Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Saving money!

Well, it's everywhere in the news right now. Prices are rising. If you drive, you've noticed already. Economists say world food prices are at an all-time high (and rising) and housing prices in 5 provinces are hitting pre-recession heights while incomes sure aren't. Canada is sitting atop a strong dollar right now which is actually helping us alot more than most of us realize. The global oil market is in distress which makes the Alberta oilsands projects more profitable which will help drive up our economy a bit, but in reality, that sort of a hike will be fleeting and probably more harmful in the long run than anything. So while we may be in a little bubble in a sense, things are still going to get more expensive for basics.
So, here are some money saving tips! I'm cheap so I've always looked for low-cost ideas and alternatives - and now I get to share all my wisdom on penny-pinching!
Let's start with the basics - Grocery shopping:
1. Meal plan. Less waste = better use of money. Before you go grocery shopping, meal plan for the week. As you're planning your meals, start with two or three meals that you definitely want to make and think about what ingredients you'll need for them. Take your ingredient list and decide on what your other meals will be based on what ingredients you'll have leftover. Example: You want to make tacos. Buy hard shells so that you can store them and they won't go to waste if you don't use them all. You'll have sour cream, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, salsa... Salsa can store or be a snack, the veggies make a nice salad another night and the sour cream you can use for baking or maybe have perogies another night that week. More extravagant example: You decide to have a roast chicken meal with asparagus and mashed potatoes. The next night you can use the leftover chicken in a pasta dish with the asparagus and a cream sauce. Save the mashed potatoes for a shepherds pie for another night. Don't waste!
2. Buy store brands. They are almost always cheaper, and some of them are pretty good. It might involve some taste testing to know what you can and cannot compromise on. I myself won't buy no-name or store brand ketchup, soya sauce or soups. However, Sobeys' Our Compliments brand has fantastic chips and pop, Save-on-foods' Western Family has great sauces and cereals and Superstore's President's Choice have really upped the bar over the last few years - all of their pre-made and frozen products are great.
3. Read the flyers. It's amazing how much money you can save by just watching for sales. I only really ever shop at Co-op, but occassionally hop over to Save-on-foods if they have a really good sale. However, before I start meal planning I flip through the Co-op flyer and see what's on sale that week. That helps me to decide what gets on the meal list for that week. Also, watch for Warehouse Sales or Buy 10 for $ deals and stock up on dry products whenever they're cheap.

1. Pick and choose people. I'm not saying don't buy anything, but don't buy everything. Do you have alot of weddings this summer? Save up for one absolutely fantastic outfit that you can mix up with accessories instead of buying a bunch of dresses.
2. Accessories. You want a different style. You feel the need to add some flair to your look. Don't buy a whole new wardrobe - buy accessories. Belts, scarves, bracelets, necklaces, etc. Mix it up.


Let's move on to some non-essentials. Here's a list I found in a Better Homes and Garden magazine from July 2010 about when things go on sale:
Appliances: Holiday Weekends
Cameras/Camcorders: February, March
Carpet & Flooring: January
China & Flatware: March, September
Computers: August, December
Cookware: May, June, December
Dining Furniture: October, November
Electronics: Spring and early Summer, Black Friday and Cyber Monday
Exercise gear: January
Furniture: January, July, holiday weekends
Holiday Decor: Day after the holiday
Linens: January
Mattresses: May through August
Organizational products: January
Paint: Summer
Patio Furniture: After Labor Day
Plants, Trees, Shrubs: Fall
Small Appliances: December
Snowblowers: April
Televisions: Early spring, also six to 12 months after a particular model is launched
Vacuum Cleaners: April, May

If you're looking to buy a big ticket item, consider holding off until these times.

Everyone has gifts to buy at some point through the year. This one note is particularly for your spouse. Collaborate anniversary and Christmas gifts for eachother. Make your little budget go further. Matt and I alternate every year - one year we buy eachother individual presents and the next year we buy joint presents. That's how we got our beautiful piece of artwork (and its frame) and this year we're postponing Christmas shopping for ourselves until Boxing Week and then we're buying a new bedroom set!

The best general advice is to plan your purchases, check for sales and don't impulse buy!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

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