How to Save Money on Gas

how to save money on gas

This is a post from simply Frugal reader Stephanie with some great, practical tips that I hope you’ll enjoy! 

After my spouse lost his job, we started looking for ways to save money wherever possible. We live in the Greater Vancouver area where gas prices are always quite high (currently they are in the range of $138.9 to $145.9 cents/litre). I commute 70km per day and our weekly gas fill-up usually costs between $50-55. I need my car for my job so driving to work is a non-negotiable, plus taking public transit to my office is actually more expensive than driving.

Many people I know live close enough to the U.S. border (and have Nexus) so they typically drive into Washington to fill up, but this doesn’t work for our lifestyle. So, here are my favourite tips on how to save money on gas (while staying in Canada):

1. NEVER fill up your tank during your morning commute- gas usually costs an extra $0.05/L during this time. Always wait to fill it up in the evening, either on your way home from work or later at night. I’ve had good luck on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evenings with finding the lowest gas prices. GasBuddy is usually quite accurate in reflecting the correct prices at the stations near me. If it’s a fill-up day, I always check GasBuddy before leaving work. This practice saves us anywhere between $1.25-$1.75 per fill-up, which may not sound like much on a weekly basis, but in the long-term it adds up to $65-90 per year.

2. GasBuddy can also calculate the most fuel-efficient route for your commute, based on the make/model/year of your car. Plug in a few options for your daily commute and calculate the true cost of the drive (factoring in tolls, the likeliness of idling/being stuck in traffic, and the “life value” of the time you save by taking the most efficient route home- this is way more important than saving a few cents on gas!)

3. Certain loyalty rewards points can be exchanged for gift cards for gas stations. In the past I have used Aeroplan miles and RBC Rewards points to purchase Esso gift cards, and there are lots of other options out there- check to see what you can redeem for with your rewards points (Esso seems to be the major gas retailer participating in these types of programs). Make sure you know what your rewards program gets you- certain credit cards give you double or triple points at gas stations. In addition to your credit card points, the gas station’s own loyalty rewards points (Esso Extra, Petro-Points, etc.) can also be redeemed for gift cards or for fuel savings rewards.

4. Keep an eye out for gas promotions. For example, Kellogg’s is currently running their “Cash for Gas” promo on selected products when you send in proof of purchase from either 2 cereal boxes or 4 snack products. We are big cereal eaters in our household, so this is a good deal for us as we would be buying these products anyways. For extra savings, try and match up with the deals you see on Simply Frugal (ex. Nutri-Grain bars for $1.88 at Walmart).

And of course, always practice safe driving techniques- don’t speed, keep your tires inflated to the correct pressure, gear up, and don’t carry unnecessary weight (roof racks, cargo, etc.). Not only do these promote safe driving, they also maximize your car’s fuel efficiency.

Hopefully you find some of these tips helpful!

Thanks so much Stephanie!  Loved your tips!

Do you have a money saving tip that you think will benefit others?  Send me an email with your tips, here!

The Staycation: Your Vacation on a Budget

The Staycation: Your Vacation on a Budget.  Tips for having a memorable vacation on a budget.

With summer quickly approaching, you might be thinking of hitting the road or the air for vacation time.  There’s just one thing…you’re on a budget and what you have been envisioning for a vacation, is just not going to factor in.  What to do, what to do.

Enter the Staycation: your vacation on a budget.  No packing, no sore rear ends from sitting in a car, no airport delays.  Simply enjoying what your city and surrounding areas have to offer.

Here are a few of my tips to make your Staycation memorable:

Spend the week before playing catch up

This doesn’t sound fun but believe me, when there are no chores or work to distract you during your staycation, you have no reason but to enjoy your family, enjoy time for your favourite hobby, and enjoy your break from your regular routine!   If playing catch up the week before really doesn’t sound appealing, make a conscious effort to deliberately avoid household chores or work during your staycation.

Order your local Entertainment coupon book

Currently, the 2014 Entertainment coupon books are on sale for $5.00 each when you sign up for an annual renewal membership.  That’s a great price for a book that’s jam packed with coupons for your local attractions.  More often than not,  the coupons are for 2 for 1 admission!  You can order your Entertainment coupon book here, if you’d like.  The books also feature dining coupons and shopping coupons.

Be Adventurous

Try a restaurant with an ethnic cuisine you’re not used to.  Hike the tallest mountain in your area.  Take a local art class.  Try something you’ve always wanted to try, but you’ve kept putting off because you’ve been scared or lacking the push to be confident!

Enjoy what your area is famous for

Why do all the tourists flock to your city in the summer?    Where I live, we’re famous for our wineries, orchards and lakes.  It wasn’t until we had family come for a visit, which I partook in my first winery tour experience.  Even though I’m not a wine drinker, I thoroughly enjoyed the history and even the free wine tasting!

Know it’s okay to splurge if the budget will allow

You’re on vacation.  Eat every meal out if you want.  Or spend your entire budget on that river rafting excursion you’ve been saving for.  Step out of your normal every day, non-vacation,  routine.

So, are you excited to start your fabulous Staycation?  I sure am!  I’ve got some great ideas going through my head!

Earth Day Canada’s Top 10 Actions to Reduce your Impact on the Environment

envelopes

Check out this list of top 10 actions to help you reduce your impact on the environment from EarthDay.ca!

You can also download a PDF version.

Thanks, Anita!

Beat the Winter Blues on a Budget

Does winter have you singing the blues?  Here are some of my ideas to beat the winter blues on a budget!

Does winter have you singing the blues?  It’s about this time of the year when I start to feel like Winter is never going to end.  The endless cold and snow just gets me down!  Here are some of my ideas to beat the winter blues on a budget:

Make Summer plans

Start planning your spring or summer activities.  This is a great way to forget the cold momentarily and have  some plans to look forward to!  If you’re looking for some free vacation planners, I’ve got a huge list that features planners for every province in Canada!

Buy a bouquet of spring flowers

This is my favourite way to perk myself up!  Tulips and daffodils are an affordable option to bring some life and colour into your home.  I’ve seen daffodils as low as $1.99/bunch in the past.

Pamper yourself

Get your hair cut, get a manicure/pedicure or do your nails yourself.  Pick a bright cheery colour for your nails.  Spend some time making yourself pretty!

Try something new

Have you been wanting to try an art class or a pottery class?  Do it.  (Check out your local recreation or art center for budget friendly options.) Enjoy baking or cooking?  Try an entirely new recipe that may challenge you a bit further.

Exercise

Bundle up and head out for a long walk.  Try out some snowshoes.  Put in a fun exercise video.  It’s a proven fact that exercise releases endorphins that make you happy, more relaxed and more alert!

Invite a friend over for coffee or tea

I tend to hibernate in the winter months so inviting a friend over or inviting myself over to a friend’s, really is a great pick me up!  It’s so nice to indulge in great conversation and if you have children, a great excuse for a play date.

Read a book

Stop in at your local library and pick up some books that take place in the summer months or that will “take you away”!

What are your favourite ways to beat the winter blues on a budget?

How to Save Money on Transportation

how to save money on transportation

So, you want to learn how to save money on transportation.  Well, when it comes to saving money on the cost of transportation, sometimes public transit is the way to go. Especially when you take in the expense of running and owning a vehicle. Its maintenance, the cost of gas, insurance, and other things that mean money is coming out of your pocket in order to get you where you want to go.

If your city offers a monthly pass at a reduced rate and you are a frequent traveler, then it would be more cost effective to purchase a transit on a monthly basis. If you don’t travel too often by public transit, it would make more sense to buy your public transportation tickets as needed.

Here are some other ideas to help you save:

Carpool

Another great way to save on transportation costs is to carpool.  Check out eRideShare.com or Car-Pool.ca to find someone to carpool with.  Or if you work and live in close proximity to a friend or family member, consider carpooling with them.  They could drive one week and you could drive the next.  Of course finding a coworker that lives in your vicinity would also work!

Bike

When the weather is warm enough, jump on a bicycle and ride to work during the summer months. Get some exercise and avoid those traffic jams!  This could be a great way to save on your transportation costs, if you don’t live to far away from your workplace, of course. Make sure that you follow the laws in regards to riding a bike in your city and/or province. This means to wear the proper safety gear and adhere to the laws of the roads.

Walk

Another way to save on transportation costs is to walk to where you need to go when the weather allows.  There’s no need to purchase gas for the car, or even buy public transit tickets. Just liking biking, you will also get some fresh air, and some exercise.

Combine Activities

If you’ve got an appointment one day, consider doing your grocery shopping and other errands while you’re already out and about so that you’re making less trips home and back into town again.  Also, if you’ve only got a short distance to travel, think about walking or biking instead of taking the car.

Following the tips above will surely help you to save some money on the cost of transportation!

How do you save on transportation costs?  I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!

Frugal Tip – Know What Stuff Costs

know what stuff costs

I’ve got a simple money saving tip for you today!

Know what stuff costs, so when you see a deal you can stock up!  I’m sure there are several items you find yourself buying on a regular basis.  If you know your prices and you happen to see one of your regular purchases on sale at a great price, buy as many as you can, to get the most bang for your buck.

Of course, this concept also applies to items you don’t normally buy, but you do buy occasionally.  :)

What are your stock up prices for the regular items on your shopping list?

30 Foods You’ll Never Have to Buy Again

DIY nutella

Visit BuzzFeed Food to discover 30 Foods You’ll Never Have to Buy Again, because they can easily be made at home!

Reader Testimonial – How I Stopped Living Paycheque to Paycheque

pay cheque

The following is a Financial success testimonial from Alison!  Enjoy!

This year I had a goal of depositing two full paycheques directly into my savings account on top of my regular monthly 10% savings. I was discussing my budgeting and savings plans with a credit counselor and she told me she had never known someone to be successful at what I was planning…challenge accepted! This past month I was able to successfully do this and wanted to share with other frugal minded individuals how I did it so you can too.

My employer pays me bi-weekly, which means I receive two paycheques every month except for two wonderful months of the year when I receive three paycheques.  At first this provided an interesting budgeting challenge because there are a few ways to calculate a monthly salary:

1.   Take the overall yearly salary and divide it by 12 months.
For example, if I made $39,000 per year and divided that by 12 months, I would get a monthly salary of $3,250. This number is valuable for certain financial situations, but unrealistic for my monthly budgeting.

2.   Add up the paycheques received in a month.
In this scenario, if I made $39,000/year, 10 months of the year I would be paid $3,000 and the other two months of the year I would be paid $4,500.

When creating a budget, what was I supposed to do with these three different amounts: $3250, $3000, and $4500? I started by making a decision:  I do not want to live paycheque to paycheque.  I wanted to create a system that always had me ahead of the game.  I also decided to live off the amount of money I am paid for those 10 months of the year involving two paycheques and was determined to put those additional two paycheques, in their entirety, directly into my savings account.  Saving 10% of my regular monthly salary is great, but I wanted a better security net.

Here’s what I did:

  • Took my lowest monthly income number to create a realistic budget.
  • Used helpful tools such as “Budgeting Basics – How to Get Started” found on Simply Frugal and tracked my expenses to determine what was sustainable.
  • Created an overall budget that allotted every dollar of my two paycheques per month.
  • Determined what money I would need as cash on hand during a month and what I could leave in a separate bank account. For example, grocery money is cash I need to take out of the bank. Gift purchases or dental appointments, while budgeted for, are not necessarily money spent every month. I’ll call these my “planning ahead expenses.”
  • Once the budget was nailed down, I totalled all my “planning ahead expenses” and my savings, then divided those numbers in half. This is what I transfer out of my main chequing account every paycheque into sub-accounts. For example, $20 per month is budgeted for gifts, of which $10 is transferred every paycheque to a “Gifts Account.”
  • Leave the rest of the money needed for cash on hand or for bills directly debited out of my chequing account to build up my monthly float. My monthly float is every dollar that I will spend during the next month.

Through the month as I deposit each paycheque, I transfer out all of my “planning ahead expenses” and let the rest remain to build up for the next month. Because each paycheque that I deposit into my account is not needed for any immediate expenses, I am released from my dependence on it. When I deposit a paycheque, I have no thought of spending it because I know I do not need it for the current month. This freedom is essential because when one of those three paycheque months comes along, I treat the first two cheques just like any other normal month by transferring out my “plan aheads” and building up my float. Those two cheques set me up for the next month and that third one can go straight into my savings account without a second thought.

Using this system of building up a float is how I stay away from living paycheque to paycheque. I did sacrifice a bit of savings to set myself up in this way, but the benefits are worth it:

  • Eliminated the stress of relying on my next immediate paycheque.
  • An extra month’s cushion of money if I lost my job, in addition to my emergency fund.
  • At the end of every month, I have exactly the amount of money I need in my account to pay my bills and variable expenses for the coming month.

Sticking to this takes planning and discipline, but it is worth it when I see the big jump in savings a couple times a year! It is also worth it to know that being frugal and wise with my money allows me to do something that someone in the financial world thought wasn’t possible.

About Alison:  I am a lover of coupons and good deals; I believe in saving money where I can so I can spend it on what really matters. I am currently exploring my childhood dream of being a writer through internet ramblings on my blog: http://theconvertedagnostic.wordpress.com

Do you have a financial success story you’d love to share to help inspire others?  Send your stories to me here.

11 Ways to Reduce Food Waste at Home

ways to reduce food waste

With a little creativity and some smart shopping, it’s possible to reduce your food waste at home quite simply.  If you find yourself  throwing out rotten food on a regular basis, you’re also throwing away the money you used to purchase the food.  And that’s not good for the grocery budget!

Here are 11 ways to save money and your food:

Create a Meal Plan

Creating a meal plan is a crucial step to help you spend less and waste less. When you know what you’re going to eat every day of the week, you ideally will only purchase the foods you need at the grocery store.  Without a meal plan and a grocery list based on your plan, you’ll most likely find yourself wandering the aisles grabbing whatever looks good to you.  That’s fun, but you’ll most likely end up with not enough or not the right groceries for a week’s worth of meals.

In the end, creating a meal plan isn’t enough, you must stick to it!  I admit, this is my downfall, so quite often I’ll find ingredients I bought for a certain recipe gone to waste :(

Account for Leftovers

If you find you usually have quite a few leftovers, account for the leftovers in your meal plan.  Maybe set aside one or two nights that you devote to eating up those leftovers.  Or, turn those leftovers into another meal.  Perhaps all that leftover spaghetti sauce will create a wonderful chili, as an example.

Buy Less

If your pantry and freezer are quite well stocked, start your “shopping” there.  By using what you have on hand already, will ensure you don’t buy more than you need and will help prevent food waste on the products you’ve already purchased.

Also, something I’ve learned about our family is, while buying a big package of celery (for example) may be cheaper in the long run than buying individual stalks, most of it goes to waste!  We’re not big celery eaters so purchasing individual stalks is actually cheaper for us because I only buy what we will use.  This same principle can apply to many different items in the grocery store.

Buy What you Love

You may have had some moments where you think you should eat more quinoa/fish/whatever, as you’re strolling through the grocery store.  I’ve had plenty of those nutritional guilt trips, but this inevitably leads to unplanned purchases for items your family may not be too excited about yet.  Focus on the foods your family enjoys, and add new ones gradually, after you’ve found recipes worth trying.

Buy Local

In all honesty, I never understood how buying local produce could save you money since the price I was looking at paying was more expensive than something I could purchase from a regular grocery store.  But then I realized that local produce travels way less than anything purchased from most grocery stores.  Because local produce travels less, you’re paying for a fresher item that will have a much longer life span!  Makes sense, right?  An obvious reason to support our local farmers.

Take Smaller Portions

Before you dish out another big portion, ask yourself if you really will finish what’s on your plate. Since it’s not likely you’ll save that little piece of chicken you couldn’t finish, stick to smaller portions. You can always get seconds!

Freeze Leftovers

Rather than scraping your leftovers into the garbage or if you don’t feel like eating them before they go to waste, put them in the freezer!  This makes for a great way to reduce waste and creates an easy meal for a busy night.

Store Produce Properly

Not all produce should be stored the same way.  Here’s a great guide on Design Mom with 6 Secrets to Properly Washed & Stored Produce.

Learn to read the labels

Take some time to learn what “Sell-by” or “use-by” dates actually mean.  The sell-by date is the last recommended day you should buy a product from the store, but you can still eat it several days to a week after. “Use-by” is the date through which the item will be top-quality.  But, if stored properly, most foods will stay fresh a few days longer than the use-by date!  Of course, if you note any weird odors, textures, or colors, throw it out.

Overlook Imperfections

Whether it’s soft spots in apples, bruises on bananas or dark spots on potatoes, all produce will develop imperfections. With produce that is past its prime, simply cut around the “bad” parts before you eat or throw veggies into a stock pot for soup, or make a smoothie with the less pristine fruits.  Just because something isn’t in perfect condition doesn’t mean it’s inedible!

If you’re dealing with mold, though, it’s time for the garbage.  Unless it’s cheese.  You can cut around the mold to salvage the rest.

Save it for the compost

Some food waste is unavoidable, so why not set up a compost bin for fruit and vegetable pieces and peelings? In a few months you’ll end up with nutrient-rich compost for your garden!

How do you reduce food waste in your home?

How to Build a Kid’s Wardrobe Cheaply

how to build a kids wardrobe cheaply

Although I’m only fairly new to motherhood, I’ve learned a few things about building my daughter’s wardrobe cheaply.  (I just have to be careful I don’t overbuy because girls clothing can be so cute!)  But as you know, kids outgrow their clothing very quickly so clothes buying can become quite expensive.   But, by planning ahead and taking my tips into consideration, you’ll be sure to build your children’s wardrobes cheaply.

Accept Hand-Me Downs

Nothing is as cheap as free!  I took full advantage of the clothes my sister-in-law offered to lend us for the first six months or so of Sienna’s life.  I know hand-me downs are normally meant to be kept, but our borrowing situation was ideal since we didn’t have to store any of the clothes once we were finished with them.  We just gave them back!

Buy off the Clearance Racks

Buying off the clearance racks is especially handy if you’re stocking up for next season.  Last Fall/Winter, I stocked up on quite a few items that will work for Sienna this coming winter, including a snow suit for only $10!  Had I waited until she needed the snow suit, I’m sure I would have been paying close to full price.  Currently my favourite store to shop at for the clearance prices is the Joe section in our local Superstore.

Shop online

Similar to shopping the clearance racks in a brick and mortar store, shopping the sale sections online can save you a bundle.  Last Summer I stocked up on quite a few outfits when Old Navy had one of their better coupon codes.  I think I averaged about $3.00 a piece!

Buy used

Garage sales and thrift stores can be a great place to look for gently used clothing.  Although I haven’t had much opportunity to shop at garage sales myself, I know that the clothes I was selling in our recent garage sale were hot sellers!  I’m sure most cities offer this, but our town also holds a twice annual kids garage sale at our Recreation Centre.  I picked up some cute sweaters, jeans and PJ’s for about $0.50 a piece.  I find buying used clothing an excellent way to build a kid’s wardrobe cheaply because the items are usually only worn a few times before they’re outgrown.

What are your tips for building a kid’s wardrobe on a budget?