The good news is that sometimes all it takes is a few lifestyle changes to find a few extra dollars.
1. Look after your car
With few places to go, most Canadians are driving a lot less. While this is good for the planet, leaving your car sitting for months on end isn’t good for it. Cars need to be driven regularly; your car’s tires, brakes, and battery can all deteriorate when a car is left for long periods. The last thing you want is to do is pay for costly repairs when you begin commuting again.
It also pays to get your hands dirty every once in a while. While it’s true that you can’t always avoid the mechanic, you’d be surprised at how many jobs you can do yourself if you follow some guidelines (and your owner’s manual).
2. Cut out the designer java
Coffee is essential, but buying it at the fancy coffee shop isn't. Coffee is easy to make and you can select from a large number of brands – even ones from your favourite coffee shop – and brew your own cuppa joe. If you buy a $2 coffee five days a week and work on average 249 days a year, that’s $498 annually on coffee. And if you buy something fancier, like a latte, you’re looking at least double that.
In contrast, a home brewed coffee is about $0.65 a cup, or about $162 a year. Make brewing a coffee and preparing a healthy breakfast part of your morning, rather than rushing to the coffee shop and grabbing a pastry.
And if you feel like the coffee you make it too weak or too strong, remember: it's all about getting your ratios right, as this writer recently discovered.
3. Cook at home and plan ahead
Speaking of home cooking, it is one of the best ways to save money. It’s no surprise meal prepping has become popular, as it means you’ll have healthy food on hand and be less likely to succumb to the pricey temptation of take out.
If you’ve never meal prepped before or have a full schedule, it can be daunting. A good way to begin is by cooking large meals a few days a week. That way, leftovers can be the next day’s lunch or dinner. When making big batches, an InstantPot or slow cooker is your friend. These appliances take a lot of the labour out of cooking, especially if you’re saving money by buying dried goods like beans and rice. If you hate eating the same foods multiple times a week and think you’ll toss leftovers after day three, just freeze them for another day.
Avoid buying one-off ingredients for a single recipe. Instead, think about how you can use an ingredient across different meals. Red peppers are great in Asian-style stir fries, Thai curries, Mexican fajitas, and salads, while potatoes can be roasted, mashed, scalloped, or even made into gnocchi. You don’t have to be a gourmet cook to save money, just a prepared cook.
4. Talk with your service providers
There are some costs we can’t forgo, no matter how much we’d like to. However, don’t assume service providers aren’t willing to negotiate. A quick call to your cable or phone company might reveal they are doing a promotion.
Service providers also want to keep your business, so if you’re polite but make it clear you’re willing to take your business elsewhere, customer retention will likely offer you a deal. Just make sure you’re nice to customer service!
5. Trim that hydro and electric bill
Time to channel your inner nagging parent. Turn off lights when you leave a room. Save on heating bills by lowering the temperature, moving furniture blocking heaters, and wearing a sweater. To save water, shower rather than bath and turn off the tap while you brush your teeth. Hang dry your clothing, or if you must use a dryer, add a dry towel to speed up the process. BC Hydro estimates the towel trick saves $27 a year, while unplugging unused electronics can save you $50 a year.
6. Reconsider your subscriptions
You’ve signed up for a free trial but forgot to cancel before the renewal period. Sound familiar? To avoid this, keep track of your subscriptions and decide what you really need. Do you need Spotify, Google Play Music, and Deezer, or can you get by with the free version of Spotify? Consider if you order enough from Amazon to justify your Prime membership, or if you actually spend more than you should because you have the membership.
These are only a few tips for saving money when times are tough, but they are effective. What are your favourite cost-saving strategies? Let us know!