How to Save Money

Budgets, Investing, Savings, Shopping, Planning, Discounts, Side Income,
Reducing Debt and Much More!

Complete Guide to Saving Money (and making a little more)

Written By: Mr. CBB, the writer and owner of the popular Canadian Finance Blog www.canadianbudgetbinder.com.


Responsibility and Accountability are two powerful words in the finance world because without either you risk failure on a personal level.

 

Let’s talk about both so you get a better understanding about how to incorporate both into your Canadian savings journey.

 

When we think about the word responsibility we think about taking out the trash, getting to appointments on time and basically making sure everything runs smooth on a day to day basis.

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Budgeting Your Money


Budgeting therefore is the process of understanding dollars and cents and having a personal financial plan in place to help you pay back debt and stay out of further debt in a timely fashion. This is a responsibility that every Canadian should take when it comes to accountability for their money.

 

Why budgeting?


You care about your money don’t you? It may not matter to you yet but once you start your budgeting journey you’ll realize just how important every dollar is and how fast those numbers can add up.

 

For example, your morning coffee at the local shop only costs $1.50 which seems reasonable for a cup of coffee but if you get that coffee every day it’s costing you $547.50 a year.

 

What could you do with that money instead?


I’m betting you could buy cans of coffee, a coffee machine and all the extras for far less and still have money to put towards your debt or investments. The problem is not everyone views money in this manner until they are knee-deep in debt and even then it’s a stretch. You have to be committed and until you are all you see is that meager $1.50.

 

Keep in mind that $547 is only coffee. That’s like pulling a hair knowing there are thousands more. Your budget incorporates all things related to your life that cost you cash and I can bet there’s more than just coffee in your life. In this case your budget functions as a revolving door for your money which means when you pluck one hair there’s another waiting in its place. Unless you get a grip on where the money is being spent or plucked from you’ll always be struggling to balance the budget and get ahead with your finances. The choice is yours but since you’ve come this far reading I’m presuming you are interested in the likes of budgeting from A to Z .

 

I want to show you how easy it is to save money with a few simple changes in your life. Are you ready? Let’s go!

Types of Budgets


If you are just starting out with a budget and are not good with online budgeting apps or using excel or word programs I’d opt for a simple budget. A simple budget may be a printable budget that you can 3-hole punch and insert into a budget binder. The idea is to pencil and erase your way through your monthly expenses and earnings.

 

You may have heard of the budgeting jar system or the budget envelope system where you work with cash only and a paper budget. These systems allow you to know where your money is going and how much you have to spend based on what’s left in the jars or envelopes. This also helps to cut down on sporadic purchases since you don’t have the extra cash to play with.

 

Many times I’ve called this type of budgeting the baby steps of budgeting systems because once you learn the basics you’ll want to graduate into something more elite such as an excel budget or a mobile app. Personally, I’m a fan of the excel budget and have been for many years now and it has successfully worked for us. Our budget is a zero-based budget where all of the money we earn has a home. This means at the end of the month we should have a zero balance of money because it has all been accounted for.

Tracking Expenses


I know this is a tough topic for those of you who want to save money but in my opinion it has to be done. If you don’t know where your money is at all times you’ve lost sight of your goals.

 

Besides, tracking your expenses with-in a budget is not hard at all especially if you set aside time each week to focus on your budget to input the data it needs to run. It’s like putting gas in your car. Let the tank run dry and the car won’t go. This is how your budget works, so put in the time and effort to reap the rewards.

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Credit Score


Due to popular demand your credit score IS important for many reasons and one of them is to help you save money. When you apply for a loan, mortgage or credit card the company will look at your credit score. A good credit score is 660 and anything above that is exceptional which means the likelihood of lenders to give you a good interest rate is attainable. You also have more bargaining power when your credit score is in good standing position especially with mortgage companies and credit cards.

 

When your credit score needs improvement or is on the cusp of good you may find your interest rates are higher and many lenders will shy away from working with you. They fear you won’t pay back the money they lend you on schedule which means jumping through hoops for them. On the flip-side they make more money from you because they offer you higher rates than your very good credit score friend. So, if you want to save money consider ordering your free credit report once a year to examine it through Equifax Canada or Trans Union.

If you find any discrepancies work on getting them fixed right away. Even if you are debt free it’s important to review your credit history yearly because anything can be happening behind your back with your money. You always have to be on guard and always looking for ways to boost your credit score in Canada for the best money savings. If you’re new to Canada and don’t have a credit score or history like I did consider getting a secured credit card. A secured credit card is where you give the credit card company money to secure it just in case you don’t pay your bill. 

 

So, you give the credit card company $500 and they give you a credit card with a $500 credit limit. View it as a trial to see how well you are with paying a credit card bill and work on a plan to keep you on track. The more you use the credit card and pay it on time each month the better your credit score gets. Eventually they will remove the security and you will be on your own but that takes time. They want to know you are reliable and if you fail they use the money they secured from you.

Borrowell Credit Score and Report Banners


Housing


Renting vs. Buying


I’m a big fan of home buying because it becomes a savings plan in a sense but it also requires maintenance. On the other hand renting isn’t so bad as long as you’re saving money at the same time. Renting might not require a down-payment (apart from first and last month’s rent) or maintenance but there are other fees such as parking, utilities and rental insurance. Owning a home requires upkeep as well paying house insurance, property taxes are a must. When you move on as a renter you don’t get anything out of the deal but when you sell a house you earn the equity you put in and any increase in home value minus selling and legal fees.

 

The only thing with selling a house is that you may need to buy another but you’ll almost always have the money you put in back on your side of the court. In rare occasions if you buy too high you may be stuck with the house or have to sell at a loss if you can’t find buyers at relative prices for your neighbourhood but hopefully not too much. If you opt to buy something smaller that is less expensive or move to a town or city where home prices are less you can bank the extra cash as savings.

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Downpayment


There is no rush to buy a house so saving for a down-payment can take as little or long as you like based on how much you’d like to save for your down-payment. When we bought our house we saved up 25% of $265,000 which helped lower our monthly mortgage and helped us to pay it off in less than 5 years. We also bought a home that was in our price range and not what we were told we could afford because those are two different things.

 

We also stayed far away from any price wars as mentioned buying too high can come back to haunt you. You are the only person who knows what you can and can’t afford to steer clear of what others tell you to buy and base it on actual numbers. If you find that you need to save more for a down-payment that will allow you to live comfortably in a home then wait. If you are a first time home buyer you can use some of your RRSP’s for the down-payment but take caution, you must pay them back. So, you might get a reduction on your down-payment but you will still have to pay for your mortgage and replacing the RRSP’s at the same time.

How to save money - downpayment

The “House-Poor” Problem


Never put yourself or family in the position of having a tight budget when you don’t need to especially when buying a home. Becoming house poor is not uncommon and only happens because people overspend when buying a home. Do yourself a favour and create a monthly budget and if you can afford a home on one income, even better. In the event one person loses their job it’s easier to tackle the variable expenses rather than the fixed expenses.

 

I always suggest creating a mock budget that includes a mortgage and any expenses that come with home ownership. If you can’t afford them while you are renting you can’t afford them if you were to buy a house. Keep that in mind. If you find that you are pushing the home owner limits with your budget wait a bit longer until you feel comfortable that you can take on any financial emergencies that might come your way.

 

Oh, and if your real estate agent doubles as your financial advisor then great but otherwise tread carefully who you talk to about your money. Toronto based finance expert Barry Choi who blogs at Money We Have sums it up nicely in his post, “Your Realtor Is Not Your Financial Advisor”.

 

Generally speaking, there are only two things your realtor will know about your financial situation: How much you are approved for your mortgage and how much you can “afford” on a monthly basis.”

Home Décor and Furniture (minimalist living)


If there’s one lesson I learned about home decor since buying our first home is that we didn’t need half the stuff we’ve bought over the years. Although, I often suggest searching for second-hand and vintage consider keeping your space at home tidy by limiting how much you buy.

 

When your space is cluttered even with furniture it can seem smaller and it’s also harder to keep clean because you have to move furniture weekly. I also found that the more stuff we had the more dust we’d accumulate. It’s ok to say no to free stuff or to donate regularly to those in need.

 

Less is always more.


Investing And Saving Your Money


Anytime you invest your money whether it be in real estate, business opportunities, stocks, retirement savings and life insurance investment plans you run the risk of losing it all. On the flip-side you stand to earn even more money than you may have anticipated and surely more than you would have had the money sitting in a high-interest savings bank account.

 

This is where you have to ask yourself whether your risk tolerance can handle the ups and downs of the financial market. If the answer is yes then investing your money in any of the above with a financial plan in place may be the route for you. If no, then finding less stressful hiding spots such as a traditional savings account or GIC for your money to help it grow may be a better option.

Savings Account


Almost everyone has a savings account at a brick and mortar bank or online bank where money is deposited and earns interest. Saving money in a bank is a great way to build emergency savings and to have a bit of cushion available without having to worry about releasing funds.

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Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP)


An RRSP was introduced in 1957 and is a savings plan in Canada that gets special treatment by the Canada Tax Revenue Agency. The RRSP is one of the most popular ways that Canadians can save money for retirement.

 

The RRSP allows us to defer income tax that you would generally pay today to a time in the future. So, when you remove your RRSP you will get taxed then rather than today. In the meantime it allows your RRSP investments to grow tax-free which means more savings.

 

As Ben Felix, Associate Portfolio Manager at PWL Capital points out in his video “How an RRSP Works” defined benefit plans have mostly disappeared and Canadians are now responsible for saving money to retire on. Many employers in Canada offer an RRSP savings plan to their employees where the employer will match up to a certain percentage if the employee invests x amount.

 

This is free money so if you can take on the RRSP as a savings plan at work and outside of work you’re well on your way to saving for retirement.

How to save money - RRSP

Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA)


The TFSA was introduced in 2009 and has increased in popularity ever since. Unlike an RRSP, you do not get a tax refund when you contribute to a TFSA. You also do not need to pay taxes as it’s a tax-free account as the name suggests. That means you can invest your money with-in a TFSA and when it grows so does your pocket-book.

 

Should you invest in a Tax Free Savings Account?

Well, the choice is yours but if you have the extra money I’d say, yes! The Tax Free Savings Account can be used as Emergency Savings or even Retirement Savings. As of 2019 you can contribute $6000 a year to your TFSA as the government sets limits as to how much can be invested yearly and has varied since 2009.

motusbank TFSA

Dividend Investing


Dividends are cash payments made to shareholders in a company which means you invest your money in a company and when they earn, you earn too. By investing in a company you become part-owner of that company so any recognized profits become in part, cash in your pocket.

 

Over at the popular blog My Own Advisor, founder Mark states the 5 Things You Need To Know About Dividend Paying Stocks.

 

  1. Immediate Return
  2. Safety Buffer
  3. Dividends Increase over time
  4. Dividends have a long history of being paid out
  5. Dividend yield can help you decide when to buy

motusbank GIC 18 Month


Grocery Expenses


Number one savings tips for groceries and any other product you buy…KEEP YOUR RECEIPTS!

 

I can’t stress that loud enough because without a receipt you risk not being able to return a product or getting a price reduction if the item goes on sale with-in 14 days. Some stores offer this deal so be on the look-out for store policies.

 

Money saved is important. So, how do you save money on groceries in Canada? 

  1. Price Matching
  2. Rain Cheque
  3. Scanning Code of Practice
  4. Couponing
  5. Creating Lists
  6. Bulk Shopping
  7. Meal Planning

Price Matching


This is the process of using either paper flyers or your mobile device app where applicable to the cashier to get the best price on a product you want to buy. For example, if the Cheerios are on sale at Food Basics for $5 but you live close to Wal-Mart who allows price matching all you have to do is get the same box of Cheerios listed in the Food Basics flyer and show the cashier that sale.

 

He or She will apply the sale price to the product you purchase which helps you save money by doing all of your shopping in one store instead of travelling from shop to shop. Some consumers may not have other options of travelling from store to store because of transportation issues, health issues or lack of grocery stores in the area.

Stockpiling


Stockpiling is a great way to save money when you find a deal on a product that you know you will use often. Part of our grocery budget includes a stockpile budget of $25 each month tailored to accommodate any deals that we can pick up at stockpile prices.

 

Doing this allowed us to focus on our main grocery budget for every day needs and the stockpile budget for using coupons and pairing that with flyer deals or in-store specials that might not have been advertised. This way we still get the savings without hurting the grocery budget. Having a stockpile budget also holds you accountable and gives you direction because you know you only have a set amount of money to spend.

 

A great example of this was a time that the GreenWorks products were on sale for 1.99 each but had a buy 3 save $5.00 coupon hanger on each bottle. We were paying under $2 for 3 bottles of product that should have cost us around $18 at regular price with taxes.

 

It was like a never-ending stockpile of cleaning products that we purchased and lasted us over 5 years. In fact, we still have some we are using today in our stockroom.

Bulk Shopping


Shopping in bulk can save you money only if you need the product and will use it before it expires and you’ve compared the price in bulk to sales at your local grocery stores. Consider the cost of buying a 5L jar of Bick’s Pickles for $4.99 at Costco to 1L at Zehrs for $4.99 regular price or $2.99 when it goes on sale. You might even have a coupon to bring the price down lower but you won’t know that until the time comes you are making a purchase. It might be ideal to buy the 5L jar if you love to eat pickles. Besides, pickles last a long time so you wouldn’t have to rush to eat them fast.

 

Although buying larger quantities of products that are on sale or at your local bulk food store always do the math involved and consider the financial consequences if you don’t end up using the product. Remember a few dollars here and there all adds up over the course of your life-time.

Rain Cheque


Don’t ever leave a grocery store empty-handed when there is a sale and they are sold out. Always make your way to customer service and at least ask if they will offer you a rain cheque. If the store does offer rain cheques they typically allow you to get up to 4 of the item on sale the next time you shop and they are in stock. Huge money savings right there.

Creating Lists


Making a list is without a doubt a great way to save money no matter if you shop at a grocery store or your nearest hardware store. The purpose of the list is to allow you in to detail what you need before you enter a store that is full of marketing ploys the minute you walk in the door from displays to smells. All of these distractions can cost consumers money so go armed with a list.

Meal Planning


A weekly or even monthly meal plan direction can relieve stress and save money because you aren’t scrambling to find the ingredients you need at the last minute.  Keep in mind meal planning also allows you to shop the weekly deals at your local grocery store to help save you money. For example, if the beef is on sale you buy 2 packages one for a pot of chilli and the other for a pot of Bolognese meat sauce. These two meals that you plan may feed your family for lunch and dinner for a few days during a 7 day period. Although meal planning is a way to save money keep in mind planning around what you already have in your pantry is another level of savings instead of buying more to add to your stockpile.

Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP)


If you have never heard of SCOP in Canada get ready for some money saving while helping a company realize their pricing errors. SCOP in a nutshell is when you find an advertised product for one price but are charged more for it when cashing out. Not all stores offer SCOP so it’s important to understand it’s NOT a law in CanadaIf you find that a product rung up for more than the tagged or sale price then you should point that out and ask for SCOP to be applied. If approved you will get your product free up to $10. If the item is over $10 you will get $10 max.


Other Money Savings


  • Eating Out vs. Eating In

    Eating out once in a while is perfectly fine as long as you budget for these expenses. When you allow yourself to eat outside of the home it will eat into your finances. No matter what anyone tells you eating at home will always cost you less and save you far more money in the long run. Perhaps putting those extra savings towards paying down debt may help motivate you to learn to meal prep and cook at home.

  • Bad Habits

    Whatever you consider to be your bad habit try to be mindful of the expenses involved and how you can save money by cutting back or eliminating it altogether.

  • Memberships

    Memberships are great as long as you make use of them especially when you buy them on a whim. The biggest money flop for Canadians is a gym membership which starts with good intentions and ends with monthly payments and little to no visits.

  • Clothing

    I’m a big believer in recycling, reuse and re-purpose whenever possible which means buying second-hand will always be my first place to shop especially for clothing. Always match what you plan to buy so you can mix and match outfits and don’t buy more clothing that you need. Whether you shop second-hand or not buying too much means your closet and dresser will be bulging full of clothes and accessories you probably will only wear once or twice, if ever. Keep an eye out for online savings from clothing retailers in Canada as well sign up for your favourite stores online who often send out discount codes to their VIP customers.

  • Transportation

    Walking, Biking and taking the bus, subway or go-train are all ways you can save money on transportation and get exercise at the same time. Getting rid of your ride is not always optimal so consider doing some comparison shopping when it comes to vehicle insurance and anything related to your vehicle. In terms of buying new vs. buying used there are no wrong and right answers apart from making sure you are covered if something were to go wrong especially when buying used. The last thing you want is to have a lemon taking up space in your parking space or driveway. Use your rewards card or credit cards to earn and redeem points at your local petrol station or if you are a Costco member and there is a gas station with your store the gas savings are always better than any gas station in your local community.


Rewards Programs in Canada


Some of the most lucrative rewards programs in Canada are already in your wallet or on your computer and smartphone. There are a myriad of rewards programs in Canada that help Canadians save money and even better, earn points towards products or cash back. Take the time to explore all of your options and pick what works for you because leaving free money on the table is not smart saving.

 

We earn and save with all of the below programs including credit cards rewards.

  1. Credit Card Rewards
  2. Swagbucks Cash Back Rewards
  3. Ebates Canada
  4. Nielsen Home Scan Canada
  5. Air Miles Canada
  6. PC Optimum Rewards at Shoppers Drug Mart and Loblaws Stores


Employment / Making More Money


Saving money in Canada is not always the easiest thing to do especially when you are struggling to balance your budget. Aside from slashing what you are already spending your money on you can take saving money a step further by earning more money.

Second Job

If you find you can’t balance your budget the first option is to eliminate or lower your expenses but for many this may be a struggle. The other option is to get a second job to earn more money. Although you may be spending more time away from home you’re earning more money that can help you pay down debt thus saving you money. This is what I did which helped speed up paying our mortgage off but I was also able to secure full-time employment in my dream job at the same time.

Side Hustles

Earning money on the side is a great way to save more money in Canada. Blogging for example is a secondary income for many people who offer their skills and knowledge to consumers online. If you have skills that are in demand then put them to good use by advertising them and watch the extra cash come in.

Ask for a Raise

Don’t wait for the raise to come to you, go grab it. Stand up for the skills and profession you work in and ask your boss for a raise. If they say yes you can use the extra cash to pay off debt or stash it away in your savings or retirement account.

Upgrade Your Skills

There is never a time where I’ve thought that education is a waste of time. Any opportunity you get to upgrade your skills or learn new skills which you can apply to your career will only help you earn more money.

Importance of Networking


When I moved to Canada I went back to school at the age of 30 to upgrade my skills so I could better my life. This was not in my plans but it was the only way I was going to increase my opportunity in Canada to find a career where I was earning more than minimum wage. 

 

Along the way I was able to network with different business owners in my field, volunteer my time and eventually secure an employment opportunity. That one opportunity helped me to get a second job which ended up being my dream job where I currently work full-time.

 

It took me 5 years with my foot in the door working two jobs for my permanent employment offer, but I did it. One of the biggest regrets I have with my first job in Canada was not asking for a raise which I strongly encourage. The worst your employer will say is no. Finally, I started what I believed was going to be a little finance blog documenting our financial journey only to learn that there were thousands of Canadians who wanted to follow along.

 

I never realized the impact your personal experiences could have on the lives of those who need motivation the most. Earning money from blogging was not my intention but it ended up slowing moving in that direction which was a nice little perk to our savings. Ideally if you want to save money in Canada find something that you love to do and bring it to life even if it requires baby steps which most opportunities do.

 

The saying, “You can’t win the lottery if you don’t play” comes to mind and although I’m not referring you to the lottery booth I’m simply stating that risk is not always going to yield unfavourable results.

How to make money - networking


Comparison Websites


Grocery Prices (Flipp App)

This app has everything from all of your weekly flyers to coupons to help you create the ultimate list so you can save money.

Petrol Prices (Gas Buddy)

If you want the best bang for your buck when it comes to filling your gas tank then Gas Buddy will tell you where to go for the best savings.

Loans, Financing and Mortgages (Smarter Loans)

Canada’s Loan Directory, Smarter Loans, helps you find out the top options and rates for any kind of loans and financing throughout Canada. This helps save money. Taking out personal or commercial financing for a well planned out investment opportunity can provide a good return and extra profit. 


Reducing Debt


Ideally trying not to create debt you can’t pay back in full or in a reasonable time besides a traditional mortgage or school loans is ideal. The more debt you create the harder it gets to spread your money which leads most Canadians into big trouble. If you really want to smash your debt work on reducing it by finding a second-job, work extra hours or create a business where you can work from home.

Ideally trying not to create debt you can’t pay back in full or in a reasonable time besides a traditional mortgage or school loans is ideal. The more debt you create the harder it gets to spread your money which leads most Canadians into big trouble. If you really want to smash your debt work on reducing it by finding a second-job, work extra hours or create a business where you can work from home.

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There are many types of debts that Canadians endure in their life some which help enrich our lives to help us work towards employment success and others to build wealth such as a mortgage. 

 

One thing always to remember is that debt is debt but the worst debt is consumer debt or any debt you can’t pay back in full such as a credit card or personal loans.

 

Main Types of Debt Canadians Hold

 

  1. Credit card (use balance transfer, snowball method,
  2. Personal Loans
  3. OSAP
  4. Consumer debt
  5. Mortgage

Key Points To Remember


  • Saving money in Canada is NOT hard it just takes desire and determination.

  • Comparing prices is essential to getting the best prices in Canada.

  • Budgeting is a must if you want to know where your money is going.

  • Less is more.

  • Always keep your receipts.

  • Consider your present and future when saving and investing your money.

  • Don’t spend more than you earn.

  • Buying a house is not the end all be all.

About The Author:


Mr. CBB is the writer and owner of the popular Canadian Finance Blog www.canadianbudgetbinder.com He blogs about all things relating to finance in Canada while sharing his families journey to Debt Freedom using a budget.