Guide to Saving Money
One of the best ways to save is when you optimise what you have to work with. This can involve managing your finances through budgeting and tracking, but also where and how you spend your hard earned money.
There’s a lot of options to consider that go beyond checking under the sofa cushions. Starting with looking at regular expenses, how you spend, where you might save and more. Read on to find out how you can better manage your finances to save money to get started.
When you’re serious about saving money, you should have a budget and make an effort to track where every dollar goes. Having a budget goes a long way with your personal finances when you are trying to get out of debt, which can make for more effective use of the money you do have. Personal finances can be a challenge for many Canadians, with a considerable amount of people living paycheque to paycheque and having little to no money leftover each month.
When you start to track your expenses and spend within your budget, you start to have more control over your finances. Those that have a budget are less likely to have emergency financial issues and often manage to build up a small savings for just such an occurrence. There are a number of budgeting apps to consider that can help with managing your money better.
If you have never sat down and had a hard look at your bank statements and any fees they charge, it’s high time that you do. You should also look into overdraft protection – what it is, how it works, what it costs – and is it right for you. This is one only you can answer, and it’s worth taking the time to get familiar with the option. You might also look into a high interest savings account (HISA) as an option to park your money with better returns.
Odds are if you are using one of the main Canadian banks that they offer a free mobile app you could use for more than monitoring your accounts. Many banking apps offer budgeting, tracking and similar features within the apps that could be worth making use of.
If you currently have any type of loan and are making payments, you should look at a few things to see if you might be able to improve your situation. If you had applied a few years ago and your credit score has improved since, it could be worthwhile to see if there are ways you can save money by refinancing or consolidating. This can be the case if you had taken on high-interest loans before and there is a possibility that you could qualify for better rates or options. Doing so could lower your monthly payments, which could enable you to put towards other debt or allow you to save more each month.
Depending on the debt you carry, sometimes debt consolidation loans are an option that may help to save paying a small fortune in interest rates. If you have loans with higher interest rates than what you could currently qualify for, it’s worth your time to run the numbers to see what kind of potential savings awaits. But you should also make sure to check any loan agreements to see what the terms have to say about whether your loan has prepayment penalties. Even if they are part of the agreement it’s still worthwhile to run the numbers. There are often times where this can work in your favour. If you currently have a loan with higher interest rates and could save a few percentage points by consolidating the debt, it’s worth your time to compare the numbers. Even if it extended the term, it can still reduce monthly costs and overall interest that you might pay and is worth comparing.
Canadian household debt statistics:
- The average Canadian owes around $73,500 to banks
- Canadian household debt (excluding mortgages) averages $21,000
- Canadian household debt increased to 183.3% of the gross income in 2022
- 60% of Canadians are concerned about the impact of interest rates on their financial situation (MNP)
There is a possibility you can save even more with credit cards. Start by finding out the interest rate of your credit cards. Within Canada the average interest rate of a credit card is 19.99%, yet some cards might be higher. If you have considerable credit card debt and qualify for a loan with a lower rate, you could save money by taking a personal loan or installment loan if you qualify for a rate that’s lower than your card charges.
If you owed $10,000 in credit card debt and your interest rate averaged 19.99%, depending what you put down each month it will still take a while to pay off. If you paid $200 per month it would take about 5 years to pay and cost about $5,800 in interest charges. If you paid $500 per month the interest would be about $2,200 and take around 2 years. If you qualified for a loan of about 15% over a 2 year term your monthly payments would be similar at about $485 but the interest would be about $1,636 which is $4,164 that you could save. Suppose you took a 5 year term with the loan, your payments would be about $238 per month, and the interest is about $4,273. Compared with the $5,800 for interest charges at 19.99% you could save the sum of $1,527. Whether it’s credit card debt or a loan this demonstrates how debt consolidation works and getting a better rate can help you save money in what would go towards interest charges.
To dig yourself out of debt (besides using a debt consolidation loan) you should pay off your highest interest card first, while making minimum payments on any other credit cards where you owe. Once you have paid off the credit card with the highest debt, you would move on to the next one with the highest amount owed and continue this way until all credit card debt is paid off.
How you shop can have a real impact on your finances. If you weren’t worried about what you pay or how much you spend, you’d buy things when you want them. But not everyone has this luxury. Sometimes you need to wait for a sale, or use coupons.
There are a number of other ways to save when shopping beyond sales and coupons to explore that can also help you with saving money.
– Try buying some items during the off season when prices are lower
– Look for items in thrift stores, or discount stores like Winners
– Do comparison shopping online, where you might find more deals
– Consider buying used when it might make sense to do so
Bills & Expenses
Everyday expenses and bills are a great place to be looking for ways to save more money. From food to memberships and more, there can be many ways to save. The things you spend money on more often can add up, and a good place to look for ways to help you save.
Whether it’s the gym or something else, if you’re not making full use of a membership you might take a hard look at whether it makes sense to keep paying for it. Some base their membership reasoning on good intentions but don’t always make the most of it. It’s hard to justify paying for a gym membership if it isn’t used at least a few times per week.
It can pay to take a look at subscriptions and cancel the ones you don’t make much use of since those monthly fees add up. Review what you might have and which you actually use and consider cancelling some if you have an excessive amount, especially if not being used. Streaming services are a great example of this. They can easily be forgotten but you keep getting charged each month.
Sometimes small things add up, and if you take certain steps it can help with saving more over the long term. Using racks to air dry your laundry is one option, and switching to energy efficient appliances makes a difference. It might not seem worthwhile to purchase a new washer or dryer, but some utility companies provide certain incentives in the form of cash back or rebates that can make sense when you do the math.
Even simple things like allowing food to cool down before putting it in the fridge can make a small difference since it requires your fridge to work that much harder to stabilise and keep the temperature when you place hot items inside. If you use a dishwasher, depending on the model you have, allowing things to air dry can be another small savings that adds up.
Unplugging electronics not in use is another small way to save, since anything plugged in can draw power, even if it isn’t on. In the bathroom, only running during a shower or bath to remove condensation for 10-15 minutes afterwards is wise since these can use a lot of power. Also, cleaning the ventilation fan every 6 months also helps. Also consider switching from incandescent light bulbs to LEDs, which are 80% more energy-efficient, and one more way of making small changes that help you save.
Look around your home for gaps or cracks that might let heat out. Heating your home is expensive and you don’t want your money just slipping away. Use weather-stripping or caulking to seal up those spots where the heat escapes. Sometimes replacing windows also makes sense to help save even more.
If you’re not home much of the day, a programmable thermostat is something to consider. It might cost you around $100 to purchase, but save $20-30 per month, and quickly pay for itself. These automatically adjust the temperature throughout the day. If you’re not home for hours, you don’t need to keep the place at the optimal temperature while not there.
An easy way to save is by reducing the number of times you eat out each week. While you might want to still go out for lunch with work colleagues once in a while, they’ll understand if you’re trying to save money and choose brown bag lunches more often. Cutting back with the eating out and entertainment might also include how often you go out for drinks and dinners too.
When it comes to buying food, there’s a number of ways you can save. As with most types of shopping, you want to watch for deals, sales and possibly coupons to help you save. Also consider using a cash back credit card when it makes sense, but pay it off before the due date.
A simple tip that can help you save it to not shop for groceries when you are hungry. It might sound odd but it’s been proven that some choices made when grocery shopping while hungry leads to impractical purchase decisions, such as buying extra snacks like potato chips.
Some of the other ways to save on groceries include:
– Bring a grocery list to be better prepared and help stay on budget
– Buying generic when suitable for extra savings
– Buy the house brand for some items
– Watch flyers for even more deals
– Buy in bulk with non-perishables when there is a deal
– Purchase non-grocery items like detergent, garbage bags and similar at a discount store
Other grocery shopping tips to consider might be to avoid bringing your kids if possible, since they might be begging you to get certain costly items not on your grocery list when they see them. Also avoid ‘pre-assembled’ snacks or trays and take a DIY (Do it Yourself) approach. This also goes for prepared items like shredded cheese, prepped salad and similar. If you’re serious about cutting back on grocery costs, having 1-2 meatless days per week is another way to save. Also watch expiration dates, because if your meal planning didn’t time well you might be throwing out food which is wasting money.
You can also save if you return any bottles or other items where you paid a deposit or environmental fee. Try to stick with buying what you can afford and make use of. There’s no point in 3-for-1 deals if you can’t use it. While it might seem like a deal, it’s a waste of money when you are unable to use it all.
There’s a few ways you can save on insurance, and it starts with reviewing what you have. Take a good look at your existing coverage. Check if you have more coverage than necessary. If you have an older vehicle, reconsider whether you need comprehensive coverage. Look into claiming discounts you might be eligible for, ask for a list. Consider bundling your policies to save even more. If you had home and car insurance with one insurance company you might save twenty percent, possibly more.
When you look at your policy, one way that can help you save is by raising your deductible. You probably would not want to reduce your coverage, but adjusting your deductible is an option. This can reduce the costs of your monthly payment that can free up some cash for debt or something else.
If you own a vehicle (or two) this can be one area where the choices you make can make a real difference when it comes to saving money. If you drive a luxury car, you could save by downgrading. Even if you’re in the middle of making payments this can still be an option. Besides the cost itself, the more costly part of having a vehicle is ownership, like maintenance, fuel and insurance. A downgrade can reduce insurance and maintenance costs as well.
If you have multiple vehicles, have you explored the idea of being a one car family? The annual cost of a car averages about $955 per month (over $11K/year) so if you can make due with a single vehicle there’s an obvious savings. The other option is public transportation if you really want to save, which can be a viable option depending where you live.
Other Tips to Save Money
If you thought that’s all we had, you’d be mistaken. Here’s a few more tips worth your consideration that you might not have thought of (or heard of) that can also help.
Pay Yourself First
You may have heard it before, but you should pay yourself first. Once you’ve figured out all of your primary bills and expenses you can decide what amount that might be. It might be for an emergency fund, savings, or mad money for something you want. Either way, if you have determined your costs, you know what you can afford to pay yourself, and you should do this first.
Using automated payments can help ensure certain bills are paid on time, everytime. Don’t allow something like forgetting a bill to damage your credit score. Most of us have several bills to pay each month, and many of these could be automated payments.
Ask for It
Sometimes the best way to get a deal is to simply ask for it. Worst case scenario? They might say no. But they might also say yes. Companies prefer their customers to stay with them for as long as possible, and sometimes you can get a break if you just ask for it. This would be something to try with insurance, mobile phone, internet providers and some other service providers. This is especially true if you see one of their competitors running a promotion. Odds are they’re aware of it too and they’ve had similar calls asking for the same.
There are benefits to good credit history, some being less obvious, such as it can provide you with better insurance rates and possibly similar scenarios. Most think of their score as a means to getting better interest rates if they want to borrow, but your credit mix, history and score can also influence other things such as career opportunities, getting a cell phone, and paying for insurance.
While we have to do what we can, with what we have available to us, saving money is about just this. But keep in mind that earning more through side hustles and jobs can provide more to work with and possibly change your circumstances too. Just remember that there are few ‘silver bullets’ or single ways to create big wins and that it’s often a series of small efforts that add up to be your best wins.