So you’ve tallied up your income vs. expenditures and you feel your budget is a little too tight for your liking. There’s always a way to tighten the belt a tiny bit more!
Before we get going, know that I will make recommendations, but I do recognize that some people might / will likely disagree with me. That’s okay! I want you to become conscious of the choices you are making, and if you continue to make those choices, make them mindfully. Own your choices!
While we were on the way to see The Book of Mormon tonight (our tickets were only $4 + fees!), I looked back in budgets from years past, and found something interesting: I’m paying less for my phone plan now, in 2017, than I paid in 2011! Pretty cool, right?
Anyways. Here are some of the things that we’ve managed to cut or reduce fairly easily!
I keep reading that, here in Canada, we have some of the highest prices the civilized world for our telecommunications. But just because the Big Three telecom companies want you to pay top dollar doesn’t mean you have to fork it over. Here are some of the things we have done to slash our budgets:
- We’ve cut the cable. We have always had a love/hate relationship with cable TV. On the one hand, it was a sanity saver when I was struggling to nurse our oldest, the Tiny Dictator, but on the other? Having all of that advertising thrown at me all day long, and I have to pay $50 a month for a tiny package? Forget it. About 2.5 years ago, we went to Over-the-air and never looked back. I’ll be talking about this in further detail in the future.
- Bigger isn’t always better. True, Hubby and I have a thing about loyalty, where we don’t want to rock the boat if a company has been relatively good to us. He maintains his basic cell phone plan with Bell (which he can’t get any cheaper anywhere else, we checked). I was with Telus for the longest time, negotiating loyalty discounts until they wouldn’t bend anymore. I moved to Koodo. For the same service, and a lower price, I’m getting three times the features and twice the data. We did the same thing with our home phone and internet. When we moved into our old house (Casa del Beaverpond), we signed up with TekSavvy, which gives us home phone and DSL service with more bandwidth than we’d get with Bell or Rogers at half the cost. I know of some people close to us who call into Bell every month or so to dispute charges or negotiate lower rates, but, quite frankly?
My telecom provider actually lowered their rates in response to a recent CRTC ruling. That’s the kind of provider I have time for.
We could ditch the home phone, but with Hubs misplacing his phone and my smartphone often running out of juice, it eases my mind to have an analogue phone line in case of emergencies. I also like to have it available for when the babysitter comes. They probably have their own cell phone, but I would rather have the landline just in case. It’s not like it’s costing me all that much anyway. (See? Choices!)
There are some finance gurus out there who feel that if you’re paying bank fees, you’re throwing away your money, especially when there are free options like PC Financial or Tangerine.
That being said, I know of at least one extremely legit situation where people might not be able to seek out new bank accounts without putting themselves at risk.
(Sidebar: It’s a super huge convoluted story, but if I’m trying to be brief, there are Canadians who also happen to have dual citizenship with the United States. If it gets found out that they are also American, the banks are required by law to report their information to the CRA who then transmits it to the IRS. I am aware that the US is trying to paint them as tax cheats, but many of these people have very tenuous ties to the States and have never considered themselves to be American and live solely as Canadians. Some of these people are Canadian only but will have their financial information exposed just by virtue of being married to a dual or accidental American. I’ll leave it at that for now, but I can’t blame someone for wanting to avoid that set of headaches. If staying with their current bank will prevent that, it’s probably saving them money in the long run to avoid compliance fines, tax assistance, renunciation fees, etc.)
But even without such an extreme example, we maintain our accounts with one of the major banks because we enjoy the convenience. If we are travelling abroad (not that we can afford much travel these days), if we are doing our banking at wonky hours and need assistance, we know that the bigger bank will be able to assist us as opposed to smaller banks or credit unions.
Gym Memberships and Leisure Activities
If I were going super frugal and Mr. Money Mustache, I would argue that any gym membership is too much! Walk! Run! Bike! Follow a YouTube workout routine!
… but I’m a pool junkie, and I don’t have a pool.
There are options for every price point, really, and it’s up to you to decipher them.
Earlier I told you that I’d been looking at my old budgets and I noticed that I was paying about $12/biweekly for a membership at GoodLife fitness.
But when it’s not something you use? They only had one location with a pool. A subterranean location, with poor lighting, uneven pool floors, and a bad vibe about it.
I asked to cancel my membership.
Upon cancellation, they actually told me I should consider transferring my membership to someone else because they couldn’t believe the rate I was paying.
Then there’s what I consider to be the Cadillac of memberships at The Athletic Club (now Movati). I was paying $27/biweekly BUT I was actually using it.
When that came to be too much, I checked into passes at the City. The monthly/annual membership passes were quite steep, but I could get passes per visit which worked out better for the budget. It works out to approximately $7/per class. Still not great, but more affordable than Movati.
And then I looked into the YMCA. I get a discount because of my employer, and our monthly membership includes not only my Aquafitness but also all of the activities for the kids. Hubby also has the opportunity to go running while our oldest is at basketball.
So again, it’s about choices. If you want the gold-plated treatment, and you actually use your membership, it will be worth every penny. Still, don’t be afraid to check out cheaper alternatives.
And nothing will be cheaper than the exercise you can do at home, for free. At the end of the day, if that’s what it comes down to, I know that’s an expense I can do without.
It’s actually incredible the money you can save just inquiring around for yourself. Ever since I’ve been on my own, I’ve been dealing with a kind insurance broker from back home. I always assumed that she would have the lowest rates.
This year, having the time to dedicate to research and the inclination to save a few bucks, I was able to find out a provider who would save me $500 on home insurance and $300 on car insurance. Be sure to consider any associations you may belong to: alumni associations, unions, professional associations, memberships such as CAA. At the end of the day, I was able to get the cheaper rate because of my union membership.
Can you think of anything else in your budgets that can be reduced if you had to tighten your belt tomorrow? Let me know in the comments!
Next time around…
I wanted to talk about some of the tools I use to help me reduce my grocery bills and my gas bills, but I feel like I should probably also talk about jobs and careers, since we’ve been talking so much about budgeting.