How to Save Money + Budget

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Let me tell you, it is hard to come up with a budget and stick to it. Now, I've never had any debt before in my life and I paid cash for everything - which was a good thing, but didn't help too much with building credit. I did get my first credit card at the beginning of this year, in order to help me build credit, and I paid it off in FULL every month. If I didn't have the cash to pay for something, I didn't purchase it on the card and I stuck to that faithfully this year.

Now that we have our first home (and a mortgage!), I really wanted to start watching our spending and making a budget. This has proved to be difficult in the past, since there are 2 of us. I see a withdrawal on the account and Barry can't remember what he spent the money on, or vice versa. We've been trying to use the bank card for every purchase - this helps in knowing where our money is going and there are no additional fees, so why not? As long as we have $20 or $40 cash on us as backup at all times, I really thought it would work and help us out.

Anyway, since we are home owners we now have a few additional bills that we didn't have before (water bill, home insurance, etc.) and as such I've broken down our monthly bills like this per month:

Mortgage - $504.00 (paid weekly @ $126.00)
Mortgage Life Insurance - $75
Home Insurance - $75
Car Insurance - $170
Heat - $100
Hydro - $150
Cable - $100
Phone + Internet - $80
Water - $80

Some can flucuate like our heat, hydro and water bills but the rest are the same amount every month. For the bills that flucuate I've calculated an average monthly cost for the year. We'll find out if I need to adjust those estimates after we've been here for a year.

So, the total monthly bills add up to $1334/month. Not too bad, and only about $100 more a month then we were paying for our bills while we were renting so we should be in pretty good shape - thanks to our low, low mortgage! Now, what I did is since me and my husband are paid every 2 weeks on an opposite rotation - one of us gets a pay check every week - so, I've calculated weekly costs of $333.50. This amount will be taken out of our main account each week on pay day and moved into our savings account and used for bills. That way, we will know that anything left in our main account is 'extra' or 'savings' cash, and that's it. 

I have just started this plan so we will see how it works out! 

Now, a few ways to save money:

1) Cellphones -- Barry and I both have cellphones that are prepaid and cost $20/month each for unlimited texting, since that's all we use our cellphones for, it works for us. Even if we didn't, we would definitely look around for something that is cheap. I had a cellphone when I was 17 that was in my mom's name -- that thing was under a 3 yr contract and ended up costing $85/month. There is no way that either of us would pay that kind of cash! No matter how much I want an iPhone, it is not going to happen.

2) Cable Providers -- In our apartment, we had only 1 option for television service and they were horrible. We were there for 2.5 years and I believe in that time our bill doubled without us ever having changing our programming. Their customer service was terrible, too. Luckily, where we are now we have a choice and we were able to shop around for the best price that worked for us. Our old company offered us their first born if we stuck with them, but it wasn't going to happen after our experiences. We are now saving approximately $30 on this bill by being able to go with another company, plus we get more channels and programming for our money. Win, win!

3) Online Shopping -- I LOVE to shop online and I despise shopping in stores. I've very much an emotional shopper when I'm in a store and that can be costly. But, when I'm shopping online I find myself very picky and indecisive about my purchases. I'll find something that I love, but then I think, 'what if it's on sale somewhere else?' and with that, I will go searching. Normally by the end of my search I've realized that what I've been looking at is not neccessarily a NEED and is more of a WANT, and I don't end up buying anything. This is just me - and I know it won't work for everyone, but it certainly does for me!

4) Grocery Shopping -- Ahh, grocery shopping, one of my biggest pet peeves. Fortunately, around here we have 4 big name grocery stores in our small city and they all like to compete with each other. Instead of having to go to all 4 for different sales - we can go to 1 and they will price match the other 3 stores. I hate to do this if the store is busy and there is a long line of people behind us while we are having the cashier price match but come on - we've saved up to $100 a trip by doing this.

5) Eating Out -- This one struggle we have. Or, I have. I love to eat out! Most girls will treat themselves to a new dress or new makeup product but I am ALL about treating myself by hitting up a drive-thru or going out for dinner. We did this way too much our first week here, but in the midst of moving, it can be understandable. Now, we are trying to limit ourselves to once a week as a treat. One pizza a week, or one dinner out a week. The rest of the time we stay in and cook, but that in itself can be tough when Barry works shiftwork, and I hate cooking a meal just for myself, but we are working on this one!

6) Coupons -- I'm not a big coupon person, as in the paper kind you take to the store. However, I have no shame hunting online for discount codes since that's how I do most of my shopping anyway. If I find something I am planning to purchase, I will search high and low for a coupon for that store. Even $5 sometimes makes it worth it, or free shipping coupons are always a bonus!

7) Work Lunches -- I was shocked once I sat down and figured out the number of coins I was putting into my work vending machine, and there was absolutely no need or reason for it, except for laziness and habit. The change definitely added up in my case. Barry has always been good for taking his own lunch everyday, of course I always end up making it -- so why don't I take 5 minutes out and make my own right along with his? I thought I was picky, or I would feel even worse if I wasted food. Now, I just pack a light lunch. A drink or two, and a few things to snack on during the day. This way, I'm not tempted by the vending machines and I don't feel bad for wasting a big lunch.

8) Entertainment -- Besides eating out, and the odd casino trip (which is a money sucker on all it's own, and we are NOT going anymore except on New Year's Eve) we don't really 'go out' and spend tons of money on events or evenings out. One thing we do enjoy, however, is our local Canadian hockey team games. We've been going to their games for years and over the years, have noticed that the ticket prices just keep going up and up and up. Every single year. Sometimes we just go on Saturday nights, but sometimes we always go one night through the week if it's supposed to be a really good game and it was costing a lot of money to keep up with this. As it turns out, my employer is now a major sponsor for this team and we are able to get tickets for UNDER half price! Huge savings and it makes the night out a little bit more enjoyable when you are spending so much less. This won't work for everyone, of course, but the point is -- There are always things you can do to cut things down, search around for deals, etc. It can happen!

9) Don't 'Deprive' Yourself, Treat Yourself -- This is more of changing your mindset. Instead of picking up a Tim Hortons coffee on the way to work out of habit, tell yourself that it's a treat if you stop and get one. Remember the dollar value that one cup coffee cost you, and enjoy it with that in mind! Everyone needs to treat themselves every once in a while, but it helps to start thinking of things this way so you aren't falling back into a money sucking trap (like Tim Hortons coffee several times a day!).

What are some of your best tips for saving money?


  1. When I first started looking at credit cards, I was under the impression I was supposed to pay them off right away until two different people told me credit cards companies actually want you to have something of a balance...let me explain (and no is not the obvious they want to screw you and want all your money). For example if your credit limit is of $500, a good way to BUILD credit (and yes there is a difference between building and keeping it) is to no spend more than half of it (so in this case no more than $250) in either groceries/a present/stuff for the house whatever, then pay about half of that ($125) on the first month, and pay the other $125 the next month. The reason card companies want to see some sort of balance is because a) is letting them know you are responsible handling their money and you can borrow without going overboard, b) you are paying waaay more than the minimum balance so it shows you are a responsible. This helps you build your credit fast, now if you just want to KEEP your good credit going then you pay off your entire balance every month.

    Really though credit cards aren't as scary as people make them out to be. The problem is when people like to pretend they can live above their means and start buying things they can't afford. But that has to do with more of a lack of common sense and handling money than with credit cards themselves. You can still get in a crap load of debt by just relying on cash only.

    Bringing your own lunch is a good way to save money and eat healthy! that way when you do go out you don't feel as guilty. Also does Canada have its own version of groupon/livingsocial? they are good places to find coupons on restaurants/things to do around the city. So it wouldn't hurt to check it out.

    Something I do that also helps me save money is every week I put away $50 (on top of the one I put on my savings) it can be a different amount for you and your husband (maybe you guys can put $25 each?). I just put it in a drawer and forget about it for either the entire week or month. Sometimes I just grab $10 out of it if I'm feeling in the mood for a snack or something, but most of the time I just let it sit there. It might sound silly since I already have money designated as spending money but it's a good way to a) buy something I really really want and not feel guilty about it or b) just having extra cash that i can always put back into my savings. Actually before our trip to Cali, I put away $50 a week for about 3 months prior to our trip and that basically paid for a big chunk of it.

    Of Bees and Bonnets

    1. That makes sense, and I've heard that before about credit card balances (to wait on paying credit cards to carry some sort of a balance) but I didn't have any credit up until this year, when I finally gave in and got a secured credit card. It was needed for booking hotel rooms and things like that where cash wasn't really an option, and in August when we purchased our home we received a very low mortgage rate and I was told I had excellent, but new credit (my husband had none too!) which helped, and I have always paid my entire balance at the end of the month - so it must build somehow that way, too! There has only been maybe 1 month when I forgot to make the full payment and interest was added.

      I definitely agree that credit cards don't need to be scary at all -- common sense in a big factor when using a credit card!

      Canada does have both groupon/livingsocial but there are very few deals in my area (I'm in a smaller city and the closest big city that does have great deals on there is about 2.5 hours away) but I'm definitely keeping my eye on both of those sites because they do have some awesome deals.

      And putting away money each week is an excellent idea -- it can allow you to treat yourself every once in a while, or save up for something you truly want. I think we will be doing this but in a slightly different way. Each week when I move the amount to our Savings account to cover our bills, I might throw in an extra $25 or $50. I would do it this way, just because both my husband and I are more apt to spend if we have cash readily available. (Sad, but true!)

  2. these are really great tips! my fiance and i mainly keep our finances separate but since we're getting married next year, i want to figure out a budget that involves both of us so we can see where our money is going. i'd like to coupon more for groceries but i tend to get lazy with that. but i do alwayssss search for coupons before i buy anything online. usually can help a lot!
    -- jackie @ jade and oak

    1. It has been tough - my husband and I have only been married for 5ish months now but we lived together for 5 years prior and combined fiances almost immediately. I pay all the monthly bills and keep an eye on the fiances, which can be tough when I see a $200 withdrawal and I have no idea what it's for. I hate to feel like I'm harping, but if he wants me to be in charge of the finances, he needs to warn me/let me know about this like that, which he is STILL learning to do!

      I find it so much easier to use coupons/discount codes online, and so much easier to find them! I feel bad going to a crazy busy grocery store and making the cashier scan and process several coupons -- I feel self conscious and like people are staring at me thinking I'm cheap, which shouldn't be the case at all, and I just need to get over it, haha!


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  3. Great post! My husband and I have loved how calm we feel about our finances since we started our marriage with a strict budget. I get so sad for the people who tell us how crazy we are for having inexpensive phones, one car, and not paying for cable yet. If only they knew that both our self phones cost less than half of one of theirs!

    1. So true! I know so many people who live above their means -- one example is my friend who was working at a pretty decent job around here making $30 an hour. He was since laid off, and is making $12 an hour, but still leads the same lifestyle. It's definitely not my place to say anything, and his choice, but I feel for the day he can't afford to make his mortgage payment because he just spend $800 on some new clothes.

      Sounds like mine and my husband's cellphones - his doesn't even have a camera on it - it's that old! I would love to have an iPhone, but everytime I picked it up, I would be thinking of all the other things I could have spend that money on and how unnecessary it was.

  4. I definitely need to get better about finding coupons. I never think about them until after the fact, though!

    1. I'm that way too - except for online purchases. If I find something I want to have online, I will spend days searching for a coupon code or somewhere that has it cheaper. Sometimes it's a waste of time, sometimes it does save quite a few dollars, and sometimes that time searching makes me realize I didn't really need what I was about to purchase, anyway!

  5. New follower, and so glad I found your blog! I love this list, so helpful and most things I find myself spending money on never seem to add up until I actually take the time to work the math. Nice to "meet" you! :)



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