Start small to help slash your spending
Published Wednesday, November 7, 2012 6:20PM EST
Last Updated Friday, November 9, 2012 4:22PM EST
You may be spending more money each month than you realize, and stress can make dealing with personal finances even more difficult.
In a three-part series, CTV investigates ways you can cut your spending and keep more money in your pocket.
Part One: Watch banking fees and interest payments
Small fees on everyday transactions can add up as people use debit cards, credit or even case to make purchase in-store on online.
Heather Cudmore, a credit counselling manager, says “I think the majority of people are not aware what the banking fees are. I don’t think the majority of people look at the bank statements.”
And if you don’t understand your bank’s services, you could end up spending an extra couple of dollars each time you swipe your debit card as the transactions add up.
Financial advisors also say people should avoid privately-owned ABMs, which can end up costing you up to $8 in extra fees every time you use one.
Credit card fees are also something to pay attention to, because while many come with reward offers, you may not be reaping the benefit.
“If you are paying $125 a year for one per cent cash back, that means you have to spend, just to break even, $12,500,” says financial expert Pattie Lovett-Reid.
Keeping an eye on your debt though may make the biggest difference, because it can add up quickly.
For example, if you owe $2,000 on a credit card with an 18 per cent interest rate:
- if you pay nothing the debt will double in four years to over $4,000
- if you pay a $40 minimum each month it will take over 30 years to pay it off and you will pay nearly $5,000 in interest
But if you increase your payments to $100 per month, the debt is gone in two years and you’ve paid less than $400 in interest.
Lovett-Reid says “Time and compounding works really well for you when you’re saving and it works against you when you owe money.”
Experts also suggest eliminating the highest interest rate debts first, making payments more than once a month and negotiating with your bank, especially if you have more than one product with them.
Part Two: Saving on car maintenance
Cars can take a big bite out of the budget, but if they are maintained properly, it can make a difference to how much you end up spending over time.
While holding onto a car longer makes sense given the quick depreciation of a new vehicle, putting off maintenance can cut into those savings.
Chris Tsegas at Fowler Tire and Automotive gives one example, “Had they done a brake service on this it probably would have gotten another year to year-and-a-half on this instead of replacing everything now. So $86 versus…about $300.”
Tires are another part of the car you should be paying close attention to as it can affect your wallet in a number of areas.
Having properly inflated tires will make them last longer, and help you save on gas. (Also, unless your vehicle’s manufacturer specifies premium gas, don’t bother with the added cost.)
Removing your winter tires at the end of the season will also help them last longer, Tsegas says.
“Winter tires that should have went for four years or five years on average, got him one year all-year round, so expense-wise, probably about $1,000.”
At the start of the colder season, it’s important to check you have the proper strength anti-freeze in your vehicle.
“If you have a weak enough coolant, the anti-freeze will freeze and the damage to the engine could be quite costly.”
Tsegas adds that regular oil changes will also promote a longer engine life.
Changing your timing belt when required by the automaker can also save you up to $3,000, which is what it would cost to have your engine rebuilt.
Part Three: Stretching your grocery bill
Television shows about extreme couponers have been gaining in popularity. But, you don't need to be extreme to see big savings.
A little extra time couponing time can save you hundreds of dollars on your grocery bill.
“The very first thing I tell everyone is to know your prices. You can’t begin to save money if you don’t know what you're paying for the things you buy the most often,” says shopping and budgeting expert Kimberley Clancy. “If you save $5 in a week, that works out to $250 a year and you scale it up from there.”
When you shop at a discount grocery store, frugalshopper.ca's Clancy says, you knock about 30 per cent off your bill right away.
Many of these stores now also accept coupons from competitors, meaning to get the best deal, you only need to go to one store.
Once you're inside the grocery store there are some good strategies to follow:
- In the produce section, pick what's in season. Those items are also on sale more often.
- Buy meat in bulk when you can. You can freeze what you won't use immediately and will save in the long run.
- Get to know the layout of your favourite stores, especially where sale items and flyers are kept.
- Manufacturer coupons can hide in plain sight. Don’t forget to keep your eyes open. You can find really great ones right on product packaging.
And remember, if you keep your coupons with you, you'll never forget them at home.
A consumer pays with a credit card at a store in Montreal on July 6, 2010. (Ryan Remiorz / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
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