soil-and-coins

With the cost of living steadily increasing, it’s time for us to take control of our spending. It’s so easy to go with the flow and not look at the options available if we don’t have to. With high unemployment, single parent households and more, there are people looking for ways to save because its become a necessity. With a little digging into your circumstances, you’ll be surprised to discover ways you can either cut back spending or actively put money towards savings. It’s not easy but it’s worth a sacrifice or two to stay in the black.

Here are creative ways to help you keep more money in your pocket every month. What tricks have worked for you in the past? Please share in the comments.

Entertainment

family-movie-night

Leave Cable Behind 

This is easier said than done. With all of the new TV shows set to premiere next month, it’s hard to turn away from cable. Fortunately there are options available to you when you’re ready to take the plunge. For instance, beef up their internet service by adding more GBs for increased usage. By doing this, you can get rid of cable and watch as many shows online as you’d like. The reduced craving for TV may surprise you. Many of us are accustomed to turning on the TV when we get home and enjoy the background noise it provides. However, when we let go we’re free to enjoy other things and spend more time with family.

Another option is to sign up for services such as Shomi or Crave (better alternatives to Netflix in Canada). You still have access to great shows but only pay $8/month.

Take in a Movie Matinee

If you’re a movie buff, this one’s for you. Rather than spending upwards of $50 for date night at the movies, check out a matinee during the day instead. Better yet, some theaters offer discounts on specific days. If you plan accordingly, you’ll save more than half on ticket prices. If your favourite theater chain offers membership cards, sign up. You’ll get points towards perks such as free movies or discounted concession snacks. Definitely worth it.

Sign up for Free Social Events

As parents it can be hard to find time to do things just for ourselves. If you’ve made the commitment to carve out time to do the things you enjoy outside of family life, social sites such as Meetup.com are great. You can search for groups based on your interests. Rather than joining fancy and expensive membership clubs, you can join this for free. Keep in mind that some events might cost a little but the vast majority are free.

Visit Community Centres for Children’s Activities

Like most parents you might want to get you child involved in an activity to boost their social interaction skills and confidence. Of course registered programs are great but if you want to save money, check out your local community centre. Many offer classes (whether in sports, arts, etc.) that are much cheaper than independent businesses.   Early Years Centres are another fantastic option for younger children. Check out their monthly calendar for free sessions. Sessions might include a sing-along, story telling, dancing or arts and crafts. Since these are offered through your municipality, take advantage.

Education

Photo via itcs.umich.edu

Photo via itcs.umich.edu

Take a Free Online Course

I love learning new things. I’m a bit of a nerd so I spend a lot of my free time reading and researching. If something catches my eye while I’m out and about or if I hear something interesting, I can’t wait to jump online or get to a library to learn more. That’s why I was so excited to find out about Lynda.com. Whatever your interests are, they likely have a course for you. I’ve completed a few and definitely recommend this site. In order to access their library of courses for free, check whether your local library is partnered with them. Once you’ve completed a course you have the option to add an update to your LinkedIn profile. If you’re taking a course to further your career, this is perfect!

Download Audio Books

Along the same lines as the last point, there are many sites available that allow you to download and read books for free. With life as busy as it is, you may not have time to sit and read. If you can relate, download an audio book instead. You not only save time, but you save on the cost of an actual physical book. If you have a library card, you can also take advantage of OverDrive. I’ve recently gotten into this and enjoy the large list of available reading options. Just download the app, link to your local library and you’re set.

Visit a Library

If you prefer to hold a physical book in your hands, visit your local library. Many have new releases available so you won’t miss out. You may have to get on a wait list or place a hold for popular titles. Again, if you love to read but can’t stand the high cost of books, this option is for you. It’s also great for your kids. Miss O loves our trips to the library because she can choose as many books as she likes!

Switch to Part-time Daycare

If you’re able to do so, consider part-time day care for young children. Depending on your daycare provider, you can save a lot. This change doesn’t have to be permanent. If you need to save cash quickly you can consider making the switch.

Home

DIY Home Fragrance

This is one of my favourite things to do. Instead on splurging on expensive sprays and candles for your home, you can make something yourself. Add, a few drops of vanilla extract, a citrus fruit like lemon and a herb such as basil or rosemary to a pot of water. Allow the mixture to simmer and your home will smell inviting. This option is great because you can mix fruits, extracts, herbs and spices until you find your favourite combination.

Another money saving tip: When I buy a new box of dryer sheets, I place a few sheets around the house. I usually put the sheets in decorative vases so that they’re out of sight. They smell great and the fragrance lasts for a few days. Your family and visitors will love it!

Turn off Electronics and Lights

Have you ever had to remind your children to turn off lights when they leave a room? We’ve officially become our parents! But it’s for a reason. Turning off lights and unplugging electronics not in use will save you money in the long run. Also, consider switching to energy efficient light bulbs to save a little more in the long-run.

Cook Your Own Meals (meal planning or meal kit delivery)

Taking the time to plan ahead and make your own meals saves money. The temptation to order in will decrease as this becomes routine. Get your kids involved in the process so that they’re learning skills that will help them as they get older. If you don’t have the time needed to plan ahead, you can use a meal kit delivery service. The cost can be worth it since you don’t have to plan ahead or buy groceries. Everything’s done for you. Based on the package you choose you can save time and money over time.

Pay Yourself to do Laundry

The days of transporting your laundry to a laundromat may be behind you but why not adopt that concept in an effort to save money. I encountered this savings method about a year ago and love it. Each time you do your laundry (at home) put a few dollars in a jar. It can be loose change or a set amount each time (I put two dollars towards washing and one dollar towards drying), it’s up to you. Depending on the size of your family and how often you do laundry, this can add up quickly. The money I put towards this goes towards travel. For instance, it can pay for a nice family dinner while on vacation or pay the cost of a train ride. Whatever you choose, this is a creative way to save money each month.

Memberships

Photo via afrique-it.com

Photo via afrique-it.com

Earn Gas Card Points

If you have a car, filling it up is a necessary evil (insert loud sigh here). Depending on the size of your car and how often you drive, you might fill up more than once a week. Many gas companies offer points cards so sign up and take advantage. I’ve had a “Petro Points” card for several years and haven’t had to pay for things like snacks and oil and fluids for my car. Earlier this summer, I found up that I’d earned enough points to get five free car washes! Not bad right!?

Take Advantage of Discounts

Check to see if your company is affiliated with Eservus or the Corporate Plus Card . Eservus lets you save considerably on events and attractions while the Corporate Plus Card saves on things such as restaurants, entertainment and electronics. Once registered, you’ll have access to a long list of options (typically things that you use on a daily basis). This is absolutely worth it.

Another online discount option is Groupon. Again, it’s worth the time to sign up to gain access to things you likely use regularly. Have you heard of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater? They’re amazing to watch. I once spent $10 on tickets that would usually cost five times that. See what I mean? So worth it.

Health and Beauty

makeup

Make DIY Makeup

When it comes to makeup, I usually keep it simple. The only thing I splurge on is foundation (I don’t want to walk around with a funky complexion). If you’re adventurous, you can make anything from blush to eye liner to lipstick at home. Most homemade products use natural ingredients so they’re safe for your skin. Pinterest has a huge selection of tutorials on how to get started.

DIY Hair Care Products

This is another one of my favourites. Hair products for kinky hair textures are super expensive, at least in Canada anyway. To save money I’ve resorted to making my own products. Again, Pinterest and Youtube are great places to start. The ingredients needed are inexpensive and you can experiment until you find what works best for you.

My favourite homemade products are gel and hair moisturizer:

flax-gel

Photo via ashleysgreenlife.com

For the gel you’ll need:

  • 1.5 cups of flax seeds
  • 2 cups of water
  • An extract of your choice (I like lavender)
  • Pantyhose for straining (thigh highs work best)
  • 1 medium storage container

Add the flax and water to a small pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Once the water begins to thicken, remove the pot from the heat and let it cool. Add spoonfuls of the flax and water mixture to the pantyhose. As you strain the mixture through the hose and into your container, the “gel” will separate from the seeds. Once you’ve extracted as much as possible, discard the seeds. Continue until all the mixture is strained. Add in the extract, mix and store in the fridge after each use. It will last a few weeks. The hold of the gel is descent and moisturizes hair at the same time.

For the moisturizer you’ll need:

Photo via crazynaturalinc.blogspot.com

Photo via crazynaturalinc.blogspot.com

  • A medium tub of raw Shea butter (2 cups or 16 ounces)
  • An oil of your choice (I like jojoba and coconut oil)
  • A cake mixer
  • 1 medium storage container

Add the Shea butter to a plastic bowl and use the mixer to break it up. Mix the Shea butter until it’s relatively smooth (like cake batter). Add in the oil of your choice and mix again. Once complete, fill your storage container with the mixture. This lasts for months and makes my hair shiny and keeps it moisturized.

Budgeting

Photo via i.ytimg.com

Photo via i.ytimg.com

Buy Gas in the Evening

With gas prices as high as they are, filling up in the evening is a great way to save money. You can expect to save a few dollars per liter if you hold off because prices tend to drop by a few dollars later in the day. However, if prices drop drastically, you’ll need to pack some patience because line-ups are bound to be long. But it’s worth the wait to save some money.

Price Match While Grocery Shopping

Much like meal planning, this will take a little time to master. If your favourite grocery store allows price matching, it’s time to get on board. Dig out your weekly flyers as you make your grocery list and compare items. If you can swing it, try shopping during a weekday when there are fewer lineups at checkout. You’ll need a little extra time as your cashier rings up your purchases and checks your flyers.

Consider how you manage your banking, 

We all bank so why not save where we can? Some banks will waive their monthly service fees if you add services to your portfolio. If they offer good rates and you’re willing to give them more business, they’ll help you save. If saving on service fees isn’t important to you, take the time to search for the best rates and products at different banks. Your portfolio might be spread out but at least you’re saving money overall.

If you do your banking online, some banks offer features that help you budget. They’ll show you where your money goes each month so that you can make adjustments as needed.

Use Cash

Not only does using cash protect you from losing your personal information, you’re more aware of how much you spend. Each time you get paid, set aside some cash for your expenses and needs. If you’re clear on your budget and strict about sticking to it, you’re less likely to spend on impulse items. There’s something about seeing the cash in hand that helps us make rational choices.

Pack Your Lunch

Whether you’re going to work or going to the movies, pack your own lunch or snacks. Again, it saves you from making impulse purchases. You’ll have to think ahead but while you’re making lunch for your kids, why not make a lunch for yourself as well? Doing this alone can save you $100 a month.