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Tips to Enjoy the Twelve Days of Christmas: BMO

TORONTO, ONTARIO -- (Marketwire) -- 12/13/12 -- With twelve days to go before Christmas, BMO offers tips on budgeting, savings and investment plans for the holiday season and the New Year.

1. Don't get Scrooged when you Shop Online - Shopping online can save you time and money, but stick to reputable sites and beware of sites you don't know. Pay close attention to shipping dates and build in extra delivery time so you won't be disappointed. For added protection, consider purchasing your gifts with a credit card that offers some form of insurance, which will cover you if gifts you buy get lost, stolen, or broken.

2. Charitable Donations - If you make a donation to a registered charity, the federal and provincial governments will give you portion of it back. For a bigger tax break, spouses can pool their contributions. Donations can be claimed in the tax year they were made or carried forward for up to five years.

3. Manage credit card debt - Pay down credit cards, beginning with those that carry the highest rate, and consider using a low rate card for purchases. If you're a rewards collector, consolidating your purchases within a single rewards program will help get you to your goal faster. The money you spend can help you earn rewards to redeem for next year's gifts or a trip for the family.

4. Create a budget and stick to it - Spend less than you make. Develop a budget that establishes how household expenses will be paid and how spending will be managed. Take advantage of free online tools, such as BMO MoneyLogic(TM), to help stay on top of everyday household spending and saving.

5. Invest to save - Set up a Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) or high interest savings account such as the BMO Smart Saver Account to set aside extra cash in case of an emergency. Also consider using Exchange Traded Funds to reduce management expense fees.

6. Generate automatic savings every month and keep more of your money - Set up an automatic savings plan so that every time you get paid, you pay yourself first. Have your money automatically transferred into your BMO high-interest savings account.

7. Have a Back-up Plan - Develop a back-up plan in case you are unable to meet your financial obligations as a result of unexpected circumstances, such as loss of work or damage to personal property such as your home or vehicle. The general rule of thumb is to have an emergency fund set aside that is equal to three to six months of your income in a high-interest savings account, such as the BMO Smart Saver Account.

8. Pay down your RRSP loan or make your RRSP contribution now - If you took out a loan to maximize your Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) contribution and generate a larger refund, use your tax refund to pay down the loan. Alternatively, if you did not take out a loan, consider making your 2012 RRSP contribution now instead of waiting until the deadline next year.

9. Invest small amounts often - A little really does go a long way with an RRSP. Even small amounts, if invested on a regular basis, can grow significantly, especially when you take into account the effect of compound interest. Consider a pre-authorized payment plan, which takes a small amount out of your bank account every pay day and deposits it into your RRSP.

10. Become mortgage free faster - Choose a mortgage with a shorter amortization, which allows you to build equity in your home faster. A shorter amortization will help you pay less in total interest, protect against the possibility of rising interest rates and help secure a debt-free retirement.

11. Stress test your financial budget - Use a mortgage payment based on a higher interest rate to test your financial budget. If your rate rises even 1 percentage point from 5 per cent to 6 per cent, you will need an additional $146 per month on a $250,000 mortgage amortized over 25 years.

12. Start early and make regular contributions to an RESP - Even if your child's education will not begin for many years to come, it is beneficial to start making regular contributions as early as you can. Speak with a financial professional to determine the investment vehicles that best fit with your needs.

About BMO Financial Group

Established in 1817 as Bank of Montreal, BMO Financial Group is a highly diversified North American financial services organization. With total assets of $525 billion as at October 31, 2012, and more than 46,000 employees, BMO Financial Group provides a broad range of retail banking, wealth management and investment banking products and solutions.

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