Sarah Deveau: Money Matters


Save Money Five Ways

It's Time To Spring Clean Your Budget

I’m not a fan of spring cleaning my house. I hate washing windows, touching up paint, sorting through clothing and finding the sun hats I bought on clearance last August. However, I love spring cleaning our financials!

Each year around this time I review our spending in key household categories such as entertainment, groceries and utilities. I decide where a little trimming is in order, and where more regular attention is needed.

Here are some spring cleaning ideas for your household this month:

Check your phone plans to align your usage with your billing. A higher priced package might actually save you money if you’ve been going over your bill each month, like I was doing when I bought a smart phone. Research the different packages available, and try not to be swayed by a bells and whistles phone if it comes with a massive contract. Be sure to check with your home insurance company in case there are implications to your rate for not having a land line in the home. Ensure you’re making use of the additional features you’re paying for.

Your energy use, and therefore your bill, can be decreased by changing your family’s habits. Limit the use of air conditioning, and consider using a portable air conditioner or room air conditioner rather than cooling the entire house. Keep window coverings closed during the day to prevent solar gain. Let your dishes air dry by turning off the dishwasher after the rinse cycle and propping open the door. As warm days approach, use appliances like toaster ovens, crock pots or microwaves rather than your large stove or oven. Wash your clothes in cold water using cold-water detergents, and hang to dry (even indoors due to our fickle Canadian weather).

What credit cards are you carrying in your wallet, and what types of balances are you carrying on them? You may be paying hundreds of dollars a year in service fees and charges. Many non-traditional banks such as ING and President’s Choice Financial offer free banking, credit cards with no annual fee, and higher interest savings accounts. Are you taking advantage of the best your bank has to offer, or is there a bank that can better meet your needs?

Is it time to start grocery shopping somewhere new? Each month local news stations report what an identical cart of groceries costs at various stores. Certain supermarkets come in significantly less than other stores, even taking rewards programs into account. Switching your loyalty from one store to another, and from name brands to generic brands, will pay off.

How much is fun costing you each month? Are you dropping the equivalent of a car payment attending professional sports events each month? Paying a 900% markup for movie theatre popcorn? Your entertainment budget can by dramatically decreased with a little creativity and planning.

Set yourself up for success for the year ahead. If unexpected expenses send you to your line of credit every month, institute a new routine. Focus on building a small fund for those surprise furnace breakdowns, new eye glasses or emergency vet bills. Open a no fee banking account and deposit a small amount every month to be used in dire situations only.