30 Tips to Save Money and Live Better in Canada

By Emma Martin | Published on 02 May 2023

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    The median single person income for Canadians in 2021 was $68,400 per year. Depending on where you live, this was a good wage and enough to put a little into savings. However, 47% of people surveyed had less than three months’ savings in case of emergency. In fact, 19% of Canadians have less than $1,000 dollars saved.

    If you are behind on bills or are barely keeping up, the stress can take years off of your life. If you have an emergency but no savings, you’ll find yourself in big trouble. Use these 30 tips to help save a little extra each month and set yourself up for better financial health.  

    1. Use a budgeting app

    Do you ever get to the end of the month and wonder where all of your money went? A few dollars here and there can add up, and if you aren’t keeping close track of your money, it’s easy to overspend.

    A budgeting app can help you stay organized and accountable. Many such apps can connect to your accounts and notify you when you are reaching your budget limits.

    Making a plan at the beginning of each month is a great way to start. You can make adjustments as needed and see where you are spending money that could be saved. Setting reminders and looking back on how well you did each month helps keep you honest and able to make adjustments in the future. 

    2. Be aware of fees

    Contracts are boring and hard to read. However, you must read them anyway. You should always know what you are getting into before you sign a contract.

    Whether it is a rental agreement, a car purchase, a credit card, or a streaming service, you should pay close attention to what you will owe at the end of each month and year.

    Ask about service fees and what the late payment policies are. The average person pays $250 in late fees each year. Make sure you are keeping track of all of your accounts.

    3. Pay cash when you can

    It is no secret that being in debt is stressful. Mortgages, credit cards, car financing, student loans, and home equity lines of credit are useful tools to get you started toward your long-term goals.

    However, all of these loans accrue interest. If you wait too long to pay your debts, that interest could end up costing more than the original loan.

    The easiest way to eliminate interest payments is to ditch the credit card and pay cash as often as you can. Cash carries no annual fees and no interest payments. It’s also a lot easier to keep track of.

    When your cash is gone, it’s gone. Unlike with a credit card, you can’t overspend cash in the hopes that you’ll make more money next month. 

    4. Find a credit card with the lowest fees

    For some people, a credit card is a necessity. Credit cards do have some benefits, like fraud protection and cash back rewards. Finding the right credit card can make a big difference in your long-term financial success.

    Choose a card with a low interest rate over one with good rewards. Even the most disciplined person tends to overspend on their credit card. Also, check the annual fees as some can be hundreds of dollars per year. If you have several credit cards but only use one or two, consider consolidating. 

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    5. Find a savings account with a high return

    Having a savings account can help you prepare for emergencies, save for college or retirement, and plan for the future. When choosing a savings account, pay attention to return interest rates, yearly fees, and penalties for withdrawals.

    For example, if you find a savings account that promises a 4% return but has a service fee of $10 per month and another fee to withdraw funds, you’ll have to calculate the costs versus the benefits, depending on how much you plan to keep in the account. Savings account interest rates often fall behind inflation, making them poor choices for long-term investing. Most people recommend using a savings account for emergencies, and using low-risk investment accounts to save for retirement. 

    6. Live farther from the city centre

    The cost of living near the heart of a city is usually higher than farther away. Now, with more people than ever working from home, you might consider moving somewhere outside of town. Living in the suburbs is different from living in the city, but for many people trying to purchase a home for the first time, the suburbs are the way to go. Rent is also cheaper outside of cities, so you can get a lot more space for your money.

    7. Rent out your extra space

    Purchasing a home is a great investment. But extra bedrooms that just sit, or become storage units for extra stuff, are a waste of money and space. If you have extra bedrooms, consider finding a roommate to help share costs of living. You could even turn your extra space into a basement apartment to help cover the cost of your mortgage. 

    8. Offer services in exchange for rent

    Most of your hard-earned money probably goes toward housing costs. If you are renting, consider offering services to your landlord in exchange for rent. Think of something you are good at or enjoy, and use that to your advantage.

    Many landlords will consider it well worth a discount if one of their tenants can take care of yard work or do repairs for them. Perhaps you can offer cleanout services for people moving out, or do minor cosmetic work on the outside of your building. 

    9. Decide what your “must-haves” are for your living space

    Price should be one of the first things you consider before moving into a new home or apartment. A quick search for apartments in Ottawa shows that prices can vary as much as a $1,000 per month for  properties of similar sizes.

    The difference is often due to the finishes, yard space, and extra amenities. Decide which features are non-negotiable and which you can live without.

    If a living space is outside of your price range, don’t even look at it. It can be too hard to say no if a house you fall in love with ends up just outside of your planned budget. 

    10. Be smart about your utilities

    There is a lot of technology available to save energy and keep utility costs down. Consider buying energy efficient water-saving appliances for your home. urn your lights off when you leave the room and avoid extremes in heating and cooling. Check all of your faucets for leaks and have an inspector make sure your windows and doors seal well. 

    11. Check for lower mortgage rates

    Before you take out a mortgage, make sure you compare mortgage rates and terms. A shorter term often has a lower interest rate and can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.

    If you purchased your home while interest rates were high, you might consider refinancing. A 1% decrease on an average mortgage saves close to $100 per month in interest. If you have a 30-year mortgage, those savings will add up significantly over time. 

    12. Save for a larger down-payment on a home

    Paying a 20% down-payment on your first home can save you big money on interest. Rather than being in a hurry to purchase property, consider renting something less expensive while you save up for a down-payment.

    13. Look for cosmetic fixer-uppers

    If you are looking for a new home, you’ll want to make sure that things like the plumbing, electrical, and foundation are reliable and without major problems. New paint, carpet, and decorations are some things that are easy and cheap to fix, especially if you are willing to do the work yourself. If you are handy, look for potential in homes in need of cosmetic fixes. 

    14. Be smart about big home renovations

    New bathrooms and kitchens are beautiful. They are also extremely expensive. The return on investment for kitchen and bathroom remodels is often quite low.

    If you save the money and want to remodel for your own enjoyment, you should. If you must remodel, remember that new paint and fresh lighting can make a big difference. Things like new appliances and cabinets are where most of the costs of remodeling come from. 

    15. Look for gently used furniture and appliances

    Websites like eBay and Facebook Marketplace are full of people selling used furniture and appliances. While some furniture is better to buy new, beautiful decorative items and lighting fixtures can be purchased second-hand for a fraction of the cost of buying them new. 

    16. Sell your extra home items

    Just like buying used household items, you can sell your unwanted items for extra cash. You can have a traditional garage sale, or you can sell your items online. Gently used clothing, kids toys, holiday decorations, and electronics are some of the easier items to sell. 

    17. Choose a fuel efficient car

    Gas prices around the world continue to climb. The average Canadian spends $1,500 per year on gasoline. Choosing a car that is more fuel efficient can save you hundreds of dollars each year. You can also save money by driving responsibly. Avoid speeding, accelerating quickly, and slamming on the brakes. Aggressive driving is dangerous and uses extra fuel. 

    Read more about the best gas credit cards

    18. Rideshare and carpool

    Join a rideshare Facebook group or ask around at work to find people who live nearby. Some employers offer incentives for groups that carpool to work. Besides sharing the cost of gasoline, you can save money on tolls and parking when you pay with a group.

    19. Use public transportation

    Public transportation is an under-utilized service in many areas. Using public transportation saves you money on the car payments, fuel costs, maintenance, and repair costs that come with owning a car. 

    20. Do not buy a brand new car

    Brand new cars depreciate incredibly quickly. An average new car can depreciate by 20% in its first year. This depreciation continues for about five years.

    If you spend $30,000 on a brand new car, it will be worth less than $12,000 after five years. If you purchase a used car that has been well cared- for, you’ll save thousands of dollars and likely won’t spend much more on maintenance or repairs. The same can be said for recreational vehicles. If you are in the market for a boat, camper, or four-wheeling vehicle, check the market for used items that will fit your needs. 

    Read more about car auctions

    21. Get a pre-purchase inspection on your car

    Before you spend money on a car, get a pre-purchase inspection. There will be an upfront cost, but it will be well worth the investment if a big problem is found by the inspector. A pre-purchase inspection costs around $100. Major car repairs can cost you thousands. 

    22. Drive safely to decrease insurance costs

    Make sure you shop around to find the best car insurance plan for you and your family. Many insurance companies reward things like clean driving records and low yearly mileage. If you have gone three years or more without a traffic citation, call your insurance company and ask for a discount.

    23. Find free sources of entertainment

    Rather than spending money on expensive outings, see what kind of neighbourhood get-togethers are happening near you. Communities all over host free events you can attend. Festivals, farmers markets, car shows, and junior theaters are all inexpensive ways to meet others and have a fun night out. 

    24. Check your subscriptions

    How often do you find yourself signing up for a free trial, only to forget about it and continue paying the monthly fee? There are multiple apps such as Hardbacon that will help you manage subscriptions and remind you to cancel the ones you don’t use.

    Check your smartphone for apps that renew every month or year, and consider canceling streaming services you don’t use often. Look closely at services like Amazon Prime to decide whether the member savings are worth the monthly cost. 

    25. Buy food and non-perishable items in bulk

    Food waste is a huge problem that costs Canadians over $21 billion per year.  Purchasing items in bulk can save a lot of money if you do it wisely. Some cost analyses show that buying in bulk can save shoppers up to 25% in grocery costs.

    Buying items like batteries, cleaning products, and hygiene supplies in bulk results in the most savings. Buying diapers in bulk can save you a lot of money, too. Just make sure you don’t have so many that your baby outgrows them before using them. 

    Purchasing items in bulk can backfire if you don’t do it properly. Cosmetics, baby oils, and soaps generally have a one-year recommended shelf life. Do not purchase items near their expiration dates if you are not absolutely sure you will use them.

    26. Eat at home more often

    Try to save eating out for special occasions. Restaurants and coffee shops stay in business by upselling and getting you to spend extra money.

    Bringing a coffee from home and packing your own lunch each day can save you up to $2,000 per year. Besides the financial savings, eating out less frequently is good for your cholesterol level, your blood sugar, and your waistline.

    27. Eat less meat

    Meatless Monday is a trend that is both good for the environment and good for your wallet. Meats are some of the most expensive food items you can buy at the grocery store. Don’t give up meat completely, just exchange one or two servings of meat for a different protein each week.

    A pound of meat costs $10 on average. For comparison, a pound of beans costs less than $2.

    Don’t worry about not getting enough protein if you give up a few servings of meat each week. 97% of Canadians get more than enough. Most actually need more fiber, something that going meatless can help. 

    28. Neighbourhood recipe sharing

    Just like buying in bulk, cooking in bulk can result in significant cost savings. There are several ways to do this. One is to cook food ahead of time and freeze it. This works best if you have a large freezer, or a family that will eat multiple servings in one sitting. For one- to two-person households, this might mean eating the same meal over and over again.

    Some neighbourhoods do meal swaps. Each neighbour cooks a large batch of freezable meals and gives a few servings to the other participants. This allows everyone to buy and cook in bulk while experiencing new recipes. It’s also a fun way to socialize and get to know your neighbours. 

    29. Grow a garden

    Fresh produce is the next most expensive grocery store item after meat. This is especially true if you buy organic items. If you have the space, gardening is a great way to save money. You can go the extra mile and reduce waste by making your own compost.

    Gardening also helps you enjoy a variety of foods, since you’ll only be eating what’s in-season at the time. If you do not have a yard or space for a garden, see if there is a community garden in your area. These are places where people come together and share the work, land, costs, and benefits of maintaining a garden. 

    30. Take care of your health

    Poor health is expensive beyond the cost of medical care, and poor health impacts the community in addition to each individual. The economic burden of poor nutrition is estimated to be over $12 billion per year in Canada alone.

    Chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes are bad for healthcare spending and productivity. You can save money by taking better preventive care of yourself. This means getting vaccinated, eating healthier food, exercising, living in a clean environment, and avoiding drugs and smoking.

    Your finances impact your health

    Financial health and physical health are closely related. Financial anxiety is the number one stressor across all adult groups.

    Stress about finances is also the number one cause of insomnia. People who complain of high financial stress are twice as likely to have poor overall health, and four times more likely to complain of colds, flus, and chronic pain. 

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    Emma Martin writes about the curiosities of finance. Her obsession with cryptocurrency keeps her writing most days about the best exchanges and wallets, and the wild world of NFTs. Her favourite exchange right now is Bitbuy. Emma also invests in the stock market using Wealthsimple Trade.