How would you like an extra $100 a month? According to Laurie Campbell, program manager for the Credit Counselling Service of Toronto, a bit of planning and common sense can put it within reach for most of us.
All of us could use a bit of extra cash, whether it's for an RRSP, a well-deserved getaway or even just a stash of mad money. Choose from our five savings categories and soon you'll be richer by $100 a month.
Think fun for less
Add up what you're paying for food and drink in restaurants. One less meal out per month could easily save you $30.
Alternative: Have a friend over for a home-cooked meal instead. You could whip up that vegetable penne with Parmesan for maybe $10. (You can ask your guest to bring the wine.)
Savings: $20 a month.
Downgrade one monthly excursion
Taking a family of four to a sporting event, even cheap seats, with parking and snacks, can run you $135.
Alternative: Going to a movie instead, with popcorn and pop, costs $50.
Savings: $85 a month.
Do you belong to a book club?
Before rushing out to buy this month's book at your bookstore, check to see if it's available at your local library.
Savings: $20 a month.
Shop at lower-priced stores and buy in bulk. Four litres of milk can cost $3.49, compared to $1.99 for a one-litre box at the corner store. Freeze the surplus until you need it and save $1.12 per litre.
Savings: If your household consumes three litres of milk a week, that's a savings of $13.44 a month.
On a recent trip to the grocery store, yours truly sampled a Mexican 7-Layer dip. Damage: $8.98 (with corn chips) that I would not have spent otherwise.
Savings: Avoid a $9 impulse buy once a week and you will save $36 a month.
3. Kids' stuff
Don't dash to the corner store
Consider the cost of being disorganized. Bought in bulk, name-brand disposable diapers cost about $2.50 for 10 diapers. But if you run out and buy an emergency pack of 10 at a corner store, the price can be $7 for 10, which is an additional $4.50.
Savings: Each month you can save yourself $4.50 for diapers.
Spending top dollar for a power-charged toy does nothing to expand a child's imagination, nor does it prevent breakage. A remote control power crane, for example, is $70. But a top-brand child's microscope is only $12. The crane is more expensive by $58 and also requires batteries. The microscope needs no batteries, may last longer and allows its young users to look at the world.
Savings: Cut costs this way on two gifts, and in a year you can save $116 or $9.70 a month.
4. Basic supplies
Dig discount shopping
A pair of department store socks or underwear can easily cost $7.99. Similar quality at a bargain store: $2.99.
Savings: That's $5 saved on each. Buy one pair of underwear and a pair of socks a month at a bargain store, and you save $10.
Buy generic or watch for sales
You can also save a bundle on everyday items, such as soap, shampoo, conditioner and moisturizer. Name-brand shampoo or conditioner, regularly priced at $6.49 a bottle at the drugstore, can be found on sale for $1.99. Good quality soap can cost $1 a bar or as little as $2.99 for a pack of eight or 37 cents a bar.
Savings: Assuming you buy a bottle of shampoo, conditioner and use four bars of soap a month, the savings are $11.50.
5. Home, car, banking
Invest in some basics to save cash
Save on utilites: "The biggest bang for your buck would be energy-efficient showerheads," says Walter Matias, manager of residential energy efficiency programs at Enbridge Consumers Gas.
Savings: If you have one bathroom, your combined savings on energy, water and sewage are $50 per year. A programmable thermostat, which lowers the temperature at night and brings it up again in the morning before you wake, should easily save $50 per year on your heating bill. Together, the two items cost about $100 but would pay for themselves in the first year. After that, you'd save $8.33 per month.
Pump your own gas
After a few times you'll feel comfortable doing it, and self-serve gas is two or three cents cheaper per litre.
Savings: If you use a tank a week, you save about $6 per month.
Get the best banking transaction package
Better to spend $5 per month for 25 transactions than take a $3 package of 15 and pay 50 cents each for 10 transactions that you failed to anticipate -- for an extra $3 in service charges. And, yes, it is worth looking for your own bank machine. Doing so once a week could save another $5 per month.
Savings: On banking and credit cards fees, $10 per month.
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