Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Walk and Save...

Just a little advice - WALK - I have done this for years instead of driving and of course you can't possibly walk everywhere you need to go, but for something like a trip to the store for a loaf of bread a walk will be good for your health & your wallet - now if only I could convince my husband of this...

Cut Back On Cleaning Supplies

When I really sit and think about we spend WAY too much money per month on cleaning supplies ! I have decided this will be one of the areas that we cut back drastically ( I have all kinds of unused cleaning products in my bathroom cupboards, I buy one product to try it and then forget I have it and buy another ) The best way to clean is the way my gran does it - windows and mirrors get VINEGAR & WATER ( at around $1.99 for a big jug its a great deal ! ). And bathrooms get bleach ( which is very cheap, although the smell always throws me off ). I still have to have my vices though like the Febreeze ( that stuff is the ultimate for stinky fabrics including my dogs bed ), name brand dishwasher & laundry detergent and all those sorts of things. I have to keep some of the finer things in life even if I am on a tight budget ;)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Ways To Save On Groceries...

Groceries are a huge part of our monthly budget. We have a family of four + a dog so we spend a tonne at the grocery store each time we go. Our previous ( before budget ) months expense was around $900 !! I have smartened up since then and I have been able to slice our grocery bill buy using some of these tips :

Save Money On Your Grocery Bill

  • Shop at the cheaper version of your favorite store ( sure it may not look so nice when you walking down the aisles but you can get many of the same products for way less ) ( For example did you know that No Frills is the 'basic' version of Zehrs/The Real Canadian Super Store - I love the Presidents Choice brand, good quality but it is way cheaper at No Frills )
  • Plan your grocery list and STICK TO IT !! This has to be one of the hardest things for me, I just can't do it - I go there with the list, but then my mind starts wandering...oh look my favorite shampoo is on sale ( yep, I have a bottle at home but its on sale ... ), an oooooooh there is such a great deal on those chocolate treats - just one pack won't hurt, wow look at those dvds for only $6.99 ( meantime I have probably 500 dvds at home that we never watch )
  • Don't buy prepackaged foods ( you can cut the cheese yourself - sure it won't be a perfect circle like in the lunchables but it will taste better, be less money & better for you/your kids )
  • Buy whats in season as far as fruits and veggies go - then buy the frozen veggies/fruits for anything out of season - they are just as good and usually cheaper
  • Stock up on items that are on sale ( mainly things that you use every day like paper towels, toilet paper etc. )
  • Plan your grocery list around meals you will make for the week ( and plan on making the meals with sale items as your base ingredient - for example if Roast Beef is on sale that week than have that for one nights dinner with the following night being stir fry using the leftovers, maybe some rb sandwiches for lunch ? ) I have heard people say that you should create a weekly menu and buy your groceries based only on that, I don't have time for that kind of planning ( I tried it once and it didn't work out for me, I just ended up frustrated ) So it is a good idea if you have the time and energy - just not gonna work for me
  • Have a set amount of money per month /week that you are allowed to use for groceries - try your absolute best to never go over
  • Clip coupons - this is the easiest and best way I have found for saving money ( actually the other day at Walmart with just coupons alone I was able to shave $32.75 off my bill ! ) You can find coupons online at ( this is one of my alltime favorite sites, they update with new coupons all the time, and they send them to you in the mail very quickly ), you will also find coupons if you search your local flyers ( sometimes as a promotion there will be coupons in food packaging as well ), Brandsaver is a great one that most Ontario residents should get in the mail with their local paper Also check out this site which updates all the time with various coupon offers
  • Use BONUS POINTS and don't forget you have them !! There are lots of really great bonus point systems available, most of which you can redeem for gift cards which equal CASH - my current favorites are listed below :
  • Presidents Choice Mastercard This card can be used anywhere and earns you points, but more points are earned in stores where PC Products are sold ( like No Frills, Superstores etc. ) You get PC points each time you use it plus they mail you all kinds of bonus coupons - just make sure that after you spend the money on the card to get the points you go home and pay that exact amount back on the card so you aren't charged interest. Their points system is that for every $1.00 spent you get 10 PC Points, plus they have certain items that will give you bonus points ( usually Presidents Choice products ), you also receive points for using reusable grocery bags. Basically 20,000 points will get you $20.00 ( which sounds like a lot of points but they send out coupons all the time for 10,000 bonus points, 5X points etc ) It really is a great system, since joining up about a year ago I have gotten around $100 of free groceries ( which you can redeem right at the grocery store - just ask the cashier and she will see if you have enough points to redeem ) * Note don't forget that this is a credit card with a pretty high interest rate so if you use it for the points, go home and pay it using online banking that very day so you aren't charged any interest
  • Sobeys Club Card ~ This card can be used at any Sobeys grocery store. This one is fairly new and is along the same lines as the PC points system, but you don't have to have a credit card ( although they do offer one and you get more points that way ) If you just sign up for the regular Club Sobeys card ( which is what I have and enjoy ) you get one point for every $1 you spend, plus there are all kinds of bonus offers/coupons etc. to get you more points ( 2,000 points = $15 which can be redeemed at the cash, or you can get something from their online catalogue of goodies ) Its not a bad system, I joined about 2 months ago and although I don't shop at Sobeys very often I have gotten $5 so far
  • Airmiles Card ~ This card has been around for a very long time and can be used at a wide variety of locations including Safeway, I.G.A., LCBO, Pharmasave, Rexall, Holiday Inns, Boston Pizza, American Eagle, Footlocker, Eddie Bauer, La Senza, Sport Chek, Victorias Secret, Shell Gas, Toys R Us, Global Pet Foods, PetSmart, The Bay, Zellers and a bunch more. The reward system is great and can be redeemed for things other than just air travel including my favorites - gift cards ! ) They also mail out lots of bonus offer coupons - so watch your mailbox
  • HBC Rewards Program ~ This card can be used alone at any Zellers/Bay or Home Outfitters or for added points use it with your HBC credit card ( just remember to pay the amount you spend right away so you are not charged any interest ) You get 50 points for every dollar you spend ( the points double if you use the credit card ). These points can be redeemed for a variety of goodies on their website, exchanged for airmiles or you can cash them in for gift cards ( 200,000 points for $25.00 ) You will get loads of great bonus point offers in the mail and if you use them you will be amazed by how quickly points accumulate - since joining about 2 years ago I have cashed in around $75.00 and I don't shop at their stores as often as I probably should
  • Restaurant Loyalty Cards ~ This is something that you must get if you eat out often, almost every restaurant has some kind of a reward program for people who visit more than once a month. Just ask before you pay your bill - we have one for Jack Astors ( you buy 6 lunches, and get one free ), Canyon Creek ( loyalty card gets %10 off every bill - they have to send this one to you and it is hard to get - so don't be disapointed if they say no, only at certain locations ), sub club cards ( most sub shops have some sort of system - ever seen that Seinfeld episode where Elaine just has to eat 'one more sub' - I love Seinfeld ! You can also get great loyalty cards with some clothing stores ( my favorite is Suzy Shier , you have to pay for the discount card but if you buy a lot of clothing there it is well worth it - I have saved a lot)

I will be posting again shortly with more ideas, I just need to give my mind a little rest for the moment...

Household Cost Cutting...

Another big area of our household budget is the actual expense of keeping a house running. We are not wasteful people but there are some things I hadn't even realized we could do to save money on the household bills. Here are a few ideas :

Cut Back On Electricity Use To Reduce Your Monthly Hydro Bill

Here's How :

  • If you are not in the room - turn off the light ! Well, duh...the tips get better - honest :)
  • Change all of your light bulbs to energy efficient bulbs ( they cost a bit more but they use up way less hydro and also last longer ) Here is a calculator from the Ministry of Energy showing how much money you will save switching from incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescent )
  • Open your curtains during the day and let the sunshine in :) It will heat your house and also you won't need to switch on the lights - natural lights are better anyways - helps you to see all those wrinkles in the mirror much clearer :)
  • Unplug unused appliances - this is a huge one that I actually learned from the Oprah show and it works too - for example when you are done with your computer turn it off and unplug it ( anything still plugged into the wall - even if it is off - is still using some electricity ) Things you should consider unplugging - lamps, televisions ( I don't know about you but we have three televisions & two computers which are always plugged in - I am going to start unplugging them and I am sure I will see a difference in the cost of electricity ), hair dryers, toasters, kettles, coffee pots, exercise equipment, the fridge ( haha - just kidding - I just wanted to check and see if anyone is paying attention to this rambling blog...), the freezer ( again, just kidding that would be a very bad idea !! )
  • Turn down your thermostat ( adjust the thermostat by just one or two degrees - down in the winter, up in the summer ) and you should save on heating
  • Eat dinner by candlelight - well maybe not if you have kids as I do, but if its just you and your guy why not ?? Its romantic and it saves on hydro :)
  • Trade in old appliances - if you have an old fridge out in your garage it sucks a tonne of hydro, if you absolutely have to have an extra fridge/freezer than you should consider getting a newer edition, it will be more efficient and use much less hydro - check labels for 'energy efficient'
  • Fix drafty windows and doors ( click here for how to fix drafty doors , fix drafty windows)
  • Use a clothesline in the warmer weather - not only does it do a great job of drying your clothes, it will save you a tonne of money
  • If you live in Ontario - keep the hydro usage below 600kw/h in the summer, and below 1000 kw/h in the winter - as the price goes up after these marks
  • If you have a SMART METER ( in Ontario Canada these will be implemented into most homes and businesses by 2010 ) you should try to cut back on the use of hydro during the peek times. The worst / most expensive times to use up a lot of hydro ( for example doing laundry, cooking, running the dishwasher etc. ) are between 7 a.m - 11 a.m and 5 p.m - 8 p.m. Hydro is nearly half the price from 10 p.m to 7 a.m so if there is any way you can do laundry, run the dishwasher or whatever during that time you will save. Although as a mom I certainly don't know how that would be possible - by 10 I am so beat I can barely even say the word laundry ! I think this smart meter makes life sort of difficult but it would be great if you are a night owl ! You can view the current rates and further information here
  • DID YOU KNOW ? ( I sure didn't before I researched ) that if you have a Smart Meter, on the weekends and holidays you are charged the off-peak rate ( which is the cheapest ), so if at all possible do your laundry on the weekends and it will cost you nearly %50 less than usual !!
  • Program your thermostat - if you have a programmable thermostat you should set it so that it runs a program where the heat/air conditioning is turned down lower when you are not home thus using less hydro when you don't really need it
  • Replace or clean your furnace filter once a month ( really - it does save money in the long run )
  • Use a ceiling fan to circulate cold/warm air - you will be able to turn down your thermostat a little bit without even noticing a difference
  • In the summer close all shades and blinds to keep the sun from heating up your home
  • If your dishwasher has a timer, use it and set it to start after 10 pm ( that way the hydro rates are %50 less )
  • Reduce the amount of hot water you use during peak periods if you have a smart meter ( it takes up hydro to heat and refill the tank )
  • If you have a pool run the pump during off-peak hours
  • Use a crock pot whenever possible - seriously these use up far less hydro than an oven does and they are great when you have children - just throw something in in the morning and you're set
  • To help homeowners save energy, save money and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Ontario government has created the Ontario Home Energy Savings Program .
    This program provides homeowners with up to $150 towards the cost of a home energy audit and rebates of up to $10,000 (50 per cent paid by the province and 50 per cent paid by the federal government ecoENERGY Retrofit – Homes Program) for retrofits that address the energy issues identified in the audit.