October 08, 2020 | By: Sandra Sherk

How to Save Money By Going Back to Basics

Money Management | Budgeting | Saving Money

Millions of parents and grandparents can’t be wrong: going back to basics can save you money. If you’ve ever received this advice, you may have not taken it seriously, especially after they went on about walking uphill to school four miles in the dead of winter – both ways. Whether that was an exaggeration or not, parents and grandparents usually do know a thing or two about saving money and spending money wisely.

8 Ways to Save Money

Previous generations tended to be more careful with their money and how they spent it. That is likely why many of them are/were able to afford to spend our cold Canadian winters in Florida or Arizona. So, let’s look at some things they may have done that could help save you money today.

1. Cooking and Eating as a Family

When I was growing up, eating out was a treat. I still remember going to the drive-in restaurant as a family and ordering foot long hotdogs and chocolate milk shakes (I probably just dated myself!). But normally, we ate a home-cooked meal as a family. As us kids got older, we even helped prepare the meal. This gave us all time to talk about our day, and it was less expensive than going out to eat (there wasn’t delivery or ordering-in where I lived). 

Today, when factoring in taxes and tip, eating out for a family of four today will cost you around $20 per person with taxes and tip ($80 per family) – and that’s at the low end. Buying groceries and cooking at home not only provides family time, it can save you a bundle. After all, much of what you spend eating out isn’t on food, it’s on the “experience,” and a better one can often be had at home! Be sure to check out our blog How to Save Money on Groceries for more.

2. Bringing Leftovers for Lunch

My parents rarely went to the sub shop or the pizza parlour for lunch (and neither did us kids). By cooking dinner at home, there were leftovers available that would wind up in lunch boxes the next day, and there was nothing better! My favorite? A thermos full of stew. It was a great way to warm up – and fill up! 

It’s estimated that a basic lunch out will run you about $14. What do leftovers cost? Nothing! A couple I counselled a few years ago knew they had been successful in budgeting and saving money when their weekly compost bin had very little in it – that meant they were no longer wasting food! 

3. Taking Your Coffee to Work or School

It may surprise some young people, but there didn’t used to be a Tims or Starbucks on every corner! Most people heading off to work would brew coffee at home and fill a large thermos, and many ate breakfast before they left home too. As a result, there was no need to stop and buy coffee and a muffin on the way to work (and no need to spend money on the morning break, either).  

Skipping that store-bought coffee and muffin will probably save you around $4 per day, or about $20 per week. That’s over $1000 per year! Just think about what you could do with that money.

4. Refilling Your Water Bottle

Back in the day, we didn’t have disposable water bottles; we would drink water from a fountain or a glass! Now that we know water is very important for our health, but that disposable bottles of water are costly and a drain on the environment, try using a refillable water bottle or tumbler (which will keep it cold too) and bring it to your work area. Save on the cost of bottled water (about $2 per bottle) and save the whales!

5. Avoiding ATM Fees

Our grandparents, and even some of our parents, didn’t have to worry about the cost of ATMs – there weren’t any! ATMs didn’t become popular until the late 1970s, so prior to that people had to make it to their bank during the very limited banking hours. Preplanning was important, as you’d want to be sure you had enough cash to get through the week without making another trip to the bank. 

Today, using another bank’s ATM could cost you up to $10 per transaction; that’s because your bank, and the bank ATM you’re using, will both charge a fee. Hit the ATM often, and these fees really add up!

6. Rethinking Your Entertainment Options

When I was a kid, families would often gather at one home, each bringing something to eat and drink and. They might play cards and visit while the kids played board games.  There was no need for a babysitter because the kids went with you! I also remember spending Saturday nights watching TV with my family munching on a bowl of freshly made popcorn. There was Red Skelton, Carol Burnett, The Love Boat, and of course, Hockey Night in Canada – we would laugh and cheer together!

The point is, bringing back family night or family night with friends can save you a lot of money; make those “nights on the town” for special occasions. Not only will it bring your family closer together, it will save you money on babysitting (my niece tells me the going rate today is $10-12 per hour, a far cry from the 50 cents I’d earn!).  

7. Organizing Your Errands

There wasn’t the number and variety of stores in the past that there are today. I remember my Mum organizing where we needed to go and what we needed to get when we went out shopping because we couldn’t afford to waste gas going back to the same store later in the week. If something was forgotten, we’d just do without it. 

Applying this same thought today can save you money and time, and we all could use more of both. Be sure to make a shopping list, which will also help you avoid impulse buys on display that are trying to tempt you out of your hard-earned money.

8. Choosing Simple Activities

If you’re wondering how to save money each month, choose simple activities! In the past, we didn’t go regularly to the movies, the aquarium, or the indoor bike park.  Winter weather meant going to the local arena for a couple of hours of skating, or just sledding at a local hill. When it warmed up, we’d go biking around town or the school grounds (we didn’t have a local park). Then we would come back home and warm up with hot chocolate or cool down with Kool-Aid. We didn’t need to spend money to have fun or to be entertained! Looking for other ways to save money? Check out these frugal living tips.

Get More Tips for Saving Money

Do you want to know what I really miss? Penny candy. For a dime we could fill a small bag with our favorite goodies. How many of you remember black balls, caramels, and lace licorice? Once a year we went to my cousins’ in Michigan and we were given 50 cents to spend at Ben Franklin’s five-and-dime store. We were in heaven. But those were simpler times...

Today, the need for instant gratification and to “go big or go home” often has us spending beyond our means and winding up in financial trouble. By going back to basics, we can begin eliminating debt and saving up money. Hopefully, the money-saving tips above will help you see just how much you could save by going back to basics. And note, that many of them will allow for more time with friends or family!  

Want more tips for saving money? Check out our tips and tools that can help you with managing your money, and be sure to subscribe to our blog for insight delivered right to your inbox. If you need more help, give us a call at 1-800-267-2272 and book a free confidential counselling session with one of our certified Credit Counsellors.

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