7 No-Nonsense Tips for Saving Money

7 No-Nonsense Tips for Saving Money

I’ve been thinking...The idea of saving money is great but where do you start?  Most of us live our lives two weeks at a time,  and we usually run out of money before we run out of days to the next paycheck.  The reality is that the average Canadian household spends more than they make.  In fact, statistics Canada shows that in 2015, the average Canadian household income was $80940.00 while the average expenses sat around $82697.00.  No wonder more and more people are worried about their retirement.  I know that for us, this was unacceptable so we set out to look for a few no-nonsense ways for saving money.

Let me just start with a warning.  None of these money saving tips are considered sexy.  To be honest they will make some of you cringe in disdain but if you think about it, when is saving money ever fun or sexy?  In today’s society, it seems everything has to be bigger, better and faster and unfortunately,  saving money is at the very bottom of most people’s priority list.  We would rather go in debt then miss out on the new smartphone or that second car.  What if I told you that the main reason we buy all these things is so we can impress our friends or even worse, our neighbors who we usually don’t even know or like.  

To that point, the first and probably best money saving tip has to be:  Stop buying things to impress other people.  None of these people really care about what you wear or if you buy brand name foods at the grocery store.  All they care about is buying things to impress you!  This might seem like an over-simplification but I assure you it is the truth.  Saving money starts with buying things you actually need instead of buying for the sake of buying.  None of your neighbours will be there for you on your retirement day to give you a handout. You need to take care of yourself and your family so stop buying things to impress your neighbours.

With that in mind, saving money becomes a lot easier.  The second tip I would suggest is: Do you really need that second car?  One of the biggest status symbols in our society today is the cars we drive.  So many people are drowning in debt because they have to have those two cars in the driveway.  All I am saying is take a serious look at your situation and decide if you really need the second car.  If you do, then by all means keep it but do you really need those two?  Maybe you could get away with selling one and getting a used car instead.  Brand new cars are such a bad investment for the simple fact that they depreciate so much in the first year.  If you buy a slightly used car you can let someone else pay for the depreciation and still get all the benefits of driving a new car, like a factory warranty and peace of mind.

Third money saving tip:  Buy generic brand foods instead of the highly overpriced brand name foods.  This one usually gets a lot of push-back.  For some reason, we seem to think that buying brand name food is a sign that we “made it”.  Now, I know some of you are thinking that the brand name stuff tastes better and in some cases you might be right but, a large part of that has to do with advertising.  The reason you are paying so much more for these brand name foods is because they spend enormous amounts of time and money selling it to you. The generic food is just as good, if not better and you’re not paying for the company’s marketing budget.  Tessa and I had to have this discussion very early in our relationship.  She is an avid user of ketchup, she puts that stuff on everything but she would only want to buy the brand name stuff.  After a few years of trying, I finally convinced her to try the generic brands at half the price and low and behold, she liked it! Sometimes you just need to give it a chance.  Think past all the marketing and buy what you need not what conglomerates are stuffing into your shopping cart.

On the other hand, buying generic brands does not always translate into savings.  Tip number four is: When buying clothes, look for the best quality at the lowest price.  Personally, I hate shopping for clothes.  With that in mind, I always look for the highest wear per dollar as possible.  What I mean by that is, if I purchase a t-shirt, I will look for one that is high quality so I can wear it often but it also has to be at a great price.  A $10 shirt that I can only wear wear five times before it starts to look worn out costs me  $2 per wear but if I can find a $20 shirt and wear it forty times then it costs me $0.50 per wear.  That being said, it does not mean that I always buy new clothes.  More often than not I will buy very high quality second hand clothing from thrift shops.  A lot of the items I purchase usually still have the tags from the store attached so they have never been worn.

Tip number five would then have to be: Learn some basic skills to avoid paying someone else.  There are a few things in this world that should be left to the professionals.  Conversely, there are a lot of skills you can pick up either from friends or even YouTube that can end up saving you a ton of money.  Changing the oil in your car, basic car repairs, basic home appliance repairs, sewing, cooking, fixing cell phones and computers are all skills that can be learned fairly easily.  I taught myself to pick locks by watching YouTube videos and practising on locks I had laying around the house.  This one skill has probably saved me close to $1000 in locksmith fees since learning it.  The possibilities are endless if you can just put a little bit of time and effort into it.

In the sixth spot, I recommend that you: cut your paid T.V. service subscription.  “But what will we do for entertainment?”  Don’t worry about it.  Tessa and I have not had a paid T.V. service subscription in over ten years  now and believe me, you will find better ways to entertain yourself.  There are so many things you can occupy your time with and I guarantee you that all of them are better than getting your mind blasted by advertising for a few hours a night.  Our entertainment of choice is usually reading a good book.  We bundle up in our favourite chairs with a hot cup of coffee and actually feed our minds with great material that helps us grow instead of pushing us to buy more stuff we don’t need.  You should definitely try it out, it’s amazing what it does for your wallet, your thinking and your relationship.

Rounding up this list is tip number seven:  add up the little things.  We all know what they are, the twice daily coffee shop addiction, the fast food lunches, the impromptu gas bar treats and I am even going to go as far as calling out the tobacco, drug and alcohol addictions. All of these things are financial cancers, some actually give you cancer but that’s not the focus here.  The best financial piece of advice we ever received is to take one month out of the year and track all of our expenses on one sheet of paper.  It does not matter how big or small it is, if it is money out, it goes on the list.  This is where you identify spending trends that you can get a handle on or even get rid of all together.  The first time Tessa and I did this we found out that we were paying over $200 a year in bank fees.  With a little research, we found a bank that offers no fee checking accounts and switched all of our daily banking.  There are literally thousands of tiny expenses hiding in your daily habits and putting them down on paper over a month is the starting point to a growing savings account.

To sum it all up, saving money is not difficult but it won’t happen without sacrifice.  Our ancestors were able to accumulate wealth because they didn’t have so many things competing for their bottom dollar.  If a growing savings account is what you are looking for, give some serious thought to the tips we’ve just been through.  I assure you that if you do, you will be in a better position next year.  It is important to always be looking for new no-nonsense ways for saving money and  I am constantly looking into our finances to make sure I am not missing anything. That being said, if you have some tips you use in your finances, please don’t hesitate to drop it in the comments.

Thank you for reading!

Top Three Lifestyle Changes to Fund Your Dreams

I've been thinking...One of the biggest reasons we decided to get on this journey to self-sufficiency is so we don't have to depend on a particular system or another for our survival. Our current state of affairs is no longer acceptable to us and has been for a while now so instead of accepting the status quo we focus more on action and now make daily decisions that will eventually take us to the lifestyle we want. The first major hurdle for us, as for many other people, I am sure is how do you fund your dreams. How can we gather up the capital necessary to actually go out and purchase that piece of land so we can start living a cleaner, simpler life? Sure, we could go to the bank and borrow the funds but that would mean enslaving ourselves to said bank for the next ten or fifteen years and that is unacceptable to us. Tessa and I once again went back to our roots on this one and opted to embrace the lost art of saving! I know, it's not the sexiest idea in the world, specially in a society of instant gratification where people finance their fast-food. It is however, the soundest way of getting what you want in life. If you are still with me and not totally closed to the idea, keep reading. I will go through the top three changes we had to make to be able to keep paying our bills and yet put enough money away to achieve our goals.

Life has a way of getting in your way when you don't live it on purpose. There is nothing easier than to drift through your days with no particular direction. Every time you hit a snag you react, but soon you realise that these snags are getting harder and harder to handle and before you know it you are stuck in a corner with nowhere to go. The only way to avoid this is to have a plan; To that point, if you don't have one, you should definitely take a minute to figure out where you want your life to go because once you do, the rest suddenly becomes crystal clear. With your destination in mind, you can forecast all kinds of things; what will the cost be, how much time you will need to get there, how many rests will you need to take along the way... You get the idea.

For us, that destination is living a self-sufficient life on a fifty acre piece of land, in an unorganised township and with all the surface, lumber and mineral rights attached so that there is no way anyone could interfere with our vision. We would like to be in a position to purchase this land within the next two or three years so we can start to build our homestead and free ourselves from the chains of urban living. We want the house to be roughly eight-hundred square feet and be powered off-grid by solar and wind generation. Oh, and we want to do all that without getting into any debt. A tall order by many standards but like I said, when you have a destination, the path suddenly becomes a lot clearer.

We have to make a lot of adjustments to our current lifestyle if we ever want this vision to become reality. Here are the top three changes we made so far. To begin, we are taking home less than sixty thousand dollars a year combined. We have been able to make it so that our expenses account for roughly fifty percent of that so about thirty thousand a year. This means that, if we save the rest, we can pile up ninety thousand dollars over three years. Not bad right? The only issue is that if you don't have that destination in mind all the time, you will never save anywhere near that much. Without a goal to keep you on track, you will tell yourself; "It's alright to eat out, we'll make it up next week..." or "Sure, we can totally buy this t.v." The fact is, people don't like saving money for no reason so the number one change we made is: Have a clear and precise end goal and write it down.Additionally, we have to remind ourselves daily of that goal. Keep it in our faces so that we never forget why we are making all those sacrifices. Trust me when I say this, you will have moments of weakness but if you have a picture of your goal stuck to your front door, it will be a lot easier to stay home instead of going out to the movies.

The second change we had to make, is to set ourselves up with a strict buying limit of twenty dollars. This means that, anytime we want to buy anything that is not in our budget and is over twenty dollars we have to go home, discuss it and then sleep on the decision first. If we still feel like buying it in the morning then we go out and get it but most of the time, we will end up either not buying it at all or including it in the next budget in a way that does not affect our number one priority ; the homestead. Incidentally, this brings up the third change which is have a budget and stick to it. Before all this, we never had a budget. The simple mention of making one almost made me gag but I believe it is probably one of the biggest difference makers in our arsenal today. Knowing what comes in and out of your pocket is imperative if you are ever going to achieve any financial goal.

These three seemingly small changes will make all the difference in the world when it comes time to fund your dreams. Just to clarify, they are:

1. Have a goal, write it down in as much detail as possible and keep it in your face.
2. Set yourself a strict buying limit and never make a purchase without first sleeping on it.
3. Have a budget and stick to it.

I strongly believe in these three principles and I am willing to bet that if you decide to implement them into your life, you will start to see great things happen to your savings account. My wife and I are in this run together and hope we inspire you to get going. Life is too short to simply drift through it all. Set yourself a goal and give everything you have to achieve it, we will be at the finish line to cheer you on!

As always, Thank you for reading!