Monday, March 06, 2017

How to Save Thousands of Dollars Each Year

How we spend our money indicates our priorities and for us the two main places that we choose to spend our money are the kids' education and family travel. We also set aside a specific amount to donate each month although I know this is an area we could improve on even more. I often hear people asking (politely) how we can afford vacations or private school and this is some advice I'd give on how to save thousands of dollars each year. We live almost solely on one teacher's salary so how do we stretch our dollar?

Tips for Saving Money

How to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year:

1. Don't eat out. We cook all meals at home which is likely the largest money saver for us as a family of five. Fortunately I am home most days so this means I have the time and energy to do it. I recently recorded our food budget for the month and it was just under $200/week. There are special occasions where we do eat out such as all-you-can-eat-sushi to celebrate the end of the school year but we'll go during the lunch hours to help save money. Fortunately we often receive gift cards to restaurants and coffee shops which allow us to treat ourselves once in a while.

Saving money by making your own food

2. Make your own coffee. I started drinking coffee three years ago and can see how this could be a costly habit! I make my own coffee each morning (okay, Gary usually makes it) and it costs us less than $20/month. If I had a specialty drink at a coffee shop that would cost $5 each time those calories would really add up too. I am thankful again for gift cards which teachers tend to get for Tim Hortons or Starbucks.

3. Cut your kids' hair. Do your own manicures. I own a haircutting kit and have been cutting the whole family's hair for 12 years now. I am the only one who goes to the hairdresser and I go just two times a year–once for a trim and another for the full cut and highlights for a total of $200. A manicure or pedicure would be lovely but I would rather save the money and do it myself. Or just not do it.

Saving money by cutting your own hair

4. Buy secondhand clothes.  I just bought Kai's snow pants and snow boots for the next two years for $12. I buy winter coats in perfect condition for $5 rather than $50. I try to not get caught up in the latest trends for Gary and I and that means we don't buy a lot either. The one place I do spend good money is on runners and jackets for Gary and I as that is a priority as we use them a lot. Thankfully I can do a clothing swap with my sister (her youngest is a boy, mine is a girl) and there are so many places to buy secondhand these days from VV to Once Upon a Child to FlipSize. I know soon that I won't be able to get most of the kids clothes secondhand so I'm enjoying it while I can. Our clothing budget for the year is close to $700 for our entire family (shoes, coats, socks...everything besides hiking gear).

Saving money by buying secondhand clothes
{All these shirts cost me just $3 from a Bidding Wars Facebook page}

5. Decrease your hydro bill.  After joining Team Power Smart I was made aware of how much we spend each month. We have reduced our energy usage by an additional 12% this year! Some ways to reduce energy are: turn down your temperature at night, air dry large items and line dry in the summer, open your dishwasher for the dry cycle (but make sure you turn the dial all the way to the end of the cycle or it will still be heating it up), and turn off lights and heat for rooms not in use. Often your hydro company will have incentives so be sure to sign up! BC Hydro's Power Smart program gives you $50 if you reduce your usage by 10% and has monthly giveaways. You can read more about our energy saving here.
Saving money with BC Hydro

6. Find free family events. Pools in our area have free swim days, you can go hiking at a local park, or get an annual pass somewhere. Follow your city or town on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, and you'll see what other free options are available. I also recommend skipping the gym membership and getting a secondhand treadmill as this has been so useful for myself; I can put a TV show on for my kids and go workout for 30 minutes! We are part of several organizations (example: fostering) that often have free events as well. Think of the groups that you are part of and look into what they have to offer.

7. Don't go clothes shopping. I don't need anything but if I go online shopping or to the mall I realize how much I want. If I don't look, I don't even realize what I'm missing.

8. Use the library.  I love reading but only have so much room in our home for books if I buy them anyway. Check if your local library has the book you need or borrow from a friend.

The library is a great way to save money

9. Use a credit card with benefits. Whether it's points to fly somewhere or free groceries, find what works best for you. We use our PC Mastercard and by filling out the surveys, Gary even won 1,000,000 points (that's $1,000 worth of groceries). I usually get one free grocery shop each month as we put almost everything on our Mastercard.

10. Make your own birthday cards (well, get the kids to do it). This saves at least $5 each time and keeps your kids busy.

11. Babysitter swap. It's not much longer until my oldest will be able to babysit (yahoo!) but for now we try to swap care with my sister. It has saved us hundreds of dollars over the years.

12. Enter to win prizes. I enter contests daily and have had some big wins! Be cautious of what you are entering though and ask yourself if it's worth it. If you win something for an event downtown, how much will it cost you for tolls, parking and food? Something "free" can suddenly cost you $50. Over the past two years I have won thousands of dollars worth of prizes from trips to massages to mall gift cards to sporting events. You might say "You always win! You're so lucky" but know that I put in the time and often a lot of effort for contests that involve photos.

{Our biggest win was a surprise trip to Disney World!}

We are fortunate to have bought our house 11 years ago (before it doubled in value) which means our mortgage is comfortable. We have committed to staying in our home which does give us quite a bit of financial freedom even though I often get tempted when I see other people's kitchens or yards. What are your priorities? What are the biggest ways that you save money?


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How can you save thousands of dollars each year? Simple ways to save around the home.


  1. I find this topic always interesting to read about!! Thanks for sharing ;) Edwin has a budget spreadsheet and keeps track of all our expenses. I am so grateful for this as I am not very good at it. We definitely have areas we can improve on!! (Groceries are up there....!!)

    1. I wonder how I would feel if Gary tracked everything...I think I'd like it? We all have areas we can improve on but again, if good food is a priority, then you'll want to spend more!

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  3. I'm impressed with your self-discipline, Louise. We could definitely stand to tighten the purse strings in our home. Eating out is something we enjoy far too much. I can't/won't give up buying clothes, but I rarely pay full price and always choose second hand first.

    1. Anonymous3:24 PM

      It is your business! Fair!

  4. Anonymous3:24 PM

    Love that! I spent a lot of my time being super frugal and only recently let the purse strings out a little. We eat out for dinner once a week but it's conscious and we love it. I'm currently reigning in my coffee out habit as we have an espresso machine. BUT I will go out with a friend for coffee (just avoiding the totally unnecessary to-gos). We always make birthday cards, I almost never buy books (library all the way plus who has space?!). Mark cuts Theo's hair and I have a salon phobia so I rarely get my haircut and I've never died it. I also don't go in for manis , pedis (well maybe once a year) eyebrows, lashes or facials. I do spend on clothes because I spent SO LONG not ever buying anything. And I like wine (that's a biggie) ... but it's ok. I'm older and I want good wine, a good laptop, an iPhone that's not the latest but not the oldest either. I do get into a lot of places for free due to my job but the reality is I always end up spending a lot of parking / food etc so it balances out. Love this post!

    1. I like wine too but don't know the difference between really good wine or not so I don't think I spend too much. Thankfully Gary doesn't drink so I can have it twice as often ;)