When it comes to saving money, there are a few basics to take care of before you can start tackling the rest of your budget.
This covers stuff like basic household needs like your mortgage or rent. Plus any debt you have needs to be paid off.
One place you can go to make a big dent? The little things. Every little bit helps, and in the long run saving on this area can make the difference between saving money and just getting by.
So, here’s a list of 37 things you can do to help save money. And if you have a tip we didn’t cover that works for you, share it in the comments below so everyone can use it.
- 4 best money saving tips
- 8 money saving tips for grocery shopping
- 2 money saving mobile phone tips
- 2 money saving tips for TV, phone and internet bills
- 5 money saving energy tips
- 6 money saving tips for families
- 3 money saving tips for singles
- 3 money savings tips on transportation
- 4 other quick money saving tips
4 best money saving tips
Before getting into the little things that can help, there are 4 big picture items to help get you started on the road to saving money.
Planning ahead is one of the biggest things you can do. With proper planning, you’ll be able to sufficiently handle your finances when things go sideways.
Getting a good grasp of your finances ahead of time can help you:
- stay on a budget and
- build an emergency fund
This way when something unexpected happens and affects your income (hello COVID-19), you’ll be able to better manage when times get a little tough.
The next 3 tips are big contributors in helping plan ahead.
Setting up a budget
Having a monthly budget is a great tool to help stay on top of your finances. You’ll know how much you can spend every month, without going beyond your means.
How do you set one up?
First, you need to see what you’re spending every month. It’s best to go back 3 months so you’ll get a better average, and it would help to include things you need to spend on that don’t happen every month, like car maintenance.
You’ll also need to make monthly allowances for things that only get paid a couple of times per year, like insurance (if you don’t pay it monthly) or property taxes.
Analyzing your budget
Once you’ve found everything you spend, take a look at all your purchases and see if there are any changes you could make to save money.
Once you’ve figured out how much you’re spending every month, you’ll need to compare that to your after-tax income in your household.
You ideally want to spend at least 10% (preferably 20%) less than your income, to allow for things like:
- retirement savings,
- adding to an emergency fund, or
- saving up for larger purchases.
But that’s not always possible, especially in today’s climate where many are out of work for the time being.
If you’re spending under your income, you’re doing great and have more than enough to cover your expenses and save up for a rainy day.
If not, you’ll need to take a hard look at your finances, and figure out what you can do differently so you can start saving money.
Once you have your budget set, you can use our tips to help beat your goals every month.
Starting an emergency fund ‒ if you can
Having an emergency fund is always a good idea, if you can have one. When times get tough and household incomes start to drop, you’ve got a fund you can use to help get through it.
How can you start one? Here’s a handy flow chart of things to do and pay before you can start an emergency fund.
One great option is an EQ Bank Savings account. You’ll earn 2.00%* interest on all of your deposits, with no everyday banking fees or minimum balances to worry about.
Another option is a Tangerine savings account. In the first 5 months, you’ll earn 2.80% interest on your balance, again with no minimum balance or account fees.
However, the regular interest rate drops to 0.25% after your promotional period is up.
* Interest is calculated daily on the total closing balance and paid monthly. Rates are per annum and subject to change without notice.
Saving on credit card interest
Needless to say, credit card debt is the worst kind of debt you can have. With standard interest rates in the area of 20% or more, you’re paying a lot of interest if you can’t pay your credit card bills in full every month.
If you have large amounts of credit card debt, a card like the
There are more options than this card though, check out more balance transfer cards here.
Related: Balance Transfer Credit Cards 101
8 money saving tips for grocery shopping
So how can you better stay on track with money, and help meet and beat those budgets you’ve set?
First, we’ll go over groceries, one of the biggest expenses of any household.
Create a shopping list
Creating a shopping list before heading out to the store and then sticking to it is a good starting point.
You’ll only get what you need, and avoid the tricks and temptations of the store trying to get you to buy things you don’t really need.
Shop sales and stockpile goods when you can
If you can afford to, shopping sales and stockpiling on goods is another easy way to save money.
Almost everything goes on sale at grocery stores at some point, and by being smart and keeping an eye on sales, you can cut down how much you spend simply by taking advantage of lower prices.
Don’t stick to one store
Shopping at one store all the time means you could be potentially missing out on other sale opportunities, as well as selection and better regular prices too.
Certain stores are better for different things. I personally find my local Walmart to have the best prices for dry goods and baking supplies, while my Atlantic Superstore best for produce and pharmacy items, and Sobeys for meats.
However, in our current climate, this is something that shouldn’t be done. For the time being, stick to one store, but keep this in mind when the restrictions start to go away.
Use cash back grocery apps
There are many apps out there that will let you earn some cash back on your purchases.
How do they work? They’ve essentially modernized couponing. All you have to do is scan your receipt and they’ll award you some extra cash back.
A good example of this is Checkout51. Check the list of items, and if you purchased one of them, all you have to do is check the item and upload your receipt to be awarded some extra cash.
Buy generic brands instead of brand name
In-store and generic brands are usually cheaper and provide nearly the same quality. So take a peek at the prices on the shelves and see what’s there for the products you’re after.
A personal example I have is basic white baking flour. The big 10kg bags we buy go for $9.99 if you buy the generic brand. Go with the brand name Robin Hood flour, and they cost $4 more. And there’s no real difference in our final baked goods just because we bought the generic brand either.
Check the price labels for cost per unit weight
Pricing labels almost always show the cost in terms of price per unit weight (i.e. price per gram, price per 100 g, price per mL etc).
If you’re looking at items but the containers have different sizes, you’ll be able to see which ones are actually cheaper. Just because it’s in a larger container, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s cheaper.
Bring your own shopping bags
With COVID-19, this generally isn’t allowed right now. But in usual times and in many jurisdictions across Canada, you have to pay extra if you need disposable bags (some don’t even offer them at all anymore).
Buy a handful of reusable bags, and you’ll never see this cost again. There’s a slightly higher one time cost of about $1 a bag. But they do last a long time – the first few I bought 12 years ago are still in great shape and working just fine.
Use the right credit card
Having the right credit card to use for grocery store purchases can really help you earn rewards on all these essentials you need to buy anyway.
A top pick for earning cash back on groceries is the
You’ll earn 4% cash back on your grocery purchases as well as your recurring bills. And you’ll earn 2% back on transit and gas purchases, while earning 1% back on all other bills.
These high earn rates are the top reason it’s our #1 rated cash back card.
2 ways to save on your mobile phone bill
Getting a shiny new phone is a fun experience, but it also costs you.
Here’s a few things you can do to help save on your bill.
Bring your own phone
Bringing your own phone is a great way to save on your bill.
The phone companies usually tack on an extra charge per month depending on the phone you select. Save that by finding a cheaper phone, and keeping your current one as long as possible (once your 2 year contract has run its course).
Determine how much data you really need
The other big expense you can control is data. It’s nice to be able to watch whatever you want while on the go, but it’s also costing you every month. Your carrier should be able to tell you how much you’re actually using, and you can get a more appropriately sized contract.
And remember, streaming services like Netflix allow you to download much of their content for offline viewing. Most data consumption doesn’t come from looking at web pages or checking Twitter and Facebook – it’s from watching movies and streaming music. Download this stuff at home on your wi-fi network to cut down on how much data you need.
2 ways to save on your TV, internet, and phone bills
On the other side of your communications bills, there’s your TV, internet, and possibly home phone bills to pay as well.
Do you need a home phone?
If you have a landline, do you actually need one?
Sure, it’s nice to have that physical landline but if it’s never used, why bother paying for it? Your mobile phone is more than enough for making phone calls.
Examine your TV package
For TV packages, take a look at the channels you actually watch. Do you have an appropriately sized plan, or are you paying for channels you never watch?
Make note of what channels you actually watch, and see if you can adjust what you pay.
5 money saving energy tips
For saving energy, there’s quite a few things you can do to help out on your energy bill.
We’re not talking about going to the lengths of installing solar panels here, just little things you can do help save a little bit of money.
Replace older incandescent bulbs with fluorescent or LED lights
Next time you need to replace some bulbs, consider using fluorescent (CFL) or LED light bulbs instead.
Yes, there’s a higher initial cost with them, but you’ll use upwards of 80% less energy. And they last a lot longer too.
Replace older appliances with Energy Star rated models (if you can afford them)
Older appliances kicking around your house?
If they’re really old, consider replacing them with Energy Star appliances, where you can save upwards of $200 per year on electricity.
Again, this high upfront cost could save you loads down the road.
Wash with cold water and clean your dryer’s lint trap
Using cold water to wash clothes drastically cuts back on the energy you need for laundry. For best results, use a detergent that’s also designed for cold water washes.
And be sure to clean the lint trap in your dryer – it won’t need to work as long to get your clothes dry.
Lower the temperature of your water heater
You don’t need your hot water heater above 49 degrees celsius. Anything higher is unnecessary and just adding to your electric, gas, or oil bill.
Fill your dishwashers and washing machines
Full loads for both of these machines reduce the number of cycles they’ll have to run.
For your dishwasher, use the economy or smart wash cycles to minimize your water usage. And forget about using the heat dry option on it, let them air dry or hand dry them yourself.
6 money saving tips for families
For families, there are lots of various expenses you need to worry about.
Many of these tips apply to singles as well, but they really add to your budgets in a family setting.
Save on child care costs
For 2 working adults, child care is going to be a part of your budget, and unless the cost is grossly larger than one of your incomes, there’s not much you can do about it.
But if only one adult is working, can you cut down how often your child goes?
We’re not suggesting to eliminate child care completely – after all daycares are good to teach kids to socialize and share. But if they’re still going everyday, that’s a big cost you’re paying every month.
Bring lunches to school and work
When it comes to lunches, it’s obviously much easier just to eat out or get something in the school’s cafeteria everyday. It can also be a hassle to get something ready every morning, especially if you’re always running low on time.
Instead, pack a lunch to bring with you. And although it’s time consuming getting them ready, try and do as much as you can the night before, and make your mornings a little easier, while lightening the load on your wallet.
Cut down on streaming services
There are lots of great streaming services out there now. With Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Crave, and Disney+ to name a few, the temptation is there to get multiple services, especially when your household has different tastes in TV.
Instead of getting many of them at once, pick one and change services every month. There’s no long term membership required with them, you can come and go as you please.
Re-use your kids’ older clothes
Your kids won’t like it, but your wallet will. Keep your kids clothes, and use them as hand-me-downs for your next kid and/or other family members.
Use the library
Want to refresh your reading material? Your local library is chock full of books for all ages. Plus most have great digital options including ebooks and audiobooks that you can download and read for free.
Simply take out a few books for some new reading, and every couple of weeks you can get some new reading material at no cost to you.
Use the dollar store for basics
One place that can help save on basics is your local dollar store.
Things like reusable containers, basic cleaners, and sealable bags can usually be found for less at these stores. Even toiletries like soap and shampoo are often a fraction of the price as in regular stores.
3 money saving tips for singles
We haven’t forgotten about you, singles. Similar to our family tips, some of these will also apply to families as well.
Save on the movies
Going to the movies is something we can’t do right now. But when we can go back again, the big screen certainly can make the movies funnier and more enjoyable.
But there’s also a cost to that. Between the pricey movie tickets and the even pricier snacks, a trip to the movies isn’t cheap.
If you must go, consider cutting back or eliminating your movie snacks. If these are a must for you, be fussy about the movies you want to see.
And consider waiting until the movies are out for rent. They’re not only much cheaper to rent, but your snacks are also much cheaper as well.
Brew your own coffee and tea at home
Many people love their daily Tim Hortons. It’s convenient, tasty, and you don’t have to make one at home before you head out for the day.
But your daily habit is costing you. Instead of paying $2 per day, pay 15 cents and make it at home before you leave.
Cut out the gym membership
This is another place we can’t go to right now. When things start to return to normal, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to get regular exercise and staying in shape. If you make the most out of a membership and you find that it motivates you, there’s nothing wrong with paying for one.
However, if you don’t use it all that often, consider making a home gym instead. The internet is full of activities you can do from home, and you can save that money for something else.
3 tips for saving money on transportation
We all lead busy lives and have places to go to (well not right now, but we will eventually). Here are a couple of things you can do to cut down on your transportation costs.
Buy a used car
That new car smell can be intoxicating. But it will also cost you. Apart from the increased cost, your insurance will also be higher as well.
A used car, on the other hand, will save you quite a bit in terms of upfront costs.
If you do want to buy a new vehicle, keep it for as long as you can. The first car I ever bought was a brand new Mazda 3, and I still have it 13 years later.
Avoid having more than 1 vehicle
If you don’t have public transit where you live, and 2 people have full time jobs, you’re more than likely going to need 2 cars.
If not, take a serious look at your other transportation options to get one person to work. Vehicles cost a lot to own – from the cost, insurance, gas, maintenance, and registration. Public transit can be a much cheaper option.
Yes, it can take more time to get around, and there’s an inconvenience factor at play, but your wallet will thank you.
And keeping 1 around means you’ll still have a vehicle for all the errands and after school activities you need to run, and wherever else you may need to go.
Follow your car’s maintenance schedule
One way to keep a car running for a long time is to follow your car’s maintenance guide. Not only will your car last longer, you’ll also drastically cut down on more costly repairs and see improved fuel efficiency.
That 13 year old Mazda? I’ve followed the car maintenance schedule and the only major work I’ve had to do was some suspension work to one wheel. Granted, it only has 200,000 kilometres on it. But I also have no plans on replacing it anytime soon.
4 other quick money saving tips
Outside of the other categories mentioned, there are 4 other tips we have on a few different things.
Pay your insurance once per year
Paying your insurance in monthly installments makes it easier to pay.
But you’re also paying a premium to pay these bills monthly. It’s usually around 3%, but depends on the provider.
So if your annual bill is $1,000, you’re paying an extra $30 for the privilege of monthly payments. If paying in full once per year won’t be great for your finances, then use the monthly feature. But otherwise, try and pay them all at once and save that cash for yourself.
Wait 3 days before making a large purchase
Eyeing a new TV for your living room? A new couch? A new video game console?
If you see something in a store that you really want, and it’s not essential, wait 3 days to purchase it.
This will accomplish a few things:
- you can check prices at other stores,
- research the product and make sure it’s the one for you, and
- give you a few days to make sure you really need it.
Waiting 3 days can help you avoid purchasing something you might not actually need.
Avoid paying banking fees
When it comes to chequing accounts, there’s no need for you to pay any banking fees.
Yes, a chequing account like the Scotiabank Ultimate Package offers a lot, with a free safety deposit box, annual fee credit card waiver, and no charges for using non-Scotia ATMs.
But unless you can leave $5,000 in it at the end of every day, you’ll end up paying $30.95 a month for the account.
So unless your account offers keeping a minimum balance to waive any monthly fees, look into an online bank that charges no fees and has no minimum account balances.
A Tangerine Chequing account is one such option, which offers unlimited transactions, free interac e-transfers and more.
Get the best credit card for you
Finding a credit card that suits what you spend money on and what you want to use rewards for will help you squirrel away some extras on the side.
Our site is full of great tools to help you pick out the credit card that’s best for you. You can start with our annual credit card rankings for our top picks in 24 categories.
Or if you have a specific kind of card in mind, we have full pages on all 24 categories for more ideas of cards to look at.
Our compare cards page will let you look at every card in our database, with a Genius Rating tailored to your preferences and what you’re spending money on that’s updated in real time.
Finally, you can take our Challenge. Answer our credit card matchmaking quiz, and we’ll find you a better card, or we’ll give you $5.
Your money saving tips?
This is by no means a complete guide to saving money. These tips are merely a starting point in your quest to save money.
There are lots of other tips many people use for saving money.
What are yours?
Let everyone know in the comments below.