How to Save Money Fast in Canada


Bradley Schnitzer

Last Updated:

Money

Saving extra cash can be hard. Expenses eat away at every paycheck that hits your bank accounts. Not just regular expenses, either — every month, it seems like something’s breaking or falling into disrepair.

When all is said and done, you have little money left over to save for the future.

Fortunately, you have options. There are a lot of ways to save money fast, some of which we’ve compiled below.

If you’re willing to adopt a frugal mindset and follow some of these tips, you’ll quickly add some extra cash to your bank balance.

1. Negotiate your credit cards

  1. Time: Minimal
  2. Potential savings: Assuming $4,000 of credit card debt at a 19% interest, you could save $200 per year if you can negotiate your interest rate down to 14%. 
  3. Quality of life impact: None.
  4. Other benefits: When your interest rate is lower, paying your bill is easier — helping you to improve your credit score.

If your credit cards have a high interest rate, you may be able to call your credit card company and negotiate a lower interest rate. 

You’ll need to prepare for the negotiation, though. Start by finding and making notes of credit card offers similar to your current card but with lower rates. It’s much more expensive for companies to acquire new customers than to keep old ones.

Once you call the company, you’ll have to sell them on a lower rate. Remind them of your regular credit card use and excellent payment history. If you have a strong credit score, mention that as well.

Be prepared to inform the company of the offers you found before calling as well. You may have to explain that you’re thinking of transferring your balance to the new card if you can’t get a lower rate from your current company.

Many Canadian credit card companies may also be willing to drop your annual fee. The card company won’t want to lose a customer over a small fee, so make a separate call to negotiate it away.

2. Lower the thermostat

  • Time: Minimal
  • Potential savings: 5-10% on your electric/gas bill
  • Quality of life impact: You’ll have to layer up at home.
  • Other benefits: You help the environment.

Do you blast the heat in the winter? Turning the thermostat down about 5 degrees Celsius for the 8 hours you’re away at work can save you 5-10% on your heating bill.

The savings don’t have to stop there. You can turn down the thermostat while you’re at home, too — just throw on an extra layer of clothing to stay warm.

Saving on your energy bill and helping the environment go hand-in-hand too — by using less energy for heat, you’re doing a small part to help the planet.

3. Cancel unused subscriptions

  • Time: Minimal
  • Potential savings: Spotify Premium ($10/month), Netflix Standard Plan ($12.99 per month), Hulu Basic ($5.99/month) Playstation Plus ($9.99/month), Amazon Prime ($119/year or $12.99/month)
  • Quality of life impact: For unused subscriptions, minimal. If you cancel something you do use, it may affect your life a bit more.
  • Other benefits: Helping the environment

Many Canadians purchase various subscription services that they rarely use. Cutting some of these subscriptions will put a good chunk of change back into your pocket each month.

Take stock of the services you’re subscribed to and think about how much you use them. Cut out any subscriptions that you haven’t used in a while.

4. Seek out free entertainment

  • Time: Minimal
  • Potential savings: $200 per month
  • Quality of life impact: Moderate. Many entertainment options cost money.
  • Other benefits: You can get out more, try new things, and even help your community. It all depends on what forms of entertainment you take up.

Have you ever said that you’re too broke to go out? Believe it or not, you don’t need to spend any money to have fun. Here are a few budget-friendly ways to enjoy yourself:

  • Check out books from the library
  • Visit museums or zoos during times when they offer free admissions
  • Join a club or meetup group that is based on one of your interests
  • Go camping
  • Volunteer

You could easily fill up many of your weekends with free activities if you look around.

5. Become a host on Airbnb

  • Time: Moderate. Enough time to maintain your home and provide basic amenities for guests. Signing up takes some time, as you need to take high-quality photos.
  • Potential savings: Several hundred per month, depending on how often you make your home available to guests.
  • Quality of life impact: Minimal, unless the guest is bad.
  • Other benefits: You get to meet new people. You’ll also learn skills such as keeping your books and marketing — and you’ll improve your interpersonal skills when interacting with your guests.

Some Canadians can cover most of their mortgage or rent with a couple of days per week of Airbnb hosting. Not a bad deal.

To list your home, you first have to sign up for Airbnb. From there, you fill out details about your home and set its availability. Make sure to take good pictures, as photography will really sell your home.

Now, you have to make sure you follow any applicable laws and rules. For example, many renters will be unable to rent their homes to guests using Airbnb due to their lease agreement. Breaking the lease could lead to fines.

Homeowners have to check with local laws regarding renting parts of your home. If you get caught circumventing the law, you may owe hefty fines and penalties — more than enough to negate any income you earned from Airbnb hosting.

6. Start a side hustle

  • Time: Varies. It can be a lot depending on the side hustle.
  • Potential savings: Varies depending on the side hustle.
  • Quality of life impact: May restrict your free time.
  • Other benefits: Many side hustles can teach you valuable skills that can help you land better jobs. Some hustles can even grow into full-time businesses.

One of the simplest ways to save more money is to work more. Not at your job, though — but with a side hustle.

Side hustles come in many forms. You could drive for Uber/Lyft, deliver food for Grubhub, do some freelance work, walk your neighbors’ dogs, house sit, and the list goes on.

What’s cool about side hustles is that some of them can grow into full-time gigs. For example, if you do freelance writing, you could one day be earning enough writing income to quit your day job.

That being said, make sure you keep up with the administrative and financial tasks of running a side hustle. Keep your side hustle income and expenses separate from your personal funds, and set aside some of your earnings for taxes.

7. Pack your own lunch

  • Time: A few minutes each evening. Alternatively, a few hours every week days if you meal prep.
  • Potential savings: $140 per month. ($12 per lunch, 5 days a week)
  • Quality of life impact: You won’t get to eat at your favorite spots as often.
  • Other benefits: You can make healthier food choices.

Although it may be tempting to go out to lunch every day, it’s also expensive. Assuming you spend about $12 per day to eat out for lunch and you eat out every weekday, you’re spending about $140 per month on lunch.

Making your lunch is a lot cheaper. If you cook your own meals, you could be eating lunch for $5 per day instead of $12, saving you a lot of money in the long run.

For maximum efficiency, consider meal prepping. One or two days per week, spend an hour or two preparing several lunches. Doing so will save you from having to pack lunch each day, as well as prevent you from giving in to temptation and going out for lunch.

8. Work out at home

  • Time: No more than your regular workout
  • Potential savings: $40-50 per month, plus any initiation fees.
  • Quality of life impact: Minimal. 
  • Other benefits: Save time on travelling to the gym — also, less waiting for the equipment you need.

The average gym membership costs $40-50 per month. 

Do you really need your gym membership to get a workout in? Unless you love the social aspect or you’re learning a skill such as boxing, you can ditch your gym entirely in favor of home workouts.

You don’t need weights or treadmills to get a good workout in. For resistance training, you have bodyweight exercises — squats, pushups, situps, burpees, and more. 

You can also invest in some basic equipment for yourself to workout at home. An ab rollout wheel, a pullup bar, and some dumbbells won’t cost you much — and they will pay for themselves over time.

Cardio’s even easier. Go for a walk or jog, do some jumping jacks, or play some pickup sports with friends. After all, fresh air is also good for you.

Once you start working out at home or outdoors, you’ll realize how much time you’re saving as well. No more fighting traffic to get to a crowded gym in which you’ll have to wait for the equipment or machines you want to use.

9. Brew your own coffee

  • Time: 5-10 minutes per day
  • Potential savings: $30-40 per month
  • Quality of life impact: Minimal.
  • Other benefits: Less temptation to buy a hash brown as well

Grabbing your morning caffeine from Tim Horton’s may be convenient. Each cup adds up, though — your daily coffee purchase could be costing you $30-40 per month, depending on your order.

Brewing your coffee at home could drop that amount to around $10, if not lower. Invest in a good coffee machine, and it will pay for itself. Grab yourself a travel mug as well so you can enjoy your brew on the way to work.

10. Walk, bike, carpool, or take public transit to work

  • Time: Minimal to moderate. Depends on the method of travel.
  • Potential savings: $150-170 per month
  • Quality of life impact: Not bad in the warmer months, but walking or biking to work in the winter can be quite challenging. 
  • Other benefits: Walking and biking are good for your health. You also put fewer kilometers on your car. Lastly, you also help the environment slightly by keeping another vehicle off the road.

Cars can be expensive to own and maintain, even after you pay them off.

Canadian households spend around $2,000 per year on gas, according to Statistics Canada. Of course, there are also maintenance and repair costs to think about.

Carpooling or using public transit can cut those costs drastically while reducing the number of kilometers you put on your car.

Consider walking or biking to work if you live close enough to your place of work. You get fresh air and exercise, and it may even be faster than public transit in some cases.

11. Buy generic grocery brands

  • Time: Minimal. 
  • Potential savings: Up to 30% on your grocery bill.
  • Quality of life impact: Minimal. You likely won’t have to abandon your favorite grocery items just because you switched brands.
  • Other benefits: None.

Opting for generic brands can help you save big on your grocery bill. Consumer Reports found that generic brands cost an 15 to 30% less than their brand-name counterparts.

That being said, generic items aren’t always cheaper. In fact, the Wall Street Journal also observed that generic item prices are increasing at a higher rate than brand-name items.

Always compare prices just in case.

12. Open a high-yield savings account

  • Time: Moderate. You have to research different savings accounts and compare features and fees.
  • Potential savings: Depends on interest offered. High-yield savings accounts pay up to 2.80% per year
  • Quality of life impact: None.
  • Other benefits: Signup bonuses.

High-yield savings accounts offered by digital banks are becoming more popular among Canadians for obvious reasons — they pay much more interest than traditional savings accounts.

For example, EQ Bank’s high-yield savings account pays 2.45% interest. That’s much higher than the rates you’d find on standard savings accounts, which usually sit in the tenths of a percent range.

Opening a high-yield savings account is just like opening any other bank account. You’ll need to fill out an application on which you’ll provide necessary personal and financial information.

Upon approval, you then have to fund your new account by transferring money or making a deposit. 

What to consider when looking for ways to save money

Time

Time is money, as the old saying goes. Some activities that lead to savings may seem worth it on the surface, but you have to consider how much time the activity takes. 

It’s easiest to think of this in terms of hourly rates, so let’s look at starting a side hustle as an example. If you spend 5 hours a week working on your side gig and make $20, you’re earning $4 an hour. 

You could probably cut almost $20 per week from your weekly grocery bill in a fraction of the time by comparing prices and shopping for cheaper brands.

Potential savings

Your savings potential is the most crucial factor in deciding which money-saving activities you want to do, especially if the amount of time involved in each activity is relatively similar. 

Always look for activities that take little time but offer good Potential savings.

Quality of life impact

In most cases, saving money involves making sacrifices. These sacrifices shouldn’t make life miserable, though.

A prime example is saving on heating. Turning the thermostat down and throwing on a sweatshirt may be slightly uncomfortable, but bearable.

However, never using heat means you’ll be freezing in your house all the time. Plus, it’s terrible for your home’s plumbing.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to determine which sacrifices you’d like to make. Weigh the amount you’ll save against how “worse” your life will be.

Other benefits

Not all rewards are financial. Are there any Other benefits from adopting a frugal activity? 

For example, walking to work saves on gas and gets you some exercise. With the blood flowing, you may even perform better at work.

Or look at a side hustle. You learn plenty of useful skills that can boost your value on the job market.

References

Over to you

We’d love to know — have you used any of these to save money? How much did you save? What are your go-to money saving methods? Please let us know by leaving a comment below.

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