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6 ways to save by cutting expenses (big and small)

Six lifestyle changes, both big and small, that will help you save money.

By ATB Financial 27 July 2020 5 min read

Saving money isn’t a one-size-fits-all journey. For some, cutting small everyday expenses that add up is the most realistic approach. For others, making some big lifestyle changes (and immediate savings) is what’s needed. Wherever you fall in that spectrum, there are options for you. Here are six ways you can start saving.

Let’s start with four small lifestyle changes that can help you save money over time.

1. Switch to a low-fee or no-fee bank account

Banking fees can add up and if you can get an account without them, that’s a great way to start cutting your everyday costs. Digital accounts are often free of monthly fees. They work well if you feel confident navigating online banking and don’t come into a branch very often.

If going 100% digital isn’t for you and you mostly use your account for basic banking (like using your debit card, paying bills online or making e-transfers), you could save $10-15 a month by switching to an unlimited account. That way, you’re not paying for premium features that you’re not using. Plus, some accounts will have the fees waived if you maintain a minimum balance.

2. Cancel your cable

With streaming services like Netflix, Crave and Disney + on the scene, more and more Canadians are cancelling their cable services. In response to shifting consumer demands, many telecommunications companies have started offering streaming bundles instead of cable packages.

If you find yourself defaulting to Netflix to avoid the channel switching and advertisements that come with cable, consider cutting the cord to cable TV, which could save you up to $150 per month. 

3. Brew your own coffee 

You’ve probably heard this recommendation before—that’s because it works. One of our ATB team members, Chris, shared that drinking coffee at home made a big impact. “My wife and I decided a year ago to brew coffee at home. Between the two of us cutting our daily Starbucks addiction, we’re saving $160/month.”

4. Shift your shopping habits

Switching up where you buy your groceries can make a huge difference. ATB team member, Tayllor, ended up cutting down her and her husband’s grocery bill by over $300 when they stopped buying branded organic products from a large natural food retailer.

Now they shop at another grocery store and buy the store-brand organic products. “If you want to buy natural foods, many grocery stores offer in-house products that are comparable in quality to what we were paying double for at a specialty store. We also saved by buying eggs directly through a friend’s farm, and growing some of our own herbs and veggies.” 

If buying organic isn’t a priority of yours, switching to store-brand products can still save you a lot in the long run and won’t compromise on the quality.

No matter where and how you shop, having a mindful approach to shopping can help you save. Go in with your grocery list in hand and stick to what’s on the list.

If you’re looking to make a big impact on your savings, here are two steps you can take.

5. Go down to one car

If you and your partner or family have more than one car, you can save big by sharing one vehicle. It might sound impossible, especially with kids or both partners working. But if you’re looking to save big and willing to try something new, it can work. Take Carmen, one of our ATB team members. 

“We have four kids, currently aged 11–14, and for the past 12 years we’ve only had one vehicle while living in Airdrie. Pre-COVID, my husband took a commuter bus downtown every day, so the car was available at home for appointments and activities. We were very strategic with how we planned the kids’ activities and found opportunities to carpool with other parents.

In the rare occurrence of an overlap and we needed to be in two places at once, we would rent a car or borrow from a grandparent. Considering we could avoid a second car payment, parking downtown and insurance, it made the most sense for our budget. We estimate we saved roughly $300–$500 per month.”

Want to go down to one car (or go carless, if that works for you) and are looking for affordable rental options? Check out Communauto, an affordable and flexible carsharing service in Edmonton and Calgary. Turo is another option, where you can rent cars from their owners at a cheaper rate than big companies—it’s like AirBnb for vehicles.

6. Switch up your living arrangements

Getting creative with how you use your home or how you’re renting can help you save on monthly mortgage or rent payments. If you own a home, you can save money by sharing your space. You could rent a spare bedroom out to a student for some instant savings, or list all or part of your home on AirBnb. If you’re handy or are willing to invest some money up front, convert your basement or garage into a rental suite, or build a garden suite or carriage home in your backyard. 

If you’re renting, it might be time to consider getting a roommate or explore communal living options to save. You could look into subletting your space when you’re away if your landlords allow it.

Whatever your living situation, downsizing your space or living outside the city or in a less central neighborhood can boost your savings. Not using your parking spot? You could rent it out.

While sharing your home or contemplating a move can be a challenging and emotional decision, if you can make it work it can save you hundreds or thousands on your monthly living costs.

Everyone will experience saving differently, but whether you’re ready to make some big lifestyle changes to save big right away or feel more comfortable making many small changes that add up (or anywhere in between), you’ll be one step closer to meeting your future goals.

Want to get a bigger picture of your finances and make them work for you? Give TrackIt a try. This all-in-one money management tool automatically tracks your transactions and allows you to generate a budget based on your past spending. If you’re looking for customized advice on how to save, one of our advisors would be happy to meet with you.

Become money minded.

Grow your financial knowledge with resources built to answer your questions. This short quiz is a great place to start.

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