20 Tips on Saving Money in Canada

With spring arriving in the Great White North, why not spring clean your finances and find some extra money? Here are 20 tips to get you started:

Save some money

1. Turn Down Your Thermostat

Now that it’s getting warmer outside, turn down your heat a few degrees. You can save and estimated 3 per cent on your heating bill for every degree you lower your thermostat. Wear a sweater and slippers during the day and add an extra blanket to your bed at night. You can save even more if you lower the thermostat overnight while everyone sleeps and when you are away.

2. Use a Programmable Thermostat

Make your savings automatic. Programmable thermostats allow you to input a schedule for your heating and cooling, letting you set it and forget it. Most thermostats let you set a different schedule for each day if needed, giving you the chance to lower the heat or air conditioning use when you’re at work and overnight. It’s also easy to override the schedule when needed, saving you the trouble of reprogramming the thermostat if you decide to work from home one day.

3. Let the Sunshine In

Now that the days are getting longer, take advantage of the extended daylight and open your blinds and curtains. The sunshine will help warm up your home during the day, lowering the need for your furnace to kick in. As a bonus, you’ll also use less electricity for lighting. Once summer arrives, keep the blinds closed to help keep air conditioning costs down.

Energy saving

4. Take Advantage of Lower Electricity Costs

Does your municipality offer time-of-use savings for electricity use? Many cities are adopting a rate structure that varies based on the time of day. By running higher energy appliances such as dishwashers and dryers when the rate is at its lowest, usually evenings and weekends, you can reduce your electricity bill.

5. Only Run Dishwasher when Full

In addition to using the dishwasher during off-peak hours, only run it when it is full. You may only need to run it every few days, which will save you money on energy costs and detergent. The same strategy should be used when doing laundry.

6. Air-Dry Your Laundry

As it warms up outside, it’s a great time to start line-drying your laundry. Although some cities in Canada still have bans on outdoor clotheslines, many provinces and municipalities have lifted those bans. If you don’t have a clothesline, a drying rack is another good option which can be used indoors or outside. Air-drying even some of your laundry will help lower energy costs and keep your clothes looking better.

7. Start a Vegetable Garden

Planting a vegetable garden allows you and your family to have delicious fresh vegetables at a very low cost. If you don’t have a green thumb or the time to dedicate to a large garden, planting a few herbs and easy care vegetables will still save you some money on groceries come summer. Container gardening is gaining popularity, allowing even apartment dwellers and condo owners the chance to grow their own food on their balconies.

Your own vegetables

8. Watch Your Food Waste

Throwing away food is the same as throwing away your money. Recent studies show that as a nation we throw out anywhere from 25 to 40 per cent of all food at home. Estimated costs to Canadians are in the billions per year. That works out to several hundreds, if not thousands of dollars wasted per family each year. By buying less and being more careful to not let perishables go to waste, you can save significant money every week.

9. Look for a Lower-Cost Option

Do you regularly order-in a $20 pizza on Friday nights? Switching to a lower-cost option can add up to big savings. Next Friday, try a large frozen pizza instead and see if you could change your habit. If you switch to a $6 dollar frozen pizza once per week, you would save over $725 dollars per year. Look for simple changes and create new, less expensive habits.

10. Cut Down on Disposables

Try switching to cloth napkins, use rags instead of paper towels and stop buying paper plates and plastic cutlery. Disposable products have become popular due to their high convenience factor, but they are costing Canadian families hundreds of dollars every year. With very little effort, you can prepare reusable items to be conveniently organized and easy to grab when needed.

11. Cut Down on Cleaning Products

Do we really need a different cleaner for the windows, counters, bathrooms and kitchens? Simplifying your cleaning products will cut down on costs. Find an inexpensive multi-purpose cleaner or make one yourself using simple items for your pantry. Baking soda, vinegar or lemon juice can clean most surfaces in your home and are much less expensive than store bought ones. They are also much better for you and your family since they are non-toxic.

12. Eliminate Pricy Gift-Wrap and Cards

Between birthdays, anniversaries and other holidays, wrapping paper and cards can really add up. Look for free or lower cost options, such as reusing gift bags and tissue paper, repurposing old cards into gift tags and having children make their own cards. Brown craft paper and sprigs of evergreen can make an adult gift look beautiful. Or make the giftwrap part of the gift – wrap it up in a scarf, sock or other item they can keep.

13. Focus on Paying Your Highest Interest Debt

If you carry high-interest credit card or other high interest debt, focus on paying if off as quickly as possible. By only making the monthly minimum payments, it can take years to pay off as most of the money is going to the interest. Most items you charge end up costing you double, triple or even quadruple the original price. Why give away your money and get nothing in return?

14. Eliminate Late Fees

Late fees can add up quickly. Take a few minutes to go through your monthly bills and track their due dates. You can write them on a calendar to know what needs to be paid soon, or set up a regular time each week for paying bills. Find a system that works for you. If it's simple and easy to use, it will help you stick to it.

15. Avoid ATM Fees

Does your bank charge you to use their ATMs? How many withdrawals can you make per month before paying fees? Know the costs associated with using your bankcard and be aware you may be charged high fees to use another bank’s machines. Find a solution that works for you – switch your account to a bank that offers no fees and has ATMs close to home and work.

16. Brown Bag Your Lunch

For both kids and adults, buying lunches can be expensive. The $4 dollar hot lunch twice a week comes to $320 dollars per child, per school year. If you spends $7 dollars every day for lunch at work, you would spend over $1,600 every year on lunches. For a family of four, this comes to almost $4,000 dollars per year for lunches! Buy a good quality lunch bag and thermos and bring your own lunch to work and school every day to save some money.

17. Use the Library

Using the library is getting easier and better, thanks to online catalogues, library apps and digital downloads. Most libraries also offer DVDs, audio books and free programs for children and adults. Library cards are free or low-cost and very worthwhile.

18. Know Yourself

Although you keep meaning to kick the 3pm visit to the pop machine, you haven’t. Until you make the switch to something healthier and less expensive, bring your own. Pretending you won’t buy the $2 dollar pop, chip or other junk food from the vending machine everyday doesn’t help your pocketbook.

19. Walk or Use Your Bike

Hang up your car keys and walk or bike to the grocery store to pick up that loaf of bread. Walk your kids to school instead of driving them every day. Go for a family bike ride instead of a Sunday drive. The kilometers add up quickly, keeping more money in your pocket. It’s also great exercise.

20. Postpone Purchases

Before pulling out your credit card for your purchases, take the time to ask yourself if it’s a need, or if you can wait a few weeks before buying. Sometimes we get caught up in the moment, and buy stuff we don’t really need or want. Write it down and decide how long to wait before you give yourself permission to go back and buy the item in question. You may be surprised that two weeks later, you’re not interested in the item anymore.
Some of these ideas will take a little work on your part, but most can be done quickly, easily and frugally. Now go figure out where to invest the money you just saved – you deserve it!