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35 tips to help you save money and optimize your budget

16 June 2020 by National Bank
How to Save Money

Has your financial situation changed? Has your income decreased? Want to save for a project that’s dear to your heart? It may be the perfect time to review your budget and adopt new habits to save money. Here are 35 tips for decreasing your expenses without giving up too much so you can save more money. 

Save on a daily basis

1. Avoid impulse purchases by taking the time to think about it. Give it 24 hours or even a week before you decide to buy something. This will help you gain perspective on your needs. 

2. Reduce your electricity bill by following the right moves as promoted by Hydro-Québec. For example, did you know that washing your clothes in hot water can be up to 18 times more costly than washing them in cold water? 

3. Buy store brands; they’re less expensive than name brands and the quality is often just as good. 

4. For your renovation projects, rent tools that you don’t use often. It’s more cost-efficient and the tools won’t take up space in your storage. 

5. Have you started making your morning coffee at home? You’ll save without even realizing it. Set aside the money you would usually spend at coffee shops every week so you can put it towards a goal. 

Save on groceries

6. Do your groceries after you’ve eaten a meal or have a snack right before. Shopping on an empty stomach may lead you to spend more. And make a list to avoid impulse purchases. 

7. Look at online flyers to find deals. You can even use apps like Flipp or Reebee

8. Check out the upper and lower shelves at the grocery store. That’s where the more affordable products are often located. 

9. To find the most cost-effective size, compare the price per quantity by reading the labels on the shelves. 

10. Prep your own fruit and vegetables. Pre-assembled snacks can cost twice the amount of unprepped food. 

11. Reduce your meat consumption to save on your grocery bill. Why not start by one or two meatless meals per week? 

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Save on transportation

12. Use a bike to get around. It’s a handy way to save on gas all while staying active. Notify your insurer that you’re using your car less than you used to, and you could save even more. 

13. Need a vehicle to get from place to place? Get a used car and you’ll avoid depreciation. And why not get a hybrid vehicle? You’ll save on gas. 

14. Before you buy a car, use the CAA’s calculator to find a vehicle that costs less. 

15. To reduce your gas bill, take your foot off the pedal. Drive 100 km/h on the highway instead of 120 km/h to save on fuel by 20%, according to the CAA.  

Save on Internet, TV and mobile 

16. Take a look at your usage habits to see if you’re paying for anything you’re not using. Spending more time at home? Odds are you’re using less phone data. You could change your phone plan, so it matches your new daily usage. 

17. Consider renegotiating your contract. There’s so much competition in the field of telecommunications that sometimes, all you have to do is ask for a discount on your plans to get one. Shop around with your actual usage habits in mind, take a look at more affordable providers, or purchase a second-hand device. 

18. Group your Internet, telephone and TV services together. This could help you save. 

Save for your kids

19. Limit the amount of gifts on birthdays and during the holidays. Give handmade gifts or second-hand objects. It’s good for your wallet and for the planet.

20. Purchase your children’s clothing from thrift stores. There are many second-hand stores with online platforms. You’ll find long-lasting clothes for a fraction of the price. 

21. By buying hockey or ski equipment used, you’ll save big. Some specialized stores even offer credit in exchange for sports gear that doesn’t fit anymore. 

22. By contributing to a registered education savings plan (RESP), you can get up to $10,800 in government subsidies for your child’s future studies. 

23. Many CEGEPs and universities organize used book sales at the beginning of the semester. You could save 25% to 50% on the list price. You can also find gems on social media or on school forums. It’s a good way for students to save. 

Save on travelling

24. Rather than flying over the Atlantic and spending on lodging, you could support local tourism and go on an adventure (French only) in your own province. 

25. You could seek out free lodging for your next vacation. Check out websites like HomeExchange.com or Home for Exchange to follow the latest developments. 

26. If you’re visiting another province or country, look into changing your phone plan to avoid a huge bill when you get back. 

27. Planning a vacation? Being flexible on your travel dates could help you save. Consider different dates for your lodging. Leaving a few days before or after the date you had in mind could help you save. 

Save on outings

28. Many cities offer free cultural activities such as conferences, shows and museum visits…all online. It’s a great way to have fun for a fraction of the price. 

29. Organize picnics at the park instead of ordering food online. It’s a lot more fun and it’s a great way to enjoy the summer. Plus, you’ll avoid food waste. 

Save on financial and tax services

30. Starting to get into the habit of saving? Accelerated mortgage repayment could help you save tens of thousands of dollars. For example, by making an additional $2,000 payment every year for your $300,000 mortgage at a fixed rate of 5% over 25 years, you’ll pay $41,252 less in interest and you’ll pay off your mortgage earlier than planned. 

31. Try to pay off your credit cards in full every month. Otherwise, beware of interest: a $2,000 purchase at a 20% rate comes up to $4,249 if you only make the minimum monthly payment. 

32. Use your bank’s ATMs when making withdrawals to avoid transaction fees every time. 

33. If you’re wondering whether you really need to spend on insurance policies, the answer is yes. Car, home and liability insurance are often necessary to avoid major headaches. However, nothing’s stopping you from shopping around for your car and home insurance when they’re up for renewal. Premiums vary wildly from one insurance broker to another. In some cases, you could reduce your premiums by grouping all your insurance plans under the same insurance broker. 

34. Consider joining the retirement plan in which your employer contributes an additional amount. You’ll be contributing more and it’s usually very beneficial for you. 

35. If you have a spouse and one of you is retired, you could split your pension income to pay less tax. This tax strategy consists of transferring (on paper) part of the retirement income from the spouse with the higher income to the other spouse. If the wealthier person moves to a lower tax bracket, you will pay less tax as a couple. 

Whether by shopping better or by thinking before you spend, there are many ways to stabilize your finances without having to sacrifice too much. Do it gradually by starting with tricks that seem more realistic for you and see where that gets you. Then, take the money you’ve saved and invest it in your savings, your insurance plans and your emergency fund, and devote the rest to projects that are important to you! 

Has your financial situation changed due to the COVID-19 health crisis? Take a look at the various assistance measures set up by the National Bank and governments. They may help you stabilize your personal finances and catch a break, and allow you to prepare for the future. 

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