The end of the year is rapidly approaching. A new year is the perfect time to fix any financial mistakes you’ve made, and any bad spending habits you may have to set your family and your budget on solid ground for the upcoming new year. If you’re like most people, you may not know how to begin fixing those issues. These 10 frugal tasks you need to do before the end of the year are a great place to start.
10 Frugal Tasks to Do Before the End of the Year
Do a financial audit
If you’ve never done a yearly financial audit, now is the time. To do one, download all of your bank statements for the year. Go through each one and make a list of the unnecessary expenses you had. Total them up. This will allow you to see just how much money you wasted this year hopefully making it so you can fix it next year if need be.
Reconciling Your Checking Account
These days most people don’t write checks, which means they also don’t reconcile their checking accounts. This is a bad idea because you can easily miss fraudulent transactions, wasted money and more. If you haven’t done it recently, make certain you reconcile your checking account before the end of the year.
Find new ways to reuse things to save money
Reusing something instead of throwing it out is a great way to save money. Before the year ends, find ten or so new things you can reuse to save. Doing so will set you up to start the new year saving instead of spending. This post, 25 new uses for old things, is a great place to start for ideas!
Try Menu Planning
If you’re not already, give menu planning a try before the end of the year. Not only can it save you time, but it will also help you save money on your grocery bill. It doesn’t matter whether you plan for a month or a week. Anything will help if you’re not already doing it. In our family, I have incorporated a 20 meal rotation for dinners. Kids are picky, so this ensures most of the meals will be enjoyed by everyone because I have picked favourites for the rotation.
Try Freezer Cooking
Along with menu planning, give freezer cooking a try before the end of the year. It saves time, money and stress for you! The easiest way I have found to start freezer cooking, is to made a big batch of dinner one night and freeze the leftovers. Spaghetti sauce and taco meat are some of my favourite leftovers to freeze.
Once a Month Grocery Shopping
Part of the reason you may be having trouble saving on groceries is because you’re in the store more often than you need to be. That’s why it is important to give once a month shopping a try before the end of the year. When you’re in the store less often, you spend far less money. Once you try it, you’ll very likely never go back.
Another major issue most people have with their finances is not making a budget. If you’re not currently making one each month, give it a try before the end of the year. Make sure you stick to it for at least one month. I think you’ll be quite surprised by the changes you see. The Budget Binder Kit that I have made is a great way to get started with budgeting.
Cut Unnecessary Subscriptions
As you’re reconciling your checking account, be sure to keep an eye out for any unnecessary bills you’re paying each month. This usually happens in the form of a subscription. If you haven’t used it in the past 30 days, you do not need to be paying for it.
Work on Cutting Utility Bills
Aside from groceries, utility bills are one of the highest expenses a family can have. Before the end of the year, take the time to work on lowering them. Put your lights on timers. Fix any leaky faucets. Cut your shower time by 90 seconds. You would be surprised at how much savings those little changes can really add up to.
Get Your Car Tuned Up
Car maintenance is very important to keep your car from becoming a money pit. Before the end of the year, be sure it gets a tune up. This includes an oil change if needed, tires rotated, battery checked and other routine tasks. By keeping it maintained, you’ll set yourself up for a new year with a great running car.
So there you go. 10 frugal tasks to do before the end of the year so you will be well on your way to a more financially secure future! What’s the first thing you are going to work on?
One thing that will bring a family together are home cooked meals at the kitchen table. There is nothing better than gathering around yummy food, while conversing about life, with your family members. Unfortunately, feeding your family does not come cheap. Here are some great tips to help you feed your family on $50 this week, whether you are tight on cash, or just simply looking to be a little more frugal.
How to Feed Your Family on $50 This Week
Take inventory of what is already in your fridge, freezer, and pantry. I make a list using the inventory sheet from the Grocery Conqueror Kit, so that I have it as I sit down to make my shopping list and menu plan. No need to buy tomato sauce if you already have some in the pantry!
Use Store Rewards
I like to collect PC Optimum points because the points turn into cash that I can put towards my grocery bill. I just recently redeemed $30 so that was a nice chunk of change of of that grocery bill! There are many other store reward programs out there that may be worth trying out if it means savings for you!
Use Grocery Rebate Sites
I like Checkout 51, Snap by Groupon, and Caddle because I can just upload my receipt and go. I have 7 days from the time I shop to upload, and I can combine rebates from all 4 sites from 1 receipt to maximize savings!
Shop the Right Places
Being able to feed your family for less, means that you need to be willing to shop at different stores. If you are used to shopping at higher end grocery stores that generally charge more than say, Walmart or No Frills, consider stepping outside of your box, and head into a less costly store. Set aside your reasons and any ill feelings that you may have about those stores. You certainly will not regret it after leaving the store with a little extra change in your pocket!
Meal Plan Around Flyer Sales
Meal planning is a great way to make sure you know exactly what your family will be eating every day. Knowing which meals you will be enjoying also means that you know all of the ingredients needed, and this will allow you to better stick to your budget of $50. Just make sure that as you plan your meals, that you are scoping out the flyer sales and planning
your meals around what is on sale and what you already have at home.
Use Cheap Fillers
When you have a tight food budget to stick to, you will find that rice and beans will become some of your favorite ingredients. Rice and beans generally do not have much flavor, so they can be added to almost any meal, even if it is just as a side that you season with salt and pepper. However, the other great thing about rice and beans is that they are cheap fillers in things like tacos, soup and chili! This means that you will feel fuller after eating them. Dry beans will be your best value, so don’t be afraid to use them!
Make a list of cheap meals
I’m in the thought camp that most meals can be frugal meals if you purchase the ingredients on sale. for example, meat. Don’t buy chicken breasts if the chicken thighs are on sale. Also, take a look at the 20 meal rotation I have been doing as our meal plan lately. I’d consider most meals on the list cheap and frugal!
Stick to the same things for Breakfast and Lunch
In our house, I have a rotation going of oatmeal, pancakes, French toast, scrambled eggs and cereal all served with fruit for breakfasts. Sounds time consuming, but it’s really not because once in a while we have breakfast for dinner (pancakes/French toast) and I freeze the leftovers. We can then pop them into the toaster for a super quick, filling breakfast! Same sort of idea for lunches. Sandwiches, grilled cheese, soup, leftovers… Dinner is where most of the variety comes from!
Eat Those Leftovers!
Who wants leftovers? Most people generally are not fond of reheated meals the following day. However, eating leftovers is a great way to help you stick to your weekly food budget. If your family cannot handle the same meal twice in one week consider turning your leftovers into a new meal by turning it into a soup or stew, or adding new flavors or vegetables to it. Taco Tuesday can become taco salad (or taco soup) Wednesday. I especially love to freeze leftovers like spaghetti sauce. Makes for a super easy meal on a rushed night.
Feeding your family on $50 this week really comes down to being creative as much as it does frugal. People do what they have to do to survive and you, my friend, can totally make this work for your family. What tips do you have to add?
The Grocery Conqueror Printable Kit contains over 50+ pages to help you organize your kitchen, streamline your meal planning and grocery shopping tasks. Ultimately enabling you to create a more organized kitchen, thus saving you money on your grocery bill.
Planning a menu each week can be such an annoyance. Some weeks, it would take me hours to come up with enough meals for the week because I’d always try to add variety with new meals. I would scour cookbooks and Pinterest for new recipes and get distracted trying to decide if something sounded good or not. Or whether or not the rest of the family would eat it… So, one thing that has helped us to cut our grocery budget was to create a short, go-to recipe list! I mean, we eat the same basic things for breakfast each day, why not apply the principle to dinner too?
Narrowing our meal ideas to only 20 options has made meal planning a breeze and has saved us so much money. It also reduces food waste, because I know I am making food that we all enjoy. These meals are a mix of quick & easy meals, recipes that are great for leftovers, and some a wee bit more complicated because they’re just so tasty.
So, if you want to finally stop wasting money on groceries, I’d encourage you to grab some inspiration from our go-to recipe list. Here’s what we’re eating, aside from leftover nights and super simple meals (like tomato soup & grilled cheese):
- Tacos – I find that one package of ground beef is enough for two meals for our family. I’ll often make it stretch further with a can of baked beans.
- French Toast – We often like breakfast meals for dinner. I especially love to make a big batch of French toast because I can freeze the leftovers for quick breakfasts.
- Instant Pot Beef Stew – This is so good! Since the recipe doesn’t call for potatoes, I like to serve it over mashed potatoes.
- Spaghetti – Lately I’ve been browning ground beef, adding it to the slow cooker with a jar of pasta sauce, a bit of water and a sprinkle of beef bouillon powder.
- Hamburger Soup – This freezes well and is enjoyed every time I make it.
- Slow Cooker BBQ Sauce Pork Chops – Place pork chops over sliced onions in a slow cooker, then pour your favourite BBQ sauce over top. Cook on low for about 4 – 6 hours. Serve with rice or potatoes and steamed veggies.
- Sausage and Potato Bake – Cut up potato, carrots, sweet potato, peppers, and farmer’s sausage and place in a big 9×13 baking dish. Drizzle olive oil and a dose of oregano, salt & pepper. Bake at 400 degrees for about 35 minutes.
- Roasted chicken – It no secret that a roasted whole chicken can stretch for many meals. I’ll often buy rotisserie chicken for a super fast dinner with veggies and potatoes.
- Balsamic beef roast – This is another meal that stretches far or is great for feeding a crowd.
- Quiche– a satisfying meal
- Instant Pot Honey Sesame chicken – Delicious served with rice and veggies!
- Creamy chicken soup – This is another delicious soup that freezes well!
- Chicken pesto stuffed shells – My husband’s favourite meal that actually isn’t that hard to make! Great freezer meal too.
- Ramen Vegetable stirfry – I buy the healthy ramen noodles from Costco. A great way to use up vegetables that are needing to be used up.
- Meatballs– These are so versatile and the recipe make a ton so you’ll have plenty for the freezer.
- Chicken in basil sauce – One of our “fancy” dinners that we enjoy.
- Fettuccine Alfredo – An indulgence we don’t mind occasionally since we need to fatten up the kids. 😉
- White Chicken Chili – A good twist on classic chili that again, freezes well.
- Chicken & Asparagus Pasta Bake – So easy to put together. Also works well with green beans.
- Slow Cooker Barbacoa – Leftovers are so good over salad, in tacos, burritos, quesadillas and more!
There you have it! The 20 family dinner recipes that have managed to cut our grocery bill!
Does your family have a go-to recipe list? What are your favourite meals?
If you’re looking for even more kitchen/meal organization, check out the Grocery Conqueror Printable Kit. The Grocery Conqueror Printable Kit contains over 50+ pages to help you organize your kitchen, streamline your meal planning and grocery shopping tasks. Ultimately enabling you to create a more organized kitchen, thus saving you money on your grocery bill.
Today, I’m going to start out with a few points about the benefits of budgeting. For those of you that already have a budget set up, this may be confirmation that it is a good thing, but for those of you that don’t have a budget, it may present some points that will give you the push to get started.
The Benefits of Budgeting
A Budget Will Help Identify Where your Money is Going
First and foremost, a budget will allow you to identify where exactly your money is going. You’ll see just how much is going towards bills, clothing, entertainment and everything else you spend your money on. This is important to know if you want to gain any sense of control over your finances.
A Budget Will Help you to Control Your Money
Once you have identified where your money is going and you make a budget, you may be some hard choices to make at first. Maybe you realize you need to move to a more affordable house. Or maybe you discover that drinking a Starbucks latte everyday is keeping you from taking your dream vacation. It can be hard to accept that you can’t have it all. But once you get past that point and realize that by cutting a few expenses here, can allow you to spend more over there, budgeting doesn’t seem so bad. It allows you to prioritize what is important to you, and then live by those priorities.
A Budget Will Help Guide you in Planning Financial Goals
A budget is a plan. A plan for where you want your money to go. Say you want to do a bathroom renovation next winter. Unless you plan to set aside money every month, you won’t be doing that renovation. (Unless of course, you take on debt.) Without a plan, the money can too easily be spent on $100 trips to the mall. Having a budget helps you to plan and stick to your financial goals you hope to achieve.
A Budget Will Help you Prepare for Emergency Expenses
Having a budget will allow you to allocate money to an emergency fund for those unexpected situations that are bound to arise in your lifetime. A broken furnace, vehicle repairs, or an unexpected trip to visit an ill relative, to name a few. When you don’t have a budget, it’s easy to forget about those extra expenses that will most likely arise at some point in the year.
A Budget Will Help Give you Peace of Mind
Having a budget is what ensures you’ll have enough to pay your expenses. Since you’ve set aside money for your day to day expenses, annual property taxes, income tax, emergencies and what ever else you know is necessary in your life, there’s no need to stress or loose sleep.
A Budget Will Help you Feel Less Guilty about Spending Money
Once you start budgeting and tracking your finances you might find that you feel less guilty about spending money. Knowing that you have set aside $75 a month for clothing, for example, you don’t have to feel badly about spending it all or a portion on a pair of shoes that you fell in love with. When every dollar has a purpose, you can feel much better about spending in general.
Need help getting started with a budget? My popular Budget Binder Kit will help you get on the right track!
Having a budget is freeing, because you make the plan. It’s customized to your needs and wants. It’s also not set in stone. If you find that you miscalculated when you set the food budget, readjust. That’s the beauty of it. It’s your budget. Your money, working for you!
What are some other benefits of budgeting? Do you have any stories to share about how budgeting “saved” you?
If you have ever watched any home decorating show you have probably seen the amazing homes showcased. It’s easy to get caught up in the fact that your home might not look so professionally done. However, you can have a beautiful home that is stylish and done on a budget! With nearly any budget you can make your home stylish and welcoming. Also keep in mind that simple, timeless decorating is typically what looks the best in any home.
Create a Stylish Home on a Budget
Purchasing paint is fairly inexpensive and can change-up the look of any room. If you are ready for a change and don’t have a lot of money, consider painting. Even just painting an accent wall can turn any home from dull to very hip and stylish! Don’t be afraid to try out different colors. Most paint stores will give you little amounts of paint to take home to try out.
One way to bring drama or simple coziness to a room is by adding rugs. However, you don’t have to go out and pay for expensive rugs. In fact places like Amazon, Wayfair, Walmart and Home Sense are all great places to find very large and beautiful rugs on a budget. Try to pick out a rug that adds color as you can find other accents based off of the colors in the rugs. If your rug has some red and purple in it, look for red and purple throw pillows for your couch.
Lighting can make or break any room. You want to make sure you have the right amount of lighting for tasks and ambiance. Don’t be scared of trying out different lamps. Adding some pretty lamp shades, stand up lamps or even recessed lighting can turn your room into a stylish one.
There are different price ranges when it comes to wall art. You can really dig into the bank account and hit up a gallery or you can go the more budget friendly route. Look for wall art at garage sales, discount stores and even at your local mall. You can also just make your own wall art with family pictures blown up onto canvas. Or, make a beautiful printable and frame it. Wall art is an area you can really get creative since it isn’t permanent.
Using decor to bring some style to a room is easy and affordable. In fact just adding in some simple things like throw pillows, inexpensive curtains, candles and plants can really liven up any room. You can find these items at second-hand stores, garage sales or re-purpose what you already own.
How are your creating your stylish home on a budget?
This post is a sponsored post by Sun Life Financial written By Brenda Spiering. See my disclosure policy here.
Saving for retirement is likely one of your top financial priorities. But did you know that how you save can be nearly as important as how much you save? Choosing the right retirement savings account can have a huge impact both on how much money you save and how much tax you pay. So, how do you choose the best type of account?
How to choose the right retirement savings account
When to choose an RRSP
When it comes to saving for retirement, RRSPs (Registered Retirement Savings Plans) are pretty hard to beat. Contributions are tax-deductible, investments grow on a tax-free basis within the plan, and RRSP funds aren’t subject to tax till they’re withdrawn from the plan.
If you expect your current income is going to be greater than your income in retirement, an RRSP is a great option. It will provide you with a tax deduction that can help reduce your current income taxes. Plus, if you’re in a lower tax bracket when you draw the money out, it can help reduce the overall amount of income tax you pay.
When to choose a TFSA
TFSAs (Tax-Free Savings Accounts) are a great retirement savings account option if you’ve maxed out your RRSP. While you won’t get to claim your contributions as a tax deduction, the investment growth is tax-sheltered and there’s no tax payable on withdrawals.
The fact that withdrawals from a TFSA are not subject to income tax also provides an advantage if you expect your income in retirement to be greater than your current income, since TFSA withdrawals do not reduce income-tested benefits like old age security benefits. Also, unlike RRSPs that you can no longer contribute to after Dec. 31 of the year in which you turn age 71 (or, in the case of a spousal RRSP, the year in which your spouse turns age 71), you can continue to contribute to a TFSA as long as you wish.
How much can you contribute?
Both RRSPs and TFSAs have contribution limits. In the case of RRSPs, you can contribute up to 18% of your previous year’s earned income up to the maximum limit set each year by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) ($26,230 for 2018), plus any unused contribution room carried forward from prior years.
Since 2016, the annual maximum contribution limit for TFSAs has been $5,500, however, you can also contribute for any past years in which you didn’t contribute, back to 2009 when TFSAs were first introduced. If you’ve never contributed before, you’re currently eligible to contribute a maximum of $57,500.
A great way to determine how much you need to save for retirement is to use a Retirement Savings Calculator. It can help you set an annual savings goal based on your current age, expected retirement age and desired income in retirement. Plus, it can show you the impact of contributing to different types of retirement savings accounts.
To learn more about smart ways to save for retirement, sign up for the Sun Life Saving for Retirement email series.