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As we celebrate a new year, many of us have the urge to revisit habits and goals of all sorts, and saving some extra money often tops the list. It doesn't really matter what you're saving for, whether its your first home, a big project, or one of your bucket list vacations, you'll probably  have to pay closer attention to where your money is going. 

Everyone has slightly different priorities & vices, so here are some ideas for you to consider, when looking at your spending this month:

1. Bank Fees: Take a look at the type of bank account that you have. Maybe you can downgrade your account, or even transfer some of your savings over to your checking, so that you meet the requirements to have bank fees waived, if your bank offers this. ($10-$20 savings/mo)

2. Brown bag it: Quit buying your lunches! If you love going out for lunch with coworkers, go a couple times a month, but try not to do it everyday. I suspect this could be a big budget leak for some people ($8-$15/meal)

3. Cook at Home: Along the same lines as #2, cut back on your dinners out. Don't deprive yourself completely, if its something you enjoy doing, but try to cook dinner at home as often as possible. Meal planning & prep is extremely helpful in making this happen - we all know the 5:00 panic that sets in, when we realize that everything is frozen, and all you have on hand is jello & canned oysters. (varies, depending on size of family)

4. Save your change: My husband has saved loonies for as long as I've known him. I always laugh about it, but its a pretty clever idea. He recently cashed in his "loonie bank" and bought the FitBit he's been wanting! ($200-$500/year)

5. Look at your grocery list again: I have a confession to make....I am somewhat dependent on Diet Pepsi. I like to have a glass of it every night; It keeps me from snacking, but it also gets expensive. If we cut this from our grocery runs, we would probably save an embarrassing $40-$50 a month. Do you have any ridiculous repeat budget busters like this?

6. Ditch the cable/satellite: Depending on which plan you're on, you could probably save an easy $50 a month, maybe more. With the selection on Netflix getting better and better, and the variety of awesome YouTube content, do you really need it?

7. Try a "no spend" month: Now, there are a couple of different ways to go about this. If you're currently spending quite a bit of money on eating out, going to movies, and shopping, you can challenge yourself to just stick to the basics (food, mortgage, utilities etc.) If you don't currently spend much in these categories, you can still save some money. During the month of December, we went through our pantry, deep freeze, and freezer, to plan some meals around what needed to be used up. We still bought fresh produce, milk, eggs, and bread. We ended up saving about $500 from what would have been part of our monthly food budget, during the month of DECEMBER.

8. Declutter, Donate, Sell: I often say that I have been having an online garage sale since my oldest was a baby (8.5 years), but its true! I sell a lot of things that we no longer need or use on local Facebook groups. We also donate a box or 2, almost every time the diabetes truck comes around. I actually kept track of how much we saved by doing this, from 2012 to 2014, and the number was somewhere in the neighbourhood of $3000. 

9. Give yourself some fun money: Even if you don't have a lot of extra money, your budget will likely be better off, if you give yourself the permission to spend some of it, rather than none. Have a look at your numbers, and set a reasonable amount, whether its $25 or $250 a month, just try it!

10. Take advantage of points programs: Its no secret, that my favourite loyalty program of all time, is the PC Optimum Rewards program. I have used this program for at least 9 years now, and I think its one of the best available. Now that Shoppers Drug Mart, Superstore, Independent, and No Frills are all under the Loblaws brand, you can take advantage of this program at all of these stores. I try my best to pay attention to offers that they send out for 20x the points, bonus point days, and bonus redemption days. This program alone has saved us over $500 in the last couple of months, as we collect points throughout the year & often redeem around Christmas time for groceries and gifts.

11. Shop smart, online: If you're an avid online shopper like I am, don't place another order until you sign up for Ebates. Once you have signed up, all you need to do, is make sure you visit ebates.ca, and pick your store before you shop. I started consistently using ebates in 2015, and have racked up almost $1000 of actual cash! They will automatically send you a cheque every 3 months, or credit your PayPal.

12. Don't shop without a discount code: At least try not to, when shopping online. Get in the habit of doing a quick Google search for your store + coupon before placing your order; sometimes you'll be pleasantly surprised to find a % or $ off voucher. You can also check to see if the store you're shopping with offers a "first order" promo, if you register to receive e-mails from them. If you don't like the extra spam mail, you can always unsubscribe later.

13. Take surveys online: Take this with a gran of salt. You definitely aren't going to get rich taking online surveys, but you will be able to make $20 or $30 every few months, by doing a couple a week. Legerweb is a Canadian company, who pays cash, for completing surveys. They send regular survey opportunities, and allow you to request a cheque once your account has reached $20. Swagbucks is also another reliable source of online surveys. Besides surveys, you can also shop through swagbucks, or use their online search engine to accumulate bucks. My favourite thing to use swagbucks for, is Amazon gift cards, because...who doesn't love Amazon?!

14. Use a grocery rebate app: My favourite to use is Checkout51, although I have heard of others as well. Its essentially an app that you download, that has coupons available on it every week. I usually have a quick look through it when the new offers come out on Thursdays, add the ones I'm likely to use to my "list".  After grocery shopping, I just upload a copy of the receipt through the app, and check off the items I purchased. Once your total reaches $20, you can request that a cheque be mailed to you. Again, not a get rich quick plan, but I won't say no to extra money. I have accumulated just shy of $300 on my account over the last few years, and my husband has saved about the same amount as well. 

15. Take a list to Costco! I had a customer once, who affectionately referred to Costco as "The $400 store", and she's not wrong. Costco is full of endless aisles of fantastic deals, but holy cow, you can get carried away in a hurry, if you don't know what you're shopping for! Eat before you go, and take your list. You're welcome!

16. Make a budget: Or a cashflow statement, or a spending plan...whatever you want to call it, just make one. My favourite online budget now is Every Dollar. If you tell your money where to go, you won't have to wonder where it went at the end of the month.

17. Use a mortgage broker: How could I not mention this?! Make sure you give me a shout, if you're looking to buy a home, refinance, or renew your existing mortgage. Mortgage brokers often have access to lenders, rates, and products, that you wouldn't be able to obtain as a consumer. We also do not take preference to any particular lender, so you know, that we are working for your best interest, no pun intended. You can even start your application online HERE

18. Plant your own garden: I haven't done this myself, but would like to have some garden boxes built, to enable me to stand and garden. My Mom has kept a garden for as long as i've been around, and not only does it save money, but it tastes better too!

19. Cancel unnecessary memberships: Gym memberships, Amazon Prime, Make-up subscription boxes, Netflix. If you're using a membership and you love it, keep it! If you haven't been to the gym in 8 months, and hate going, save your money!

If you would like to sit down and chat about your 2019 financial goals, sent me a message, or e-mail kristen.bellows@mortgagegroup.com

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