of Canadians also now say that they "live for today" and "don't worry about tomorrow."


Balance Spending and Saving

But there are ways to help find a better balance between spending and saving.

1. If you are paying bank fees, stop now! This may not seem like a big deal, but over the course of one year, a no fee bank account can save Canadians up to $200 in fees. That's money that could be put to work for your family. There is no reason why any family should pay unnecessary bank fees.

2. Manage debt responsibly. Borrowing money can be a real necessity during tough financial times. But it's always important to live within our means, though, and explore the available options for lowering any interest-bearing vehicles. With interest rates at near-historic lows, it's possible to unearth hundreds of dollars in savings through home equity lines of credit or other loans, while boosting your monthly cash flow at the same time.

3. Explore no fee banking and credit cards that allow you to accumulate points for the types of everyday rewards that matter to you. But watch out for the trap of paying high fees for those rewards. The recent research by PC Financial found that Canadians generally fall into four categories: Practical Spenders (30 per cent) and Practical Savers (22 per cent), those who are focused on everyday family finances and prefer smaller, more frequent rewards like free groceries; and Aspirational Savers (17 per cent) and Aspirational Spenders (7 per cent), those who are more focused on the future and prefer bigger, less frequent rewards, such as expensive vacations. There are products out there for all four of these types of spenders and savers.

4. Pay yourself first. It's an old adage, but one that has stood the test of time. If you budget wisely, cutting unnecessary costs wherever you can, and save a bit every month -- even a modest amount -- over time, it can pay huge dividends.

It is indeed a balancing act, but one that can be achieved with a little bit of planning for today, and for the future.

Kathy Buckworth is Chief Family Advisor to PC Financial.