Money & Career

Save money every minute of the day

A few simple changes to your everyday routine can save you more than a thousand dollars a year
By Kira Vermond

7 a.m. Use less water
Your body has a finite number of parts, so why do your showers go on forever? Set an egg timer on your bathroom counter and keep your morning scrubbing and shampooing to 10 minutes or less. Slashing just five minutes off each shower can make for decent savings. And if you install a low-flow shower head, you’ll cut costs even further. (A family of four in Victoria, for instance, could pocket $120 a year, according to the local government.) The newest models use up to 70 percent less water and about 15 percent less energy than standard heads, without changing the water pressure — savings that’ll show up on your utilities bills. Look for shower heads that use five litres or less per minute.

7:10 a.m. Gotta half it
Women use way too much product in their hair, says Karen McLachlan, manager of the school of makeup and esthetics at Toronto’s George Brown College. Even if you have long hair, all you need is a quarter-sized dollop of shampoo; if your tresses are shorter, squeeze out a dime-sized blob. You’ll save money because the bottles will last longer. And when it comes to cosmetics, expensive isn’t necessarily better. “I’m so impressed by what you can buy in a drugstore. All the makeup companies have stepped it up a notch because they’re competing,” says McLachlan. “Even lower-end brands have made a real effort to stay on trend.” So reach for that $10 mascara instead of the $24 designer one every three months. For the best products, check out these drugstore deals.

8 a.m. Eat it up
Every time you buy a breakfast sandwich, it costs you $3. Instead, whip up your own convenience food by putting 2 cups of large-flake oatmeal in your slow cooker at night, along with dried fruit, water, milk or soy milk, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add a dash of maple syrup the next morning and you’ve got breakfast for less than 50 cents a bowl. Don’t like oatmeal? Hard-boil an egg the night before, add a piece of whole-grain toast and some fruit, and you’ve got a cheap, fast, healthy a.m. meal that will save you hundreds of dollars a year.

8:15 a.m. Take a load off
The heavier your vehicle, the more gas you’ll use and the more often you’ll have to visit the pump. In fact, an extra 45 kilograms can increase your fuel costs by 2 percent, according to the Canadian Automobile Association. Empty your trunk of all that sports equipment and excess baby gear before heading out in the morning and you’ll be about $50 richer by next year.

8:20 a.m. Re-evaluate your commute
Between hilly terrain and traffic, the shortest route to work isn’t always the most economical one. Google Maps lets you check terrain and traffic flow and find routes that avoid highways. (So does your GPS; try out the alternative-route function.) You can also reduce your driving costs by avoiding rush hour to minimize idling — cutting that down by 10 minutes a day can save you about $70 in a year, reports Natural Resources Canada. And check your tires: Making sure they’re properly inflated could save you about two weeks’ worth of gas yearly.

10:30 a.m. Brew it at home
Buying a $2 cup of premium joe every morning costs us more than we’d like to admit, but that doesn’t mean we’re willing to break our habit. Instead, sip from a travel mug. Our testers liked the Starbucks Green Tumbler ($25), which is bisphenol-A-free and keeps the coffee and tea you brewed at home warm. That should more than cover your morning slog — and, more importantly, save you a few hundred bucks over a year.

12:30 p.m. Flirt with brown bagging
Going out for lunch with colleagues makes the day more fun, so who wants to pack their lunch all the time? Fortunately, you don’t have to. Carting your meal to work just twice a week can save you a whack of cash over the long haul. When you do eat out, opt for an appetizer instead of a full lunch to cut your bill in half. (It will help you avoid the dreaded afternoon energy slump, too.)

1:20 p.m. Hit the ABM
Always paying with a debit card? There’s a good chance you’re going over your bank’s allotment of free transactions, which can hook you for 50 cents or more for each extra payment you make. Track your spending for a couple of weeks and see how much money you’re withdrawing. Then make one stop at your bank’s nearest ABM on Monday morning (other machines will charge you a processing fee of $1.25 or more, plus fees from your bank), and take out all the funds you will need to cover you for the week.

1:25 p.m. Steer clear of stores
Tempted by a little noon-hour shopping before heading back to work? According to a 2005 U.S. survey, 23 percent of women succumb to the lure of buying on their lunch breaks. Keep your wallet intact by avoiding stores entirely. Or if you can’t resist a little retail therapy, sidle up to the makeup counters and ask for samples. Companies are happy to give them up, and you’ll still get the thrill of something new, without paying for it.

5:10 p.m. Ease off the gas pedal
Keep this in mind as you’re commuting home: The faster you drive, the more gas — and money — you burn through. Drive at the speed limit and you could hang on to more than $250 a year, according to Earth Day Canada. Plus, there’s no chance you’ll get zapped by a speed gun and be on the hook for an expensive ticket (and a painful insurance hike).

6:15 p.m. Shop vertically
The next time you’re pushing your cart down the grocery-store aisles, look up and down. Way up and down. The top and bottom shelves are where you’ll find some of the best deals in the store on canned items and other packaged foods. Yes, there’s a reason that the jars of pricey tomato-spinach-feta-olive-caper pasta sauce are at eye level while similar, cheaper cans of red sauce line the shelves below. Manufacturers pay a premium for eye-level placement, and that cost gets passed on to shoppers like you.

7:30 p.m. Use your leftovers
Didn’t make it to the grocery store? If you’re standing in your kitchen trying to figure out what to do with olives, green peppers and a can of tuna, it might seem easier
to just order in. Instead, save your money by surfing our Recipe Finder. Type in the ingredients you have in your fridge or pantry and the online tool will offer up recipes that match your leftovers. (Mediterranean tuna toss, anyone?)

9 p.m. Drink for less
It’s time to wind down, and if that means a glass of wine, your most economical bets are the ones from Argentina and Chile, which sell for as little as $8 to $10 a bottle. (Our wine columnist Kelly Robson’s favourites are the Cono Sur wines from Chile.) Really good Canadian wines tend to be pricier; Robson recommends special-occasion bottles from the Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery, which start at $13 a bottle. But where wine can get really expensive is opening a bottle when all you want is a glass. In that case, it might be worth buying a vacuum sealer for as little as $10, says Robson — although, in her experience, the results can be varied. “I’ve had a red wine keep for two weeks under the vacuum cap, and then a different red wine didn’t keep for even one day,” says Robson. “I’d say the sealer works for about two-thirds of the wines I try.”

Weekend savers

Do (little) home repairs
Eventually, you’ll get around to installing energy-efficient windows. But in the meantime, even small changes can save you cash. Check out how much money you can stash away by entering your postal code into Earth Day Canada's EcoAction Calculator. Quebeckers can save $32 a year by using insulating blankets around their old hot- water tanks; for Albertans, it can be as much as $104. Other cost savers: switching standard bulbs to compact fluorescents to cut back on electricity use, stopping drafts with weatherstripping and adjusting the refrigerator thermostat to 2C or 3C and the freezer to between -18C and -15C. When you’re at home, set the temperature to 19C or 20C, even when it’s cold outside, to reap more savings.

Add a little vinegar
Stock up on bulk-sized cleaning supplies, wait until they go on sale or simply use vinegar. A $2 bottle will cut grease like nobody’s business, replace many other chemicals in the home and last for months. The same goes for baking soda; use it to de-yuck the tub.

Rent your goods
Why buy when you can rent? Use your library card to borrow books, CDs, DVDs and board games. In fact, you can even find rentable art across the country at libraries and galleries. The Regina Public Library leases out more than 240 paintings, drawings and prints produced by Canadian artists for only $7 per month. The Art Gallery
of Nova Scotia offers individual memberships for $45 per year, and its art rentals run from $14 to $90 monthly.

Sunday-night savings
Book your hotels for unpopular days and get excellent deals for short stays. Sunday nights can be particularly cheap — savings depend on occupancy and time of year.


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