Let me be blunt: I haven’t always been great with money. I’ve never abused it (racked up credit card debt, opened a new credit card with whomever will give me 10 per cent off, etc.) but let’s just say I’ve never aggressively saved, unless it was for a major trip. Does that still count? Not really. Regardless, it’s never, ever too late to start, you just need to do it. 2017 is the year for my financial makeover, and I’m going to impart some wisdom on how you can save on the little things, and still stay sane.
To lay the ground rules, I’ve already cut back on the big things that were eating into my monthly budget. I cut out my expensive ritual of attending fitness classes in Toronto (RIP), but I’ve replaced it with an inexpensive, no-frills gym membership that’s right across from my house. Aside from that, I do a pretty good job at keeping the monthly spend to a minimum (this includes not going over on my cell phone bill, not paying for cable and cancelling any useless monthly memberships I didn’t use… ahem, Dropbox storage). Month to month, I’ve shaved roughly $250 off my spending, but I’ve realized there’s still room to cut back. Over the last week, I’ve tracked where I was able to cut even more off my weekly costs and embrace a spending detox.
I’m in office on Monday and I will usually grab a fancy coffee to enjoy while settling into work mode. Unfortunately, take-out coffees have been removed from my 2017 budget (unless it’s a sit-down coffee with a friend or a special occasion), so I needed to get creative. I found an old Tim Horton’s card in my wallet from a Christmas gift, and found out there was $20 on it! While Tim’s isn’t my favourite option, I still got my coffee, and didn’t spend any money. I also won a donut on the roll-up-the-rim, so technically I earned money…
Savings: $5.50 (+ free donut)
I wanted a new diffuser blend oil for my Saje Ultrasonic Diffuser, but it was a luxury purchase, and I didn’t need it. Saje oil blends retail for about $14 to $18, so instead of purchasing it, I moved the money into my savings account. I got the satisfaction of “spending” the money, doubled with the satisfying act of watching my savings grow.
Wednesday is grocery shopping day, and my monthly grocery bills have been known to be quite high. My partner and I eat fresh, healthy, organic food when possible, and the bills can really rack up. In an effort to lower these expenses, I’ve gotten a bit creative. This creativity has resulted in less convenience, so you really do need to weigh out time vs. cost savings. For me, I bike in the city, so cycling to various grocery stores not only saves me money, but it adds some cardio to my exercise routine.
For produce, if I have time, I cycle down to Kensington Market and purchase the produce that isn’t pretty enough to land itself in Loblaws or Metro. If you go to the right spot, you can find Ontario-grown produce which is what I try to purchase. The price is nearly half the cost than what you’ll find at the big-box grocery stores, and you’ll feel good about eating healthy and not breaking the bank. My other tip for grocery shopping is utilizing points cards. Loblaws is the closest shop to our house, so I have a PC points card and the app downloaded on my phone, where I can earn points for the everyday grocery items I purchase. You have to watch out for points cards because they can entice you to spend more than what you need, so be wary of not overspending, or purchase things that don’t have an expiry date in order to get the extra points.
Savings: about $20
I wanted to do a workout today, and was getting a bit bored of my typical routine. On a usual day, I’d find a unique class online that fit my schedule that day and head there. That would typically cost around $20. However, my partners’ sister goes to a yoga studio on Queen and was able to bring a friend for free that week. I conveniently tagged along and had a great class, without spending any money.
Obviously you won’t always be so lucky to tag along on someone else’s gym membership, but there are always ways to get creative while working out. Other ways I avoid spending money on classes are by going for a run or finding a great workout online to do at home or in the park if it’s nice out.
The weekend can be a dangerous place because it’s the easiest time to blow your budget you worked so hard to stay within during the week. While I’m slowly growing out of FOMO (or just getting really lazy?) it makes it easier to plan nights in and instead make day dates where you’re less inclined to go overboard with your bill (boozy brunches may be an exception — those can get out of hand).
This particular Friday we were invited to friends for dinner, and were to bring dessert and drinks. Instead of buying a cake or gluten-free vegan no sugar pie that costs a small portion of your rent, I made a dessert which was just as enjoyed and cost a fraction of the price.
Savings: about $10
No-spend Saturdays can be hard to do, but not so hard when the weather is nice or you enjoy being outside. My partner and I choose one ravine to visit around Toronto on Saturday’s, and go for a hike outside to get some fresh air and see if we can maintain our no-spend mantra. Once home, we make a massive brunch and settle in for the day.
In previous months, we’d spend our Saturday’s out for brunch, followed up with take-out coffees, and maybe even some shopping. Needless to say, my no-spend Saturdays are doing wonders for my bank account, and I’m enjoying spending time at home, prepping food for the upcoming week, and having friends over if I’m feeling like we need to socialize a bit more.
Savings: about $35
The Oscars were on Sunday and there was just no way I was staying up past 11pm without wine. I did, however, opt for a cheaper bottle than my usual choices, choosing a $12 bottle rather than an $18 bottle. While I love my go-to bottle of Kim Crawford, I wasn’t dissatisfied with my choice and honestly after two glasses and some emotional acceptance speeches, I really couldn’t have cared less. As I bought the less-expensive bottle, I went right into my banking app and transferred the saved $6 into my TFSA.
TOTAL SAVINGS: $119.50