14 Small Cuts That Can Lead to Big Savings

  • By Jillian Taylor-Mancusi

So many people throw away dollars every year that could help them reach their financial goals. And because life inevitably sends curve balls our way, such as unexpected job loss, or costly home repairs, we need to make sure we have sufficient emergency savings in place to help us weather any unanticipated tight stretches along the way.

Whether your goal is to buy a new car, increase your emergency funds, or get yourself out of debt, making even the most minor changes to your spending habits can mean huge payoffs in terms of the savings you will experience. Below are 14 small cuts you can make immediately that will help you get closer to what we all seek – more financial security and freedom.

#1: Check your direct debit and credit card statements.

Take the time to examine your debit and credit card statements. You might just find gym memberships, or magazine or other subscriptions that are being charged to you, which you no longer use or require. Many times, these types of charges are on auto-renewal. If you’re being charged for something you no longer use, contact the provider immediately to cancel the services, and request a refund.

#2: Switch to a low-fee or no-fee chequing account.

Are you being charged an annual maintenance fee on your chequing account? Many banks charge between $10 to $30 per month if you don’t meet your minimum required balance, which can be a few thousand dollars. If you can’t keep your balance above a certain amount to avoid the maintenance fee, consider switching to a bank that offers free or low-fee chequing accounts.

#3: Downgrade your cable package.

Cable packages are becoming more and more expensive, and you’re probably overspending based on what you actually use. Consider downgrading to a cheaper package (you can always upgrade later), or at the very least get on the phone with your cable provider to talk about how to cut what seems like an ever-increasing cable bill. They can likely get you a better package based on your usage, or offer you a promotion to keep your business.

You may even find it cheaper to settle for a basic plan and either use pay-per-view or on-demand for select movies or events you really want to watch, or sign up for Netflix to stream movies at your leisure for only $8.99 per month. Alternately, you might invest in a good HD antenna and ditch your cable bill completely.

#4: Downgrade your phone plan.

Much like cable services, most consumers don’t use anywhere near what they’re paying for on their cell phone plans. Make a call to your provider and ask them to switch to a plan that better fits your usage. If you seldom use your phone, save for emergencies, consider paying per-minute with a prepaid plan.

Bundling your services, such as cell phone, landline, or internet, with the same provider may even yield a further discount, so consider this as an option to get an additional discount on your services as well.

#5: Get organized, and get smart when it comes to grocery shopping.

Plan out your meals before you go shopping, so you don’t buy items you won’t end up using in the near future, and will have to throw away if they are perishable.

If you’re concerned about pesticides and GMOs and want to go organic, do so where it really counts. Here’s a list of foods that don’t need to be organic and there is a lot more online information out there when it comes to what items should, and need not be, organic.

As for literally throwing away dollars, Canadians waste $31 billion in food every year. Just take a look at what you’ve been tossing in the garbage each week. Not only is this practice bad for the environment, but wasted food is bad for our wallets. Find a use for everything in your fridge and pantry. Are your veggies about to expire? Consider making a soup. And what you don’t use today, save for tomorrow’s lunch, or you can even freeze it for a healthier frozen dinner next week.

Finally, consider that those “best before dates” are really sell by dates. Check out stilltasty.com to find what, if anything, can be used.

#6: Turn a movie night out, into a movie night in.

Movie nights out usually include not only tickets, but overpriced snacks and drinks. And for a family of four, a night out can turn into $50 faster than you can say, “Enjoy the movie!” Consider making movie night just as special by streaming an online movie at home, popping some grocery store-bought popcorn, and setting out other bulk food store snacks.

But if you really enjoy the movie-out experience and don’t want to give it up, why not attend a matinee, or eat beforehand so you don’t spend too much at the concession stand.

#7: Find an alternative to your designer cup of joe.

Designer coffees or lattes can run you between $5 and $8. And even a regular coffee costs about $2. Consider brewing your own at home, even if you need to purchase a Keurig or other coffee machine to do so. In about 2 to 6 months, you’ll have paid for the machine itself.

#8: Skip a month of non-essential “luxury” services.

For just one month, consider doing your own nails (you may even find the time you carve out for this ritual to be relaxing!), skip that weekly massage, or pass up on your Sunday morning baker’s dozen donut treat. Replace any ritual you may have with a run, time relaxing with a good book, or chatting with an old friend.

#10: Bring your lunch to work.

If you buy lunch out, you’re likely spending anywhere from $10 to $20 on a daily basis. Assuming you’re on the lower end of this range, that’s still a whopping $200 a month. (If I did the math for you over a year, you’d never eat lunch again! Spoiler: It’s $2,400). Consider making your lunch and bringing it to work.

By the same token, make dining out a monthly or bi-monthly treat, and prepare your own meals from scratch. Not only is it cheaper, but it’s likely much healthier for you to prepare your own meal.

#11: Ditch your gym membership if you’re not really using it.

The average gym membership is about $58 per month, and the fact is, many members don’t go as regularly as they should. The average times a gym member goes to the gym on a weekly basis is only twice, and 67% don’t even go at all!

Consider getting fresh exercise outdoors, especially if you live in Western Canada, where temperatures allow for this year-round. If you want some guidance with your workouts, go to the library and borrow some workout videos, or check out what’s available for free online. And if you’re into machines, check out Craigslist for second-hand ones that will ultimately be more affordable than an annual gym membership is.

#12: Enjoy free entertainment.

Did you know you can borrow not just books, but also DVDs from your local library? You can even reserve movies ahead of time to pick up. Look at other fun events that don’t require any entrance fee, like free museum days, community events, or nature hikes and tours.

#13: Shop online for the best prices on products and services.

Shopping online allows you to price shop at the best online retailer. And if you’re looking for services, try Groupon or Living Social for great deals. This only works if you already use the provider, and don’t fall into the category of an online shopping addict. If you have a tendency to buy what you don’t need just because it’s a good deal, then skip this tip.

#14: Negotiate your bills down.

Get on the phone with a customer service rep for any and all your service providers, and ask them to help you lower your service bills. Let them know you’re happy with the services, and you’d just like to reduce your costs. This includes any landscaping services, internet, phone, or cable services, house cleaners, and so on.

The Takeaway

In order to save money, you need to know what you’re spending. Cutting out even a little bit here and there can amount to thousands of dollars at the end of the year. The single most important thing you can do is create a budget. Budgets are important to staying on track so you can meet your financial goals.

Licensed Insolvency Trustees are the most highly trained and educated insolvency experts in Canada, and are the only financial advisors licensed by the Federal government to provide insolvency solutions.

If you’re looking to get out of debt, it’s important to contact an advisor that is knowledgeable about debt and credit, and can help you get out of money trouble.

LCTaylor Licensed Insolvency Trustees specialize in solving financial problems for both businesses and individuals. We take a look at your overall financial situation and discuss all options available to solve your debt crisis and get you out of debt. Our qualified credit counsellors can also help with money management, budgeting, and long-term planning that are often integral parts of turning around money troubles, big or small. After your problem is solved, we are here to help re-establish your financial well-being. If you’re looking for debt help in Manitoba, contact us today.

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