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Seven ways $1,000 can ease your financial worries

Cropped image of couple calculating finances at home

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Personal finance is full of big numbers – the amount you'll need to save for retirement, the amount of your mortgage, the cost of a college or university degree. You can get so fixated on the big numbers that amounts as small as $1,000 can seem almost insignificant.

But $1,000 is enough to make a difference. I recently came across a list U.S.-focused list of 15 smart things you can do with $1,000, and it inspired me to come up with a list of my own for Canadians. Here's my angle: ways to spend $1,000 to ease your nagging financial worries. I'd love to hear your thoughts on what to do with $1,000. Send them to me at and I'll include a selection in an upcoming newsletter.

Here are my seven suggestions for $1,000:

1) If you haven't started saving for your child's postsecondary education: Drop the $1,000 in a registered education savings plan and collect $200 in federal grant money.
2) If you don't have an emergency fund or much of a fund: Put the money in a high interest savings account at one of the banks or credit unions offering 1.5 per cent or more.
3) If you feel crushed by your new mortgage: Use the $1,000 to pay down your mortgage balance. You get the most benefit from prepayments in the early years of a mortgage.
4) If you have a balance on your credit card: Put the $1,000 there. No arguments. The interest rate on credit cards is around 20 per cent.
5) If you want your millennial kids to learn about money and investing: Help them open a tax-free savings account (you have to be 18 or older) and pick a long-term investment. For a sound, set-it-up-in-three-minutes option, consider a big bank Canadian dividend fund.
6) If you haven't had the money to make a charitable donation lately: Pick one or more charities and donate online. It couldn't be easier when you use the CanadaHelps website.
7) If you've been neglecting your retirement savings: Putting $1,000 in your RRSP or TFSA gets you a little bit closer to a well-funded retirement.

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Rob's personal finance reading list…

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Ban these financial phrases
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If you eat fish either at home or a restaurant, check out this chart listing which species are okay to eat from the point of view of environmental harm, toxins, cruel fishing and other factors. Rainbow trout seems to score well.

Okay, a house can be an investment
A Toronto couple sells a house for $1.8-million. Purchase price in 1974: $64,500. In a recent column, I compared the costs of owning a house bought today with the likely sale price in 25 years. The two amounts were just about even.

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Here's a useful round up of basic information for various types of registered plans, including tax-free savings accounts. Contribution limits and much more.

Rob Asks…
With Sears apparently headed into liquidation, I asked members of my Facebook personal finance community which department stores are best for low prices and selection. A few names came up over and over again.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can't answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length.

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