The new year is a great time to start fresh with a money-smart budget. We’d all like to pay down debts or stash away some savings, but some of what money experts preach seems so unrealistic. With expenses like diapers and daycare, who can set aside three months’ worth of household expenses in an emergency fund? So we asked Today’s Parent readers to share the budgeting strategies that work for them. Choose the ones that fit your family’s lifestyle, put them into action, and watch your savings grow.
Become less interest-ed Adrian Crook, a dad in North Van-couver, shopped around to refinance his car loan, negotiating a rate 0.19% lower. Simply by making a few phone calls, he reduced his monthly payments by $37.
Adrian saves: $444 a year
Sneak funds into your savings account Here’s a clever twist on the old idea of accumulating pocket change in a jar. Whenever Melissa Robinson does online banking — usually a few times a week — she transfers the uneven part of her daily account balance into her savings account. So if the account sits at $543.27, she’ll move the extra $3.27 into savings, leaving an even $540. Using this simple approach, she set aside enough money to build a backyard deck.
Melissa saves: $520 a year (plus interest), if she transfers $10 a week
Say bye-bye bank fees, ta-ta Tim’s Dayna Beebe of Bath, Ont., had been paying bank service fees of $12.95 a month so she could make unlimited debits from her account. By switching to a different account option with no upfront fees, she now plans ahead for cash expenses and makes a single withdrawal each month to cover everything. At the same time, she started bringing coffee from home rather than buying it on her way to work, cutting about $7.50 a week.
Dayna saves: $155.40 on bank fees, $390 on takeout coffee, for a total of $545.40 a year
Slash your supermarket spending As a single mom of five, Pattie Clark of Ottawa maintains a strict grocery budget. Because her family eats two $7 packages of chicken a week, she could spend $728 a year on chicken alone! But by shopping in the 30%-off section of the meat aisle, and immediately freezing purchases that are about to hit the best-before date, she saves $218 a year on chicken alone. “I do the same with pork and beef,” she says, “and defrost a package on the day I plan to cook it.”
Pattie saves: $500+ a year
Take a holiday in your hometown After estimating that even a modest road trip would cost about $1,200 — not to mention the seven-hour drive with their four- and two-year-old children — Vanessa Shields of Windsor, Ont., and her husband decided instead to plan three separate day trips to nearby attractions. They packed lunches and snacks, which kept their total cost to just $300.
Vanessa doesn’t feel as if they missed anything by not sleeping in a hotel; coming home to familiar surroundings “helped with not breaking our bedtime routine,” she says.
Vanessa saves: $900