Living frugal is more important now than it has ever been in most of our lives. We are experiencing record high unemployment rates and the financial markets have been hard hit during this pandemic. If you've read any of my previous blogs, you will know I often mention planning and saving for a rainy day. Well, that rainy day is upon us and it's a storm of new proportions.
What Does it Mean to be Frugal?
Being frugal doesn’t mean being cheap. It means being smart with your money and understanding its value. Right now, we need to be careful due to the current financial situation we're facing, especially if you're dealing with debt. But as a person who likes to think of the glass half full versus half empty, these new skills or habits you learn can be carried into the future and you will see the savings that you can achieve. Let’s be frugal, because little savings here and there really do add up!
Save on Transportation Costs
If you own a car, you will likely find you've been saving on gas as you are making less trips. (It helps even more that gas prices are low right now.) You likely go to the drugstore, and possibly the gas station when you go out grocery shopping. If you continue combining these trips once we return to “normal’, you will continue to save money. And watch gas prices. I know in the area around my home, the prices can vary by a few cents a litre.
Review Your Car Insurance
If you aren’t using your car at all or if your mileage has decreased as you aren’t commuting to work or being out and about with friends, call your insurance company to see what savings they can offer. It will take a phone call and some time, but the savings will stay in your pocket. These savings could continue into the future if you are able to change your driving habits for good, such as working from home a couple days a week.
Watch Your ATM Fees
When you start to live frugal, you become very aware of what you are spending in different areas and you look for ways to cut out unnecessary costs. For many people, banking charges are one of those costs. Don’t pay for additional service charges you can avoid. If you pay a monthly fee to have your bank account, paying ATM charges on top of that doesn't make financial sense. For example, I only use my bank’s ATMs to avoid being charged $6 to $10 per transaction for using another bank’s machine. This is something you should do too, and not just for now, but for good!
Keep Up the Home Cooking
During this pandemic, many people have taken up or returned to home cooking. This is evident by the empty shelves we see in the grocery stores. (We've even run out of yeast!) You may think your grocery bills have increased, but remember, you are saving on the cost of take out meals.
Once you're back to working outside of your home, you will have less time for cooking, but by pre-planning your menus you can continue with these delicious meals and healthy new habits. Involve all family members and share the tasks. And what about that home baking – nothing beats a homemade chocolate chip cookie (and they are great in a packed lunch, too).
Take Your Lunch to Work
If you are currently working from home or you are not working, you have likely been saving money as you aren’t buying lunches and coffee. You are maybe having leftovers for lunch. Keep this up when you are back to work and the savings will continue. These are the “habits” that are good to keep. If you are working away from home, but your partner is home and cooking, then you can take leftovers for lunch starting now. And taking your coffee or tea with you, really adds up over the weeks and months ahead.
Use Your Points
Now is likely a good time to use the points you have been accumulating. PC Optimum for example can be used to buy groceries. You can cash in Air Miles as well for gas, groceries, etc. Maybe you were saving them for a vacation, but if they can help you now it's worth using them. Once things change, you can go back to saving those points for that special trip. And if you have some extra time now, review your credit card fees to see if the benefits are worth the cost.
Some of you may find it hard to believe that you haven’t been to a mall for about two months. And guess what, you're still okay. Don’t make shopping a habit – something to do just to pass the time. Shop with a purpose and ask yourself if you really need those new pants. Maybe you've recently cleaned out your closet and drawers and found items you had forgotten about. When you get back to work, use these items instead of buying new apparel. Others will think you went on a shopping spree when you haven't spent a penny. And if you became a DIY pro with your nails, etc. then keep it up and put that money towards your savings instead of bi-weekly manicures and pedicures.
Frugal Lessons Learned During COVID
Living frugal doesn't mean suffering and saving every penny you earn. It's about using your money for things that truly matter to you and important for your future. We're all learning during this COVID crisis that we can get by with less. If we keep up these money saving habits, then we can achieve future financial goals.
Contact Credit Canada for Help on Living Frugal Now and in the Future
You can use Credit Canada's free Budget Calculator to see what areas you can cut back on in your everyday spending that will help you make ends meet today and tomorrow. But if you're looking for more specific, one-on-one advice, you can book a free counselling session with one of our friendly Credit Counsellors by calling 1.800.267.2272.
Even during these difficult times, we're available by phone to review your budget and suggest how you can cut your costs to meet your needs today and in the coming days, months and years. Contact us today! All of our counselling is free, confidential and non-judgmental.