Living on a budget is a must-take first step for anyone wanting to get their financial house in order. By setting a budget and sticking to it, you’ll be able to pay down your debt quicker and reach your financial goals, such as saving for your wedding or a down payment on a house.
But living on a budget isn’t all sunshine and daisies. Sometimes, when there isn’t enough money to save for your goals and live your life, you have to choose between your goals and vacations or shopping. If you find yourself living on a tight budget, here are four ways you can make the most of it:
Do things yourself
DIYing is a great way to trim your budget and save hundreds of dollars, money that could be going towards your financial goals instead. Doing it yourself (also sometimes called insourcing) is the act of performing household tasks that you might normally pay someone to perform. DIYing also includes making items you would normally buy. Typically when you pay someone else to do a task for you, you’re paying a premium for their time and your convenience. Sometimes doing a task yourself, or making an item yourself, is far less expensive because all it takes is your time.
Here are some examples of common DIY projects:
- Cleaning your car/pet/house
- Raking leaves
- Weeding your garden
- Building furniture
- Sewing pillows or curtains
- Making wrapping paper
- Making Christmas gifts
You could hire someone to build or do these tasks for you, but you’ll save a lot of money by choosing to do them yourself. Personally, I’m a big fan of doing things myself. In fact, my husband and I recently sodded our backyard and built gardens ourselves. The cost to pay a landscaper to do it would have been upwards of $2,000, but we completed the project for just $500 by doing it ourselves.
Plan a staycation
Travelling is one of life’s great joys, but it’s also expensive. If you’re planning to save money for a home or wedding, cutting your travel budget can be a great way to funnel more money towards your other goals. That said, you should still take breaks from work to rest and recharge, even if you don’t plan on going anywhere. That’s where a staycation comes in.
A staycation is when you take planned vacation from work, but instead of jetting off to a faraway destination, you stay home instead.
Originally popularized during the economic crash of 2008, a staycation allows you to stay home and save money on travel, while still enjoying down time. While it might sound boring, staying in your home city during your vacation can be quite fun. How often do you get to play tourist in your city for a few days? A staycation is an excellent opportunity to visit local attractions that you might previously have overlooked.
This year is a particularly good time for a staycation because all Parks Canada parks and historic sites are free to the public to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of Canada. For residents of la belle province, this year marks Montreal’s 375th birthday, and there will be similar opportunities in that city.
Use a cash-back credit card
When you live on a tight budget, every extra dollar counts. That’s why you should consider maximizing your spending by earning rewards for every dollar you spend. A cash-back credit card is a great way to take advantage of your spending because it pays you a small percentage of your spending back every year or every quarter.
For example, the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite credit card gives you 4% cash back for every dollar you spend on gas and groceries, up to a maximum of $25,000 in spending per year. If you’re a power commuter or have a large family, this could put hundreds of extra dollars in your pocket every year.
- Annual fee: $99
- Earn 4% cash back on gas and groceries, 2% cash back on drug store purchases and recurring bill payments, and 1% cash back on all other purchases
- Receive VISA Infinite benefits
Another great cash back credit card is the SimplyCash Preferred Card from American Express. This credit card lets you earn 5% cash back on eligible gas, grocery, and restaurant purchases for the first six months (up to $300 cash back), and 2% on all purchases after that.
SimplyCash® Preferred Card from American Expresscheck eligibility
Earn a $40 statement credit for each monthly billing period in which you spend $750 in purchases on your Card. This could add up to $400 in statement credits in the first 10 months
- Annual fee: $99
- Earn 5% cash back on eligible purchases for the first 6 months (up to $300 cash back)
- After welcome period ends: 2% cash back on all purchases
- No limit on how much cash back you can earn with 2% rate
Budget your money using apps
Your budget will never work to its fullest potential if you don’t know where you are spending your money. That’s why it’s important to track your spending. There are many ways to do this, including the old-fashioned way with a pen and paper, through Excel spreadsheets or by using an app or website. There are several great apps available to track your spending in Canada, but my personal favourite is Mint. This app lets you sync your bank accounts to import your transactions directly, which saves you the time of manually entering your spending. Whatever method you choose, it’s important that you check in with your spending weekly, and adjust your budget accordingly.