While I was laying in a few weeks ago, I binged watched the TLC show Extreme Cheapskates. It’s an American reality tv series that profiles the lives of those who take frugality to an extreme.
Now, let’s all be real here and accept that a lot of it appears to be staged and scripted. It may be real, and I’m offering my personal opinion. However, there are definitely take aways … and I’m wondering how, if at all, we can incorporate some of these penny-pinching methods to our lives. Now I wouldn’t consider dumpster diving, reusing/sharing dental floss with my partner, working out at a sports store with their equipment to avoid paying for a gym membership or feed my spouse cat food instead of tuna.
There are takeaways, and this comes on the heels of discussions I’ve had lately about retiring as early as I possibly can (aiming for Freedom 55). I mean do I really want to be working 5 days a week until the age of 65? Hells no! It also goes to the minimalistic lifestyle I’m going for and trying to be as eco-savy/friendly as I can.
Below are some of the ways that I try to be mindful and save on cash at my house:
BUY IN BULK: Lots of money can be saved by bulk-buying items. It’s common to save more than 20% on the total cost of items if you opt for this alternative. I stock up mainly on breads, spices, meats, baking ingredients and loose leaf teas at Bulk Barn, considered to be Canada’s largest bulk foods retailer with stores located in every province.
RE-USE TEABAGS: I didn’t used to re-use tea bags, I just tossed them. Then I found out that you can typically reuse teabags up to 3 times before losing its flavour. So now, I keep the tea bag .. when I’m finished with my peppermint tea, I simply rinse out the mug out and put it in the freezer. That’s right! The freezer, solves two issues: 1) it keeps the bag from spoiling and 2) it cools down the piping hot water at my next pour.
FIND FREE ENTERTAINMENT: Find cheap ways to have fun. Entertainment often ends up costing a lot of money. The average person spends about $1,800 a year on entertainment (not including eating out). Before I head out on any vacations or excursions, I always take the time to look online to look for FREE events in the area while I’m there. I actually do this while home as well, there’s always lots of FREE entertainment posted.
GROUPON: Groupon is an an e-commerce marketplace connecting millions of subscribers with local merchants by offering activities, travel, goods and services in more than 28 countries. It’s a Web-savvy spin on the boring old coupon. I have cashed in on tons of deals via Groupon and have saved hundreds of dollars by doing so — on things from dining out, concerts, eyelash extensions, wine tours etc.
SELL YOUR CLUTTER: This is not so much saving money as it is making it. I don’t like junk and I don’t like clutter. I am constantly decluttering, so why not make a few bucks doing it. Hold a garage sale or sell it on Facebook Marketplace, eBay, Kijiji or your local online selling site. It’s amazing what some people will buy.
COUPONS: There’s no such thing as “extreme couponing” in Canada, not like there is in the U.S anyway, and do I ever wish there was! I get nerded out just watching the money these people save! I just watched an episode last night where a family paid something like $130 for $2800 worth of items! OMG! In the States some stores allow what they call “coupon stacking”. Another difference is that in the US some stores have special days when they will double or even triple your coupons. They also sometimes have a frequent shopper card. Although there aren’t insane ways to save $$ in Canada, there are still ways to save a few dollars.
- Remember to ask for rain checks when certain items are on sale but out of stock.
- Price Match one store to another- bring your flyers and have the store match the best advertised price (keep distance in mind, if you’re traveling to the other end of town to save $3.00 it may not be worth it).
- Join coupon trades and trains -this way your can get rid of coupons you would never use and gain ones that you really want.
- Take advantage of Mail-in-Rebates. For the price of a stamp you will get the majority if not all your money back that you spent on an item.
CHECKOUT 51: I have this app downloaded on my iPhone. Pretty simple idea, Checkout 51 helps you save money on the brands you love. Every Thursday morning, they update the site with a new list of offers. All you have to do is pick the ones you like, purchase them at any store, and upload a photo of your receipt through their mobile app or website. When your account reaches $20.00, they send you a cheque. Super Simple. I’ve got a $9.53 balance, on items I was purchasing anyway.
DITCH THE BANK FEES: Only a few of Canada’s banks provide a true no fee chequing account for Canadians, other banks require that you meet a minimum balance each month, or sign up for multiple products to qualify for free chequing. Banks such as Simple Financial and Tangerine offer a true free daily chequing account, whereas other major banks like RBC, CIBC, Scotia, BMO and TD Canada Trust have some requirements Canadians must meet to qualify for a no fee daily chequing accounts. Have had it for years, would never change back to a big bank.
USE REWARDS CARDS: Cards like: Air Miles, Optimum, Canadian Tire (money or card) or other credit cards/rewards cards are a great way to earn points for things you are already purchasing and places you are already shopping. I have a few rewards cards – for example I have the PC Financial World Elite MasterCard®, the card that averages $300 a year in free groceries. Add that to my Optimum card and I save tons of money on free groceries annually. You can also use your card for gas purchases at their gas stations. To amplify your points: be sure to shop on 20x the points days or gap days in between flyers being posted.
UNPLUG THE POWER: Unplug all power appliances before leaving the house. If you’re not using it, unplug it! Power companies still charge money for appliances that are turned on, but not necessarily used. According to the Energy Star Web site, the average U.S. household spends more than $100 each year to power devices that are turned off. One of the easiest ways to reduce phantom power consumption is to unplug appliances when the devices are not in use.
CUT OUT THE CABLE: In Canada, we pay way too much for cable with all the bells and whistles. Given I watch Netflix the majority of the time or binge watch YouTube, I ditched the cable 3 years ago and don’t regret it one bit.
RAKUTEN: I have been using Rakuten (formerly EBates) for the last little bit and to date I’ve received a BIG FAT cheque back for $78.92 for things I would buy online in any event. I usually use this for Amazon, Groupon and Walmart but there are many many stores to choose from. Rakuten offers cash back for shopping at places like Amazon, Walmart, Macy’s, Bloomingdales, eBay, Target, and over 2,000 more.
DO A FISCAL FAST: I absolutely love this idea and I do this a few times per year. A fiscal fast is when you do not spend any money for a whole week, five times per year. It is an opportunity to use up household items, like canned food that gets pushed to the back of the cupboard or those tiny shampoo bottles you get at a hotel. Because I’m a bit OCD (lol), I do this a bit more often than 5x a year, and it certainly does work. It’s amazing the amount of stuff you buy, the one time I didn’t have to buy anything for 2 weeks, I had a stocked freezer and full cupboards.
SCANNING CODE OF PRACTICE: Have you ever had an item scan at a higher price than what was displayed? Maybe you had the cashier adjust the price, or you simply didn’t buy it…Well, here is the deal, you could have had it free, or $10 off. Here you will find the details on the Canadian Scanning Code Of Practice (SCOP). You may not have been aware of this before, but read on to be ahead of the game when it comes to SCOP!
What is SCOP? It’s a voluntary code of practice that many Canadian Retailers follow. It is meant to ensure that consumers receive accurate pricing based on advertised prices (on shelf or in sales flyers). If the item is below $10, the customer receives the item for free. If the item is priced over $10, the customer receives $10 off the purchase price of the item. This is a voluntary practice in Canada, so not all retailers follow it.
MAKE YOUR OWN CLEANING PRODUCTS: The key ingredients you need just might be hiding in your pantry. Simple ingredients from the pantry can be used to make cleaning products that are kinder to the environment for a fraction of the cost. I mainly do this with essential oils
GARDEN: With food prices rising and rising and more people trying to save money due to the economy, home gardening has taken off in a big way in recent years. Burpee Seed Co. estimates that for every $50 a family spends on seeds and fertilizer, they’ll reap $1,250 in produce.
Other things I do/have done are:
- Don’t turn on the heat/air conditioning until you just can’t take it anymore.
- Don’t leave the water running while brushing your teeth or washing dishes.
- Keep curtains drawn in the summer to keep the house cooler.
- Installed energy efficient light bulbs.
- Use your dishwasher, washing machine and dryer at non-peak hours.
- Use cold water when you run the washing machine.
- Use a slow cooker or toaster oven.
- Only run full loads (laundry machine, dishwasher).
- Don’t buy bottled water (use a filter)
- Reuse tissue paper, wrapping paper and tin foil
- Reuse scrap paper for lists and little notes
- Use re-chargeable batteries.
- Use plastic grocery bags for garbage bags (better yet, stop using plastic bags all together, and if you must, reuse them)
- Shop at dollar stores
- Stop buying cookbooks. There are tons of FREE recipes online
- Save all of your change.
- Visit scratch & dent warehouses for appliances.
- Install a programmable thermostat.
- Turn off the lights in rooms you are no longer using.
- Share your Netflix account (I share mine with my daughter)
Things I’d like to do this year include:
FORAGING FOR FOOD: Chives, mint, purslane, basil, acorns, edible flowers … depending on where you live, foraging for food may be an excellent way to save a few dollars on meals. Note: to find the edible treasures that grow in your neighbourhood, you really need to possess knowledge of what you can and can’t eat. Do you research on food foraging before you go pick your own to be sure that what you are picking is edible and not poisonous. Not gonna lie, this one frightens me a bit, but I’ve download an app – you take a picture of the plant and it gives you all the details about it, including if it’s edible or toxic.
HANG DRY YOUR CLOTHES: My last house used to have a clothes line and I loved it. Not only did it save money, but I love the way hung clothes smelled when they came off the line, and your whites get brighter out in the sun!
MAKE MY OWN TOOTHPASTE:
- 2/3 cup baking soda
- 1 tsp sea salt (optional)
- 1-2 tsp peppermint extract or essential oil
Mix together baking soda, salt, and peppermint. Then, add a bit of water and stir. Gradually add more water, stirring at the same time, until the paste has reached your desired consistency. Store the paste in a glass container.