I’m often asked to share my best or favourite money saving tips. It’s hard to pin down just one when there are so many ways to save money and build lifelong financial habits and skills. That’s what financial literacy is all about, right?
Here are 15 money saving tips that I try to live by:
1. Make it automatic.
The key to building a life-long habit of saving is to make your contributions automatic and as painless as possible. Pick a day that coincides with your paycheque and set up an automatic transfer into your RRSP, TFSA, savings account, or RESP. Start with as little as $25 and increase it annually, or as your budget allows.
2. It’s never too late to start saving.
The best time to plant an oak tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. Whether you’re 30, 40, 50, or 60, it’s never too late to take control of your financial future. See tip number 1 on how to get started.
3. The power of asking.
I challenged readers a while back to take a day off work to deal with their finances. A “bill haggle” day can help reduce your monthly expenses on everything from bank fees to cable and internet to insurance. Mark it down on your calendar once a year as your reminder to save money. You never know unless you ask.
4. Does your loyalty pay?
Most of us bank at the same place we did when we opened our first savings account as a child. Ask yourself what your bank has done to deserve your loyalty. Today, there are many free banking options, and online comparison sites have made it easy to shop around for the best deal on mortgages, savings accounts, and GICs.
5. Ask for more.
When I got my first real job, I naively accepted the initial low-ball salary offer. It was a mistake that cost me at least $5,000 per year. Remember, all your future wage increases will be pegged off of your initial salary. Know what you’re worth, what the industry pays, and negotiate wisely.
6. How much you save matters more than your return on that savings.
We obsess over investment returns and are willing to move mountains to get an extra half-percent on a savings account or GIC. But in reality, your savings rate (i.e. how much you save) will make much more of an impact than your annual returns, especially in the early years. Up your monthly savings from $100 to $150 and you’ll enjoy a 50 percent increase in your savings.
7. Track your income and spending.
The foundation to solid money management is understanding how much money comes in and how much goes out every month. There’s no other way around it – how else will you know what you can afford to save?
8. Estimate your future income and expenses.
Budgeting goes beyond just tracking what you’ve spent in the past. In order to make a plan for the future, such as to buy a house or car, or save up for a trip, you need to project where your finances will be several months in advance. We often forget about those irregular expenses, such as car maintenance, birthday presents, when a raise or bonus might kick-in.
9. Avoid the trade-up trap.
Tens of thousands of dollars have been wasted because homebuilders and real estate agents invented terms like “starter homes” and “trading up”. Buy a home that will suit you for the next decade or more, and stay put.
10. That goes for cars, as well.
I like a new car as much as the next guy, but if you can’t afford to pay it off in 3-4 years max, you can’t afford the car. And quit trading one in for something new every three years! Drive your vehicle for at least 8 to 10 years so that you can enjoy some car-payment free years.
11. Simplify your finances.
In an attempt to optimize every part of my finances I forgot to account for the pain-in-the-ass factor – the time wasted researching individual stocks, hunting down credit card offers and savings account promotions, transferring money back and forth between a no-fee bank and a full service bank. There’s something to be said about finding a simple solution that you can stick with, even if it’s not the most optimal solution.
12. Develop an entrepreneurial mindset.
They say you won’t get rich working for someone else and I think that Millennials need to develop an entrepreneurial mindset in order to succeed in today’s economy. Start a business, work on a side-hustle, move across the country (or to another country) and don’t wait for the ideal career to fall into your lap.
13. Save on the big things
People often stress over gas prices, bank fees, and cell phone bills while ignoring some of the ways they can potentially save thousands of dollars. Take out a variable rate mortgage instead of a 5-year fixed rate mortgage, avoid mortgage life insurance and other creditor insurance products, switch from expensive bank mutual funds into index funds or ETFs, avoid expensive name brands when a generic brand will do, and don’t fall for deceptive or misleading advertisements.
14. Live close to work.
We save money on gas because we bought our house close to where I work. Our fuel expenses are between $100 and $150 a month. One reason I was late getting into podcasts or audiobooks is because I have a five-minute commute to work instead of a 45-minute drive or train ride.
15. Spend on things you enjoy.
I’m not a big latte fan, but if you enjoy an expensive coffee then who am I to criticize? Spend on things that bring you joy (or that save you time) and then try to save money in other areas to offset your splurges. Go ahead and share your money saving tips in the comments section below.