“We’ve cut back as much as we can, and it’s still hard to make ends meet.”
Sound familiar? You’re not alone. In fact, you’d be in the overwhelming majority of Canadians walking a fine tightrope. And it’s getting tighter with higher gas and grocery prices.
Firstly, the average Canadian family devotes 23% of their yearly spend on food and private transportation. So, every dollar saved here has more value to the overall fight against inflation.
Secondly, it would be smart to build money-saving habits in these areas because the inflation we are seeing is a direct result of the pandemic and recent world events. It may stick around for a while.
And thirdly, as you’ll see below, you have a surprising amount of control over both.
The best way to save on gas is to use less of it. Walk or bike when you can and enjoy the added benefits of fresh air and a bit of exercise. If public transit is an option and not completely inconvenient, take the extra few minutes to save a few extra dollars. Depending on where you’re going, it may be faster than driving.
When you do have to drive, you can use apps like GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas station in your area. And you can make a tank go farther by being mindful of your driving style. For example, gentle acceleration and stopping can improve fuel consumption by up to 39 percent, according to the CAA.
If you’ve ridden a bike, you know how much more energy it takes to go from stationary to top speed rather than a slow, gradual climb to top gear. Your car works the same way, with the gas playing the role of your leg power. The reverse is also true: riding your brakes uses more gas than coasting to a slow stop.
When you’re in the car not driving, keep in mind that you waste as much as a litre of gas for every 20 minutes of idling. And when you hit milestone kilometer marks on your speedometer, remember that keeping your tires properly inflated can improve your vehicle’s fuel economy by 4 percent. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but it adds up quickly these days.
In conjunction with your effort to use less gas, let’s look at some ways you can save on fueling yourself.
You’ve probably seen news stories about how the price of gas is going up or down in the coming days. If you see one saying the price is dropping the next day then maybe it’s time to fill up your car even if you have half a tank. You’ll save money over time this way.
How often have you filled up your car, driven down the road 10 minutes and seen another gas station with a lower cost? It’s maddening right?
GasBuddy is an app that show the prices of gas stations near you so you never have to have that happen ever again. It also allows you to earn points on other purchases that you can put towards gas.
Ditch buying brand name products where possible. Buying the more generic store owned brands is a great simple way to save money. The taste difference between a generic product and that of a brand name one is often hardly noticeable. They’re often priced lower as an incentive for you to buy them, and you can often save about 25% on products this way.
We get it, cooking can be very annoying and time consuming. Sometimes you just want to throw something that’s already made in the oven or microwave to save time and energy. These meals cost more than if you just made it yourself though.
Buying the ingredients and making meal yourself will give you a larger portion of food as well. You can save the leftovers and microwave them later, giving yourself your own ‘prepackaged’ meal for cheaper. Budget Bytes is a website that is full of recipes you can make for cheap. It even gives you some idea of how much you might pay to make the meal.
One of the easiest ways to save some cash on your grocery bill is to buy items in bulk. This saves you from having to go back to the store—using more gas! —and buying the same things over and over regularly.
It may cost more upfront, but it can seriously save you money in the long run, especially if the price goes up the next week.
You’ll want to make sure that what you buy in bulk is something that you will actually use though. There’s no point in buying lots of perishable items that will go back by the end of the week. Pasta, chips, rice and toilet paper are great examples of foods to spend a little more on now for savings down the road.
This is one of the easiest ways to save money at a grocery store. Many chains offer to price match other stores nearby. Apps like reebee and Flipp will help you easily find items on sale at different stores.
You can also check the flyers of the stores in your area (yes, grocery flyers do still exist, usually online or through the store’s app), you’ll often see the same product at different prices.
If you shop at a store that offers price matching, simply show the cashier proof that the same product is being sold at a lower price at a nearby store and they’ll charge you the lower price. You can save a bundle without having to hit multiple grocery stores this way.
Food waste is a huge drain on your grocery bill. You’re paying for things you don’t even use. Best way to avoid this? Plan your meals in advance. Decide what’s for breakfast, lunch and dinner the next few days before you go to store and you won’t do nearly as much impulse shopping of food you won’t end up eating. You’ll only buy what you need.
Meal planning also gives you a chance to go through your food before heading to the store. You’ll always know what you already have and won’t end up buying duplicates you don’t need.
And another way is to start gardening and grow your own food. Basic vegetables like lettuces, potatoes, broccoli, etc., are fairly easy to grow yourself. And the more space you have, the more you will save.
You can continue benefiting from your home-grown food long after the summer months. Jarring your food will keep it preserved and allow you to learn how to make your own salsa, pickles, jam and more.
Additional bonuses to discovering the joys of gardening are the added nutritional value and knowing exactly what goes into your food.
This economic situation won’t last. Like previous slowdowns, a return to more stable times may take time but will happen. In the meantime, build some money-saving habits and be thrifty where you can. Tough times can teach us important lessons that will serve us well in the long run.