Course Content
Module 1: Income, Expenses and Budgets
Learn how to track your income and expenses and making a budget to start setting financial goals
Module 3: Saving
Learn the most effective tips and tools to help you save money
Module 4: Credit and Debt Management
Learn the types of credit, how to manage debt, review credit reports and credit scores
Module 5: Mortgages
Learn the costs of buying a home, types of mortgages and tips for negotiating your terms.
Module 6: Insurance
Discover different types of insurance, how they work and how to get the coverage you need
Module 7: Investing
Learn the basics of investing, types of investments, investment advisors and setting investment goals.
Module 8: Income Taxes and Contributions
Learn tax basics, taxable income, deductions, credits and filing your taxes.
Module 9: Retirement and Pensions
Learn about public and private pensions, personal savings and estimating your retirement income.
Module 10: Financial Planning
Learn the importance of creating a financial plan, estate planning and how financial professionals can help you.
Module 11: Fraud protection
Learn how to recognize and protect yourself from fraud, including what to do if you are a victim.
Personal Finance 101 Crash Course for Canadians
About Lesson
If you’d like to have more money to spend, the first step is to know the difference between your needs and your wants. Here are some basic definitions:


  • Need: A necessity, something required, something essential for life
  • Want: A desire, something wished for, something non-essential

Using these definitions, “a roof over my head” is a need. So are clothing, food, tools for work and medications. “A vacation” is a want, and so are meals in restaurants, video games, gym memberships and designer shoes.

Of course, one person’s want may be another person’s need. For Bob, who lives near a bus route, a car may be a luxury, while for Sue, who doesn’t have access to public transit and can’t cycle to work, a car may be a necessity.

As well, needs and wants may change over time. A full-sized washer and dryer may be a need while you are raising a family, but apartment-sized models may be what you need when your children are grown and you have downsized to a smaller home.

Knowing the difference between needs and wants is the first step. The next step is setting priorities so you know where to spend your money.

One helpful way to set spending priorities is the 1-2-3 system:

  • 1 = items that are essential for healthy living (e.g., basic food, shelter, clothing)
  • 2 = items that are not essential but are important (e.g., a bicycle or transit pass, running shoes, cell phone)
  • 3 = items that are not essential and not important (e.g., candy bars, spa treatments, music downloads)

Needs are things that are essential for life. Wants are non-essential items that we would like to have.

  • It’s important to differentiate between needs and wants and to balance them in your life.
  • Set spending priorities so you will have money for the things you really need and want.
  • Many factors influence how you spend, including emotions, habits and peer pressure. Watch how these different factors affect your spending decisions so you can get control of them.