Maybe the Christmas season has you seeing red and dreading the January credit card bills, or maybe you want to set some money aside for a new car, fancy vacation or just simply increase your cash flow. Whatever the case, everyone can use a little extra cash in their wallets, especially at this time of year. Today I’m going to share a few of my favourite penny-pinching tips.
If you are dealing with a little (or a lot) of debt, you can check my post here to help you get started on a repayment plan. Every little bit of extra money really comes in handy too when you’re trying to kick start your debt elimination.
Here we go folks, try a couple or try them all and make sure to brag about how much you cut out of your budget in the comments.
Ditch Unnecessary Monthly Expenses
Perhaps you’re a sucker for magazine subscriptions, still have a home phone, or maybe you pay for Spotify premium and hardly ever use it (note to self…) Whatever your weakness is, monthly expenses can do some serious damage to your budget and save you some serious coin if you’re willing to let go. The easiest way to do this is pull up your last couple months of bank account and credit card statements and see what you are actually paying for. If there’s anything you can live without cancel it, right now, you can always get it back later if you find you really do miss it. If you’ve got a magazine subscription and maybe one too many TV streaming services that can be cancelled you could save yourself around $15 a month or $180 a year. That’s not nothing folks.
Or maybe you can go even bigger and cancel your cable altogether, even if you just do it for the summer months when you’re likely watching less TV you’ll save a ton of money. We still have cable in this house, but I would be a-ok cancelling except for watching sports. We’re big Oilers fans and there really just isn’t a great option to live stream sports at this point. I know Sportsnet has a streaming service for all their channels, but it’s $25/month which is as much as our basic cable package…seems crazy.
Negotiate with Service Providers
It really is worth your time to run through your list of recurring bills and make a few phone calls to negotiate a lower rate. Even if you’re still under contract it’s worth giving it a shot, there might be something you’re paying for that you don’t use; a speciality TV channel package, or voicemail on your phone (who doesn’t hate voicemail). If you’re out of contract, then it can be even more worthwhile as you can use the threat of leaving to get the most bang for your buck (ask for the retention department as they are usually the ones who can give the biggest discounts). Do some research before calling to see what other providers are offering to new customers and use those numbers in your negotiations. And if you’re not having much success, don’t be afraid to switch providers. We switched our TV and internet to Telus last year because they offered us a really fantastic promo. Just remember that promo rates are temporary, so make sure the regular rate is cheaper or comparable to what you’re currently paying, so it doesn’t end up costing you more in the long run. These tactics can be used for internet, cable, cell phones, insurance…just about anything you have to sign a contract for.
Make a Budget and Stick to it
You don’t need some crazy detailed, elaborate budget but you do need to figure out what money is coming in and going out every month. Run the numbers to work out how much you actually need to live on each month and set that aside, whether that’s kept in your chequing account or you take it out as cash. Don’t forget to leave yourself a little room in the budget for fun. I’m a big believer in living for now and living for the future…it’s a balancing act. Living on a too tight budget can just end up making you frustrated and not having enough motivation to stick with it.
Budgeting is just like dieting, you need to leave room for the odd treat to save yourself from eating an entire pizza. Any leftover cash flow will go towards savings or pay off debt, and I want you to set these up as automatic payments. That way money goes where it’s supposed to as soon as it comes in, so you’re not tempted to spend it on that cute blouse you saw at the mall (or online, because who still goes to the mall). Give yourself a couple of months to tweak the amounts if needed, but if you’re serious about this, you want to stay strict with yourself. Your budget can be as simple as a post-it note on the fridge, but there are also great apps you can use so your budget is always accessible on your phone. I like Mint, it’s free and links up with most Canadian banks and lets you track bank accounts, investment accounts and credit cards.
Have a basement overflowing with stuff you don’t use anymore? Get listing on Kijiji and make some extra cash! What could be better than getting paid to purge?! I know some people really hate cleaning out their closets or getting rid of things, but I actually love it. I find it so frustrating to pull something out of my closet that I hate or have kitchen cabinets overflowing with appliances that never get used. As long as the things you want to get rid of still have a little life left in them then you should definitely be listing them on Kijiji instead of tossing them in the trash…environmentally and economically friendly. You can sell just about any household items on Kijiji, another’s person’s junk right. Make sure to set realistic prices (check out some similar listings) and be prepared to barter with people. If your item does sell within the first few days, it’s a good idea to delete and re-post the ad, so it goes back to the top of the list, older ads tend to disappear into obscurity.
Get Paid to Shop Online
I love getting my shopping done online, and you can often get better discounts than you can in store, especially if there’s free shipping available. I don’t think I’ve stepped foot in a brick and mortar store for Christmas presents yet this year, everything has been done either online or at a couple of local craft sales. Another perk is that there are sites you can use to get rewards for buying stuff online. My favourite is Ebates because you get actual cash back from shopping at lots of online stores you’re probably buying from anyway (think Amazon, Sephora, Old Navy, etc.)
Swagbucks is another good option and lets you earn rewards for online shopping but also doing surveys and other tasks. For both sites, you set up an account and then link through there to any of the sites they partner with and then do your online shopping just like normal. For Ebates you will earn cash back, and they will send you a cheque when you get to $25. Swagbucks is a bit different in that you earn points (Swagbucks) and you use those points to redeem for gift cards.
Pack a Lunch
Everyone already knows this, but it’s worth the reminder because it will save you a ton of money. Eating out is expensive so if you can cook most of your meals at home, you should. I’m horrible at packing lunch, but we are good about cooking dinner at home, so I try to pick meals that will have enough for leftovers the next day. If I have to make a sandwich in the morning, I’m setting myself up for failure but if there’s a container of leftovers I’m good to go. Plus, I hate wasting food, so I’ll make sure those leftovers get eaten. The hardest part of sticking to a bag lunch plan for me is resisting the temptation when co-workers go out. My office is terrible for eating out way to often so we’ve made a deal (that we try very, very hard to stick to) that we can only eat out once a week.
Use the Library
I only just got a library membership last year, but holy man is it ever amazing! Depending on where you live this might not be as beneficial for you, but the Edmonton Public Library is seriously impressive. Membership is 100% FREE, and they have a huge selection of books, ebooks, movies, music…pretty much everything. Sure, sometimes you need to need to go on a waiting list for more popular books (I think I’m still number 1 million and some for ‘The Nest’), but if you’re an avid reader, there is no other way to read as much as you want for free. The EPL website is easy to use, and you can download ebooks, save books to read in the future and access online resources. When you put a book on hold, they even transfer it between libraries so you can always pick-up at the most convenient location while still having access to resources across the city. And, if there’s a book the EPL doesn’t have you can request it, and they actually do listen!
There you have it, 7 ways to limit to expenses and free up some extra money to pay your bills or stash away for the future. If you’d like to share any of your favourite penny-pinching tips feel free to post in the comments.