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Saving Money – Start With The Easy Stuff

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SC-SavingMoney

The best way to meet your long term goals is to set short term ones. If you have been overspending, the shock of a frugal lifestyle can be a bit much but cutting down bit by bit can set you in the right path for the future.

Start with the easy stuff

Bills: are you paying too much?

TV: Not all of us are ready to “cut the cord” but you can go down to a basic package for TV. For my local cable company, Digital Basic is $32 but their recommended 3 theme pack package is $68, most of us have a few add-on channels plus the savings in taxes. Just by changing, you save $500/year.

Home Phone: Do you really need one? Many people keep their phone for ‘security’ purposes but if it uses electricity, it is useless. If you use it, great but for me, it is just another way for telemarketers to call me. You can save $20+ a month getting rid of the line, more with all the extra fees they charge.

Cell Phones: Do you need the plan you are on? Many people are not on the right plan for them. They either have a cheaper plan and pay overage or an expensive plan that they don’t use. Even a savings of $10 a month adds up over the year.  Call and ask if they have a plan that matches your usage better.

Internet: Do you need that high speed connection? Does your bandwidth match your usage? Many websites do not work at the super high speeds cable companies offer. Unless you have a lot of devices using the connection or another reason for needing the speed, 6-8mbps (or even less) packages are just fine – even for streaming! Check what monthly bandwidth they offer on the smaller packages or you could end up paying more for usage.

Decide if these services are a must for you and where you can cut. Giving up even channels on your cable package may seem like a big move but in a month or so, you won’t even remember having them. Call the companies, explain that you need to cut expenses and ask what they can offer you. Often their customer retention department will have much better offers than they show online but be careful they are not trying to upsell you!

Banking: Are you paying too much in fees? Get a fee free account (like the one available from PC Financial) or check to see if your bank have a cheaper package that suits your usage. Can you use your debit card less to save $5-10 a month? That $60-120 a year pays another bill.

Mortgage: Are you paying monthly? Can you change it to bi-weekly, you will get more payments in and pay down your mortgage more quickly. Can you remortgage to a better rate?

Utilities: Most utility companies offer a better rate for off-peak usage. Do that laundry in cooler water and at an off-peak time to save.

Groceries: You Gotta Eat

I used to buy roughly the same thing every week, if chicken was on sale I would buy that instead of beef, more broccoli instead of cauliflower etc but yet my grocery bill for just two of us could range from $100-130 a week, plus the bits we picked up during the week and eating out. Now I pay $50-70 a week and often much less.

If you are really trying to cut expenses – stop eating out now! Keep it as a treat and something you save for in other areas of your finances. It is easy to spend even $10 per person at a fast food place now and a restaurant – easily $50 for a couple. Do that even once a month and it adds up over the year. If you don’t brown bag lunches for work or school – start now. Coffee stop every morning? Make it at home!

SmartCanucks has a large couponing community, and it is a great way to save but not for everyone, it takes organizing, time, and can actually cost a little more in the short term as you build a stockpile. However, you can save a lot just by paying attention to sales, flyers and buying what is cheapest. Stores like No Frills, RCSS, Walmart and Freshco offer price matching on your groceries. You do not need to go store to store to get the deals. Spend an hour planning your meals, shopping and you can easily save $20 on every shopping trip.

There is also a lot to be said for the cash method recommended by Gail Vaz-Oxlade but you need to spend January working out a reasonable budget or you will give up (trust me, I have been there). Start with the saving tips all over SmartCanucks and take another 10% off for February as you will save more as you learn. For automatic withdrawals I just put an IOU in that jar so I “see” the money.

We will cover these more in coming blogs, but you have a lot to get you started.

This blog is part of our New to SmartCanucks series, click here to read more blog posts in the series

17 comments

  1. adora

    I find it very difficult to save on groceries, I’m currently paying roughly $90/week for 2 adults. I don’t eat anything pre-packaged. I buy pretty much everything without a label on it. Fresh produce rarely come with coupons, and they have short shelf life so I can’t go bulk.

    Reply
  2. Bits

    I imagine that 50-70$ a week does not include your meds, toiletries, vitamins, household goods (toilet paper, kleenex, cleaning supplies, etc.) and other. It would be near impossible to supply a household with all needed in that low cost. Food maybe, although you may eat very little meat as that is a bit costlier.

    Reply
  3. Bacona

    Winter is the cheapest time to make meals as with a bag of potatoes, a head ofcabbage, a bag of onions and carrots and a few cheap cuts of meat, you can make a few soups, and stews to last a week for cheap. Summer is much more costlier as you eat more fresh and do not cook soups, etc. when it is hot out!

    Reply
  4. FallenPixels

    adora, we have several blogs coming up on saving with groceries

    Bits – I rarely pay much for cleaning supplies etc, I buy when cheap and stockpile them and we eat meat most days, again bought when cheap and freeze. We do however make use of points, coupons, rebates etc to save more

    Reply
  5. FallenPixels

    For example: Pasta Bake
    Pasta $0.88/pack (use half = $0.44)
    Pasta Sauce $0.88
    Ground Chicken approx 1lb $3.78
    Cheese $2.97 – 75c coupon, use 1/4 = $0.56
    $5.66 (4 large servings) = $1.42 serving
    Serve with a simple salad (romaine, tomatoes, shredded carrots & onion) (under $1 person) with salad dressing bought with the Metro $5 coupon and you have dinner for under $5

    We have lots of bags of free frozen Europes Best veggies etc to bump up nutrition in meals for cheap

    Reply
  6. screamy

    When you’re first starting out, it can be tough to get your head around how little it really is possible to spend. I agree that the $50 – $75/week might not include meds (and I’m grateful for my company’s health plan every day) but it can definitely include all the toilet paper, cleaning stuff, etc. You need to amass a stockpile, which takes time and effort, for sure. SCers get positively giddy about Canadian Tire scratch card events (and coupons with sales, etc.) because we use them to buy TP and household stuff for virtually nothing out of pocket. We are typically brand-agnostic where that’s concerned – the GTA SCers I speak to most often have a budget of about $0.08/roll, for example. As for cleaning, I use vinegar and baking soda for almost everything. It cleans for literally pennies and doesn’t harm the environment with horrible chemicals. Welcome to SC, in a few months, you’ll be amazed with your progress!! :)

    Reply
    • FallenPixels

      My meds amount to free Advil nighttime that SDM paid me bonus points to take home – so yes, no real meds and I am very thankful we are healthy

      Reply
  7. Sandra5

    Great tips, especially the one about not eating out.
    Whenever I need inspiration to save money, I think about my parents.
    They never ate out at a restaurant, not even take out.
    When we did eat out, it would be at a friends house, and about every 2 to 4 months some of their friends would be over to eat dinner with us.We never missed restaurant life, and had a much better time because of it.

    Reply
  8. nicolthepickle

    Common Sense tips!
    My sister pointed this out to me when I was organizing my budget. Never cut to far back on food purchases because you will be tempted to buy more snacky things or fast food. It’s better to have it in your own cupboards.

    Reply
  9. Sandra L

    Im Celiac so my grocery bill can be very pricey. I try to limit pre made GF food and make my own as much as possible. Unfortunately Gluten Free baking doesn’t always turn out great and can be an even bigger waste of money then buying already made stuff. I do keep a vege/fruit garden in my backyard during the warm months so that helps lower the cost a bit.

    I guess I would just like to see coupons for Gluten Free food somewhere…

    Reply
    • FallenPixels

      Sandra, while GF coupons are not readily available in stores, many of them offer coupons by mail
      Enjoy Life have printables on their website and Glutino and ODoughs will mail you coupons

      Reply
  10. Natalka

    Awesome post!
    About the phone, though, I would say stick with a basic home phone and ditch the cell.

    Reply
  11. mojo

    I only have basic cable. I pay just over $100 for cable, home phone and interent. I pay $50 for 2 cell phones. I have free banking. i make all my own food and cleaning product, with the exception of laundry soap. I invested in a bread maker and that helped a ton! If you have an open mind of what meals to prepare you will find it easier. I find buying turkey at .99 cents a pound a great deal. We have turkey several times a year and it stretches far. See, it’s not just for holidays. Good luck with saving in the new year!

    Reply
  12. couponmom

    Here is how I reduced some basic costs in my home: Basic phone pkg.without call display and phone number costs me $37 and no cell phone. Garden.(use water barrels for watering garden.) Purchase more fruit, veggies, healthy cereals (purchased during sales) and steel cut oats (no presweetened cereals) for breakfast meals and avoid packaged foods as much as possible. Try to do more chores during off peak when Ont. hyro prices are lower. Try to find car pooling arrangements for transportation to college. Use an indoor clothesline and a drying rack for drying clothes in winter. Even hanging shirts on hangers on a shower rod works.
    Hope these ideas may help.

    Reply

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