If you are on a tight budget, there are things you can do every day to help you save money. Once you have identified your expenses, look through these ideas to see if there are ways you can decrease what you spend and increase what you save.
Food and Groceries
- Menu plan and create a shopping list. A plan will help in using all of the food items purchased, and not spending extra on things you don’t need. Check store flyers and adjust your weekly menu to take advantage of sales. If stores in your area are listed on apps like FlashFood, try including these close-to-expiry fresh food items (at seriously discounted prices) into your meal plan.
- Shop at stores that will match sale prices. Not every store will match prices, but if you live where there are multiple options for groceries, find out which stores price match and shop there. Price comparison apps (like Flipp or Reebee) or store flyers make it easy to provide the proof of competitor sale prices.
- Take advantage of senior’s discounts or regular discount days. Some stores will offer a discount one day of the week, or once a month (for example, 10% off on the first Tuesday of every month). Find out when these discount days happen, mark them on the calendar and take advantage of them if you can.
- Buy often-used items in bulk or value size when on sale. This is especially useful on non-perishable goods (toilet paper, flour, rice, coffee) and for items you can freeze (meats and bread).
- Drink water instead of soda. Not only is this healthier, but it will cost less. Refillable water bottles save money and the environment.
- Purchase generic brands for most things. Often the generic brands are produced by name brand companies. In most cases, generic has little to no difference in taste or quality. Save where you can’t tell the difference and spend extra on items where the brand name version is preferred.
- Buy produce in season. If produce is out of season, prices will be higher. If you need something specific that is out of season, check if it is available in the frozen or canned foods section. This will be cheaper than buying fresh.
- Bring bags. Most stores charge for plastic bags, so plan ahead and bring reusable ones.
- Cook once, eat twice. Prepare double or triple the food you need and freeze the extra meals for another day. Saves time and money and lessens the stress of cooking every night.
- Share cooking with family or friends. Gather together, cook a few meals, and everyone takes some home. This will allow for buying ingredients in bulk (generally less expensive) and provide variety to your meal plan. See if there are Community Kitchens in your neighbourhood or town where members can cook together and share expenses.
- Cook from scratch rather than buying processed. Though it is more effort, home cooking is a healthier option and is generally less expensive in the long run. See Cooking Basics for basic information on cooking techniques.
- Plant a garden. Growing your own fresh herbs and vegetables will save money. If you don’t have a yard, consider renting a plot or joining a community garden. Read Grow Your Own Food for more information.
- Make coffee at home, pack a lunch and eat out less. It takes a little planning, but there are big savings in packing a travel mug of coffee and your lunch. For dinner, make cooking at home a fun time. Involve your children or other household members and share the work.
Clothing and Personal
- Determine your wants vs your needs. Always consider if the item being purchased is a want or a need. If it is a want, wait a week or more to see if it is still something you really want to spend your money on. You can also use this time to compare prices in other stores.
- Check out secondhand stores. Thrift stores are a great place to find low prices on slightly used items. Many communities have a MCC, Goodwill, Salvation Army, Value Village or church-based thrift stores that offer excellent deals. You can also use kijiji or a local consignment shop to sell your own used clothing items for extra money. Read the article Benefits of Buying Secondhand Clothes.
- Learn basic sewing skills. Make your clothes last longer by learning to mend and repair your clothing. A basic sewing kit at home will save some money and extra hassle in the long run.
- Wash your clothes in cold water and invest in a drying rack. These techniques save electricity and your clothes will actually last longer.
- Join a local “Buy & Sell” group, or a “Buy Nothing” Facebook group that offer used and free stuff. These groups are especially great for baby items, toys and kids clothes, and they also offer a place to offer any of your own unwanted items. Most areas have a local community group. Not only is this a great way to meet your neighbours, but it is an opportunity to become part of a supportive community.
- Use a local library rather than buying books. Books are available for checkout at every reading level and are also available online through the Overdrive app. Love magazines? Try the Libby App that carries unlimited magazines available through your local library membership.
- Need something for a one-time use? Check if it can be borrowed or rented.
- Trade or barter a skill that others could use. Think outside the box for things you need. Can you trade or barter with others?
- Let go of unhealthy habits. Smoking, drinking and overeating cost money that could be used elsewhere. Decrease the amount of money spent on these habits.
- Review memberships. Be honest about whether or not you are using your memberships. If they are not being used, consider cancelling them. This includes gym memberships, clubs, subscriptions, and any automatic renewals.
- Watch free movies without a monthly fee. Try apps like hoopla for free movies, music and ebooks. If you are a documentary fan, the kanopy app provides free access to hundreds of documentaries and foreign films. If you check out your local library, there are also plenty of low-cost DVD and Blu-ray movies to borrow.
- Check out free activities in the neighbourhood. Often local papers and tourism offices will provide information on free events. There are also Facebook pages for specific areas that share free events.
- Unplug electronics and appliances that are not used regularly. Many instant-on items continually use electricity when plugged in. Either unplug when not in use or use a smart power strip to save on hydro bills.
- Consider making some of your household cleaners. Vinegar and baking soda work well to clean almost everything. Look online for DIY cleaning product recipes that are made out of common household items.
- Maintain your home and repair minor problems before they become major ones. Water leaks can end up costing money in both wasted water and fixing water damage. Ensure the furnace filter is changed regularly to keep the furnace running efficiently (using less energy) and to have cleaner household air. A small amount of maintenance goes a long way to saving in the long run.
- Do as many repairs/renovations as you can yourself. In the age of YouTube, there is instruction on just about any repair/renovation you can imagine. Just ensure that you know your limits so you don’t create new issues.
- Wear extra layers in cooler weather rather than turning up the heat. Lowering the house temperature by 3 degrees for at least 8 hours can save up to 4% on heating costs. Add an extra blanket to your bed or turn down the thermostat if you are going to be out.
- Seal any air leaks around doors and windows to decrease heat loss. You may need new weatherstripping or to caulk around edges. Install an insulation kit with double-sided adhesive tape and plastic to keep the cold out of drafty windows. If your door is drafty, roll up a towel against the bottom edge when you are at home. For more ideas, visit Manitoba Hydro’s Energy Saving Tips.
- Buy a low-gas consuming vehicle, and just buy regular gas. Most cars don’t need a premium fuel to run efficiently, so save your dollars. If it fits your family’s needs, consider buying a smaller car or a hybrid that can use electricity instead.
- Use an app to find the cheapest gas near you. An app like GasBuddy uses GPS to compare gas prices in your area. They also have a membership program that allows you to save even more right at the pump.
- Resist the temptation of owning a new vehicle. New cars lose value the minute they are driven off the lot. Find a lightly used vehicle instead.
- Plan trips and combine locations. Decrease the number of trips you take in the same direction to save time and gas.
- Carpool, care share, or take the bus. Share the costs of parking and running your vehicle with others in your neighborhood. If you don’t drive often, check into car share organizations like the Peg City Car Co-op. With a membership, you can book a vehicle online whenever you need it. If there are bus routes that take you close to where you need to be, consider this as a good option to save money and the environment. If buses are not an option, there may be opportunities within your community to share rides, or even share errands (for example, ask a friend to pick up a parcel for you) in exchange for something you can offer.
- Make sure your vehicle insurance is what you need. Higher levels of insurance cost more and may provide more coverage than is really necessary.
- Watch for late fees and extra service fees. Set up automated bill payments so you never pay late fees. Look over your bills and statements when you receive them to watch for extra fees you may not be aware of. There are often fees associated with using ATM’s and online banking services that can add up each month.
- Only use credit cards if there is money to pay the bill. Credit cards are an excellent way to track your spending, but always pay off the full amount at the end of the month.
- If you are struggling to make payments, contact the company you owe money to, and see if other arrangements can be made. Often interest rates or fees can be reduced, and in some cases deferral on payments can be made. Read the article Using Credit Wisely.
- Ask your bank about a debt consolidation loan. If you are struggling to make payments on your debt, consider asking your bank for a debt consolidation loan. This short term loan combines all of your debt into one loan to lower interest costs, make payments more manageable and make a definite schedule for repayment.”
As you continue to make small changes that will save money, track your expenses and see how you can adjust your spending to include all of the things that matter most to you.
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Canadian Guidelines for Budgeting