Saturday, 13 February 2016

How We Saved Money February 7-13, 2016

It is nice to be almost halfway through February. The days are noticeably longer (that was for you, K!) and on sunny days I am full of motivation to get my house cleaned and ready for another busy year. But on gray dreary days with cold and wind, my energy is low and my patience is thin. Finally after years of struggling through these ups and downs I realize that it never lasts. The sun comes out. The mundane tasks do get completed and winter eventually ends.

If I didn't keep a little list by my computer keeping track of how I've saved money this week I think I would feel like we didn't save at all. But we did, and here's how:

  • I returned a light fixture for our shed that the electrician didn't need (we got power to our shed and barn by digging in the wire ourselves before the ground froze). I had to get a different light, so returning one for $18.89 cash back and then spending $27 isn't really a savings. But it would have been easy to neglect returning the light so I'm still considering a way that I didn't "waste" money by being lazy!
  • We sold our camper! In itself, this was not exactly a savings except that we haven't used it as much the past few years and it was depreciating quickly as it got older. I would prefer to tent with the kids to have a more authentic camping experience, and the cash is better off in the bank rather than parked in the driveway. Where I feel we actually save is in the $70 insurance we were paying every month. When I called to cancel it I also realized that all these years we were paying for a full replacement rather than the depreciated value. I guess that is a choice but we could have spent a lot less on insuring it if we had known the difference. So we now have $70 less/month going to insurance, which suits me fine!
  • I didn't have plans to go to town until Friday, which was also my son's Valentine's Day party at school (I forgot to buy little Valentine's for him to exchange with his friends when I last got groceries). Rather than running to town for anything, I used craft materials that we had here and cut out hearts for him to glue to paper etc. He spent hours carefully gluing and writing (he's a bit of a perfectionist) and it actually kept him quite occupied over two days. We made sugar cookies and decorated with icing and sprinkles and he had a fantastic Valentine's at school without us spending any extra.
  • Most importantly of all, I have taken some money from our joint account and returned it to my Tax-Free Savings Account. Over the years we have used my investments here and there when things were tight. But when things were not tight we neglected to ever pay them back. The recent crisis in our economy gave me a real fright and I couldn't believe that despite my frugal tendencies I had not been topping up and saving more. When Husband is home from work he will also be depositing a lump sum that I can transfer into Tax-Free Savings for him. Our income can vary greatly from one month to the next, so I like the fact that we can use that money in an emergency without being penalized.
  • I got a wee side job that I can do from home! It is very wee, so I am contributing the proceeds monthly to the above TFSA. We won't miss the money because we've not been used to having it, and it's not an amount that would help in a crisis. But if it is stashed away for long enough it will come in handy someday. If I am able to make extra with this side job I plan to let it accumulate and throw those extra amounts onto our mortgage. I don't want to schedule anything extra because I don't want to "have" to have the extra every month. But when it is there and it feels safe to do so, the plan is to put extra bits on the mortgage and save on interest in the long term. 
I have always felt that household spending was the only area of our budget that I could control or change. But I realize now that my efforts are wasted unless I actually "do" something with the money saved. Until now, when I reduced spending on groceries or clothes the money still just trickled away, whether on fees or insurance or TV plans or extra trips to town (or fabric, or crafts, or antiques, or....). as I manage to lower some costs in some areas I am trying to invest and "pay down" in others. That is how I can control both our household expenses and our long-term savings. I have been reading Gail Vaz-Oxlade's Money Rules: Rule Your Money or Your Money Will Rule You. I skimmed through it because we are already doing most of what she talks about. But there were some areas that we have never talked about, mainly, what age do we plan to retire and how do we intend to get there? Not by mindlessly spending almost every pay cheque, that's for sure! And not on $100/month automatic transfers. We need to get more specific and start working towards our financial goals.

Next on my reading list is Gail's Debt-Free Forever. If you've never checked out her Interactive Budget and you haven't figured out your monthly expenses (or don't know where to start) sit down and go through her website. She is no-nonsense, humorous, and puts things in terms even I can understand. If you are trying to get control of your money these are great places to start (and no, I'm not being paid to say that!). It feels good to take action. 


  1. It sounds like you've had a productive week, well done! CJ xx

    1. Well, I've made it sound good ;) I'm procrastinating about my housecleaning. But it needs done before gardening season!

  2. Oh I am really loving these posts! They keep me motivated and as always I have lots of comments :-)
    1) I too returned something this week. It was to the local pharmacy and I bought it when I was killing time waiting for a prescription and super sick last month so not really thinking. Normally it would have just sat at home for months/years. But I was happy to return it (very late at night thankfully they are open 24 hours!) and get my $13.90 back. I spent that money immediately on a take away because I was so tired but at least it wasn't more money I was out the door.

    2) I do love Gail! Really appreciate her no-nonsense attitude. I have looked at her website and watched a few of her episodes. Will need to check the library for some of her books.

    3) Well done on everything you are doing. It takes time for the mindset to change and now that you are focused on this, you are starting to question and to discover ways to save. It sure feels good to have these small (and larger) wins!

    4) And a big brava! for replenishing your tax savings account. Life never stops moving so it is easy to forget about these things. But I feel like now this aspect of your life is going to stay in the forefront of your mind. It's all about doing what you can to slowly and consistently improve the process and that is what you are doing!

    Glad your son had such a wonderful V-day party at school! I remember mine and they were always so sweet and fun :-)

    1. Thanks, Pru :) you are so right about the change of mindset--the sense that the money is just "gone" at the end of the month has been replaced. Now I feel like I am aware of all the scheduled payments and when they come out, some of which have been reduced or eliminated. I'm shopping strategically for our food. Future expenses are on a list rather than just a vague sense of impending doom. There's a jar in the cupboard where I put $5/ week that would have been spent on eggs. We are working to save the equivalent of one year's expenses. Hard, yes. But harder would be having no job and no savings to fall back on and no plan to take care of our family.

  3. I so love reading these posts -- they're a great source of inspiration. You've actually prompted me to look into a TFSA -- I do the same thing with savings...nothing! I have a 'bank-the-rest' thing on my account that automatically transfers a top-up, rounded to the nearest dollar, ever time I use my bank-card. It turned into almost $500 last year and where did that go? Nowhere in particular...just into the 'float' fund. So I'd like to keep better track of stuff like that and transfer the money elsewhere when I save or come in under budget.

    It's amazing how the little bits of savings add up over the course of a year....and very encouraging. xo

    1. That's great, Mel! I like the TFSA because you can access the money if you need to but forget about it the rest of the time. That keeps us from dipping in unless absolutely necessary. It's very rewarding to keep track of the smaller savings and lump them together into something more substantial. I don't think we will ever regret the effort!