When many people try to find how to save money each month they often end up finding little ways to save here and there. Don’t get us wrong, saving small amounts of money is good, but the smartest thing to do is to look for the big savings first. If you focus on the biggest savings first, you should be able to save thousands of dollars per year and begin to really get ahead. After you’ve learned how to benefit from the biggest saving tips, you can then move on to the smaller ones and see if you can add more to your savings as you progress.
The biggest savings can be found by looking at saving money on your groceries, car, credit and home. Our list is by no means complete, but these are some big places to begin saving your money.
1. Avoid Impulsive Spending
Most families probably spend at least a couple thousand dollars a year on things that they don’t plan to buy. There are two easy ways to reduce these impulse buys and save thousands:
Stick to your grocery list
Research from the University of Pennsylvania shows that people who can avoid impulse spending can save up to 23% on their grocery bills. So create a grocery list and stick to it if you really want to save some money. According to what Statistics Canada reports most Canadians spend on food, a family of four could potentially save over $2,600 by following this one tip.
Don’t shop with plastic
According to a study by Dunn & Bradstreet, people who shop with credit cards pay 12% to 18% more than those who shop with cash. The study further revealed that people tend to spend almost twice as much on vending machines when they use a credit card rather than cash. McDonald’s has also found that their average customer spends $7 on food when they use a credit card compared to $4.50 when they only use cash (a 56% increase in spending).
Shopping with $40 in your wallet is a lot different than shopping with a $10,000 credit limit on a piece of plastic. Try shopping with only cash or your debit card if you want to save some money. Following this one tip alone can save the average Canadian household well over $3,000 a year if they are used to putting everything on credit.
2. Take a Lunch to Work and Save $1,800
Most of us don’t realize how much we spend on simple things like lunch buying a lunch everyday rather than bringing one prepared at home. Many people save a lot of money by always making more dinner than they need and then taking some of the leftovers to work the next day for lunch. If this doesn’t appeal to you, you can make something else. What ever you do, it should be much cheaper than buying a lunch every day. If you buy lunch for $7 every working day of the year, you will end up spending over $1,800. You can decide how much of this you want to put back in your pocket, or you can look for another place to save.
3. Stockpile Groceries and then Skip a Grocery Shop
You can save almost 25% on the groceries you buy each year if you stock up when they are on sale and then skip one grocery shop every month. When you skip a grocery shop, you live off of what you stockpiled. If you can’t do this monthly, then try for once every couple of months. It will still save you a lot of money. You can stockpile all kinds of non-perishable food, and you can freeze bread and meat when you find them on sale.
4. Price Matching
Many Canadians don’t know that you can price match in Canada. This means that you shop at your favorite grocery store, but you check the grocery store flyers in advance and then take the flyers with you to prove to the cashier that a competitor is advertising a lower price. If your favorite grocery store matches competitor’s advertised prices, then you can get those same low prices without having to waste gas driving all over town. You can usually save at least ten percent on your groceries by shopping at a grocery store that price matches competitor’s flyers. This would save a family of four over $1,100 per year.
Bringing flyers with you when you shop to ‘price match’ may not appeal to everyone, but you can give it a try if you want to save some money. The only national store to advertise price matching is Wal-Mart. However, not all Wal-Marts carry groceries. The Real Canadian Superstore does not advertise price matching but they will do it—just check with a manager to be sure. Other grocery stores may also match competitor’s advertised prices, but you will need to speak with a store manager to find out.
5. Buy a Quality Used Vehicle Rather than a New One
In recent years, car manufacturers appear to be building better quality cars than they have before. Because the quality of cars has increased, it means that buying a used car is less risky than it used to be. Consumers still need to be cautious and use publications like Consumer Reports or Phil Edmonston’s Lemon-Aid books to find the highest quality used-cars, but since new cars lose so much value once you drive them off the lot, it now makes more sense then ever to seriously consider buying a quality used-car rather than a new one. Dave Ramsey, a personal finance radio host, drove this point home by telling his listeners that, “A new $28,000 car will lose about $17,000 of value in the first four years you own it. To get the same result, you could toss a $100 bill out the car window once a week.”
Buying a used car rather than a new one can literally save you tens of thousands of dollars in some cases. At the very least, you should be able to save thousands of dollars and still get a great vehicle that may even still be under warranty. You can find a quality used-car by visiting your local library and looking up used car ratings by Consumer Reports or Phil Edmonston’s Lemon-Aid. If this is new to you, your local librarian will probably be happy to show you where they keep these publications.
Once you buy your new vehicle, you can then save more money by keeping it for 15 years. Consumer Reports once conducted a study that showed that a quality vehicle should be able to last for 15 years without any major repairs. If you keep a reliable vehicle with good fuel economy this long, Consumer Reports suggested that will stretch your dollars the furthest. This will also give you plenty of time to save for a new vehicle and hopefully avoid paying interest on a car loan.
6. Appeal Your Property Tax Assessment Value
If your home has decreased in value, check your property assessment value that your property taxes are based on to make sure that your home’s assessment value isn’t higher than its market value. Property assessment values are usually assessed a good amount lower than market values of homes to ensure that they are fair. If you don’t think that your property tax assessment value is reasonable, apply for a reassessment. This can potentially save you a lot of money in taxes. You can also find out your neighbours’ property assessment values from your nearest property assessment office to see if your house is fairly assessed compared to your neighbours’ homes.
While home prices across Canada have held out very well compared with home prices in the United States, some Canadian communities are experiencing declining home prices. If this is happening in your community, you may be able to learn from our neighbours who live south of the border. In the U.S., the National Taxpayers Union estimates that property tax assessment values for 60% of homes are too high, and only 2% of homeowners are taking the time to appeal those higher assessment values. Apparently, most people who are appealing their property assessments are at least partially successful. So if you think that your property’s tax value is too high, try appealing it and save some money.
7. Pay Off Your Credit Cards
If you are carrying a credit card balance of $5,000 at 19% interest, you are paying almost $1,000 a year to your credit card company in interest. An easy way to save a thousand dollars a year would be to pay this debt off. If you are carrying more credit card debt than this, your savings could be huge. Most people don’t really think about how much interest they actually pay on their credit cards, and they rarely think about how many years they have been carrying their credit cards debts for. If you have owed around $5,000 on your credit cards for 5 years and have been paying 19% interest, you will have almost paid the same amount in interest as you owe on your credit cards. This isn’t a smart financial decision.
More Savings Tips That Can Save You Hundreds of Dollars
- Give yourself an allowance and stick with it.
- Don’t carry a lot of cash—or credit cards—in your wallet. Impulse spending is harder if you have to go to the bank machine to get money.
- Whenever you want to make a large purchase, wait for a day or two. Any worthwhile purchase will still be there tomorrow. By sleeping on your decision, you will give yourself more time to think about it and potentially avoid an impulsive decision.
- Save your change. At the end of each day, put your loose change into a jar.
- Instead of buying a coffee every day, make your own. If you spend only $2 on a cup of coffee every working day, that adds up to $500 per year.
- Use coupons. You can request them from most grocery manufacturers. If you do this you can save 10% on your yearly grocery bill.
- Only buy things on sale if you have the money, and only if you were planning on buying the item anyway.
- Try to buy things at the end of the season. Christmas decorations are always on sale after Christmas, and candy is cheap the morning after Halloween. This works for expensive things too. Cars of the previous model go on sale in September when the new models roll in.
- Consider buying products that aren’t brand names at discount stores. The same manufacturers that make name brand products often make the cheaper brands as well. This is true for appliances, electronics, vehicles, clothing and groceries. Buying generic brand names rather than brand names on groceries can save you 25%. Generic brand names can save you money, but they may not be the same quality as brand names.
- Shop on discount days. Some stores like Safeway offer a discount day one a month. Most retailers offer big discounts on Boxing Day each year. Discount days are the perfect time to plan to buy things, or to stock up on things you need if the price is right.
- Shop at discount grocery stores, discount clothing stores, dollar stores and online stores to save lots of money. Shopping at discount grocery stores can save you 10% on your groceries and buying your produce at a produce store can save you 32%. Click here to learn more.
- If you pay off your credit card in full every month and are disciplined in how you use it, you can use your card to collect points and save a lot of money by purchasing flights, gift cards, and other things with your reward points.