16% of Canadians are in debt to pay off other previous debts and 6% from personal consumption. This statistic is nationwide in Canada. If you are part of this statistic I highly recommend that you establish a reasonable budget immediately. Creating a reasonable budget means separating your fixed expenses (which are harder to reduce) and your variable expenses and avoiding impulse buying. This post includes 5 helpful tips to help keep your variable expenses at a minimum.
#1 Reduce Restaurant Expenses
Personally I eat at restaurants more often than necessary. It’s not easy to turn down trying a new locale with friends! Next time, instead of going to a restaurant, invite them over for a potluck or take turns cooking and hosting for each other. Social events at one’s home tend to last longer and if you’re lucky you’ll even have some left overs for the next day. Come winter, you’ll be happy to not be travelling around the city for dinners.
Lunch is another meal we tend to splurge on instead of making our own. It takes time, but you’ll find that lunch preparation quickly becomes routine. Start Sunday and Google search recipes to get lunch ideas for the week. Preparing the full recipe, instead of just one portion, allows you to freeze portions for future meals. Over time you’ll see big cost savings and more personal enjoyment from making your own meals.
#2 Use Discounts!
So, I convinced you to cook more…now you have to go grocery shopping! Personally I eat more fresh foods and buy dry bulk items like lentils, rather than canned or frozen to save money (it’s healthier too!). And while everyone is familiar with flyers and coupons for savings, have you heard about Checkout 51?
Checkout 51 is a mobile app that refunds a percentage of your purchase on selected items, regardless of where the purchase was made. To participate, download the app and look at the list. If you need any of those items and bought them at the grocery store, you upload a photo of the receipt and money is sent to your account! Genius right?!
#3 Your Morning Coffee
Most of us stop for coffee or tea on our way into work. While this seems like a small daily expense, it really adds up at the end of the month, especially if you’re a venti, pumpkin, soy latte drinker for example. I suggest buying a reusable coffee mug and taking coffee with you from home or drinking coffee at the office. You’ll also avoid buying the muffin at the counter or the hot breakfast.
#4 Prioritize Cheap Activities in Your Spare Time (Yes they exist!)
Make a priority of going on walks and hikes. I know now that summer is coming to a close it’s less tempting, but the Fall colours and cool air is beautiful and refreshing. Not to mention Canada is known for some of the most breathtaking landscapes – so get out there and enjoy it!
If you’re less tempted by the whole hiking part of it, why not go apple or pumpkin picking? This is a cheap and fun activity to do with friends and family. It also means a bulk amount of cheap fruit to make delicious pies, crumbles and so on.
If you are interested in cultural events, check your local museums, as each typically has a day where admission rates are reduced and sometimes even free!
Similarly if you like going to the movies you can go on the famous movie-Tuesdays for a discount. Personally I have a Scotiabank Scene card, where I get 1 point for every dollar I spend, and for every thousand points I get a free movie. Since I use my debit card frequently and have had this card for years, I’ve literally gone to dozens of free movies with my Scotiabank Scene Card! The movie theatre has to be a Cineplex Odeon though, as they have the agreement with Scotiabank. You get a few hundred points each time you purchase anything at Cineplex as well, so the benefits feed into themselves. Most major cities also have a discount or dollar cinema as well.
Finally if you’re are of the literary-inclined, you could start a book club with friends. Just make sure you’re renting the books from your local library or borrowing from a friend.
#5 Stop Giving Money to Bell, Rogers or Videotron
Canada suffers from a multi-media monopoly in which the 3 cable providers in the country, can charge you an arm and a leg for TV, while offering poor customer service, upfront fees, credit checks etc. If there is one area that you can cut out, it’s needless cable TV shows filled with advertisements. But this doesn’t mean you have to take up knitting or herding sheep. You can register for Netflix ($7.99 per month, first month free) or Shomi (8.99 per month, first month free) and broadcast to your TV using the one time purchase of a Chromecast. These services are ad free and have a huge selection of TV and movie content.
Did I miss something? Leave us a comment below and tell us the creative ways you’ve found to reduce your personal expenses.