SPEND SMART: MasterCard's Financial Preparedness Tips for 2009

    SPEND SMART budgeting tips can help consumers prepare for the economic
    conditions forecasted for the year ahead

    TORONTO, Jan. 19 /CNW/ - To varying degrees, the impact of the current
economic downturn will likely be felt by the majority of Canadians over the
next year. With the start of a New Year comes an opportunity to take a fresh
approach to managing personal finances. Financial planners have long
recommended that families need to budget for unanticipated expenditures such
as car trouble or replacing a broken hot water heater or paying for a school
trip. This year, there will likely be an even greater need for Canadians to
prepare for the unexpected. MasterCard Canada's SPEND SMART approach provides
a list of budgeting basics that consumers should contemplate while planning
their finances for the coming year.

    Save: Start saving now. Take a percentage of your income (5-10%) and put
it away in a savings account or another investment vehicle. Set up automatic
withdrawal payments so a portion of each pay goes directly into your savings
account, automatically saving money before you have a chance to spend it. This
concept of paying yourself first ensures that your financial goals come before
discretionary spending.

    Pick the right card: Given the variety of choices available to Canadians,
write down a list of the features you think you need (such as a low annual fee
or a low interest rate) and match them against the features you want (such as
points toward travel, groceries or gas) and see which card is the best fit.

    Expenses: Start by keeping track of your expenses over a month and group
them into categories. Tracking phone, hydro, etc. can be simplified by
preauthorizing payments for monthly bills through your credit card. This will
not only ensure bills are paid on time, but your monthly statement also
itemizes all your expenses. Using cash can make it difficult to know what was
spent on items like a coffee. A credit card is a great way to track all your
smaller expenses to the penny.

    Need to make a budget: Sticking to a budget (which should include paying
household bills on time) is one of the toughest and smartest things you can do
to make sure you're on your way to a bright financial future. There are many
free budgeting software programs available online. Budget for unexpected
expenditures such as car trouble or a broken appliance.

    Daily Savings: You might be surprised how quickly small expenses can add
up to big savings. Some of your regular, periodic expenses are luxuries -
things like house cleaning, manicures, lawn-care services - do them yourself,
or do without. Trade in those luxuries for the big luxury of paying off any
debt you might have.

    Set goals: Goal setting includes assessing your family's personal and
financial wants and needs, and then working to make those wants and needs a
reality. Identify and record all of your family's specific financial goals,
such as saving for a house, a holiday, paying off debt, or planning

    Manage credit use: A credit card can be a valuable tool to handle a
variety of expenses, but only when used responsibly. Few Canadian families can
afford to purchase everything they need - much less everything they want -
without borrowing from time to time. Whether you borrow through a line of
credit or a credit card, credit should be used to enhance your personal
financial management, not become an extension of your income. Paying bills on
time will help you maintain a good credit rating.

    Always keep your receipts: Keep your sales receipts for big ticket
purchases so you can monitor your spending and make sure it's in line with
your budget, and so you can compare them to your credit card statement. They
are also required for warranties or if you need to exchange or return

    Resolve to pay more than the minimum: Understand how paying more than the
minimum can be a critical step in reaching your goals. When less of your money
goes to paying interest on your debt and more of it goes toward paying off the
actual debt, you will reach your debt reduction goal sooner. Concentrate on
paying off the debts that carry the highest interest rates first.

    Track revenue: A key first step to creating a budget is to calculate your
monthly, post-tax income. This allows you to match your revenue and expenses
to the period in which they occurred and determine if your monthly expenses
exceed your monthly income. If you get paid monthly, simply refer to the
amount on your pay stub. Track when your income comes in, which can help you
schedule payments of monthly expenses.

    About MasterCard Worldwide

    MasterCard Worldwide advances global commerce by providing a critical
economic link among financial institutions, businesses, cardholders and
merchants worldwide. As a franchisor, processor and advisor, MasterCard
develops and markets payment solutions, processes over 18 billion transactions
each year, and provides industry-leading analysis and consulting services to
financial institution customers and merchants. Through its family of brands,
including MasterCard(R), Maestro(R) and Cirrus(R), MasterCard serves consumers
and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. For more
information go to: www.mastercard.com.

For further information:

For further information: For media inquiries or to schedule an interview
with a MasterCard spokesperson: Sheryl So, (416) 969-2725,
sso@environicspr.com; Olivia Yu, (416) 969-2718, oyu@environicspr.com

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