Do you have trouble meeting your expenses? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Millions of Canadians find it hard to cover their expenses and as a consequence, start racking up debt.
What if there was a better alternative? Before I quit a high-paying job, I had to save to start my own brokerage, so I cut most of my unnecessary expenses and adopted a frugal lifestyle.
It was a hard switch at first, but many of the habits I picked up during that time stayed with me.
If you are looking to make some lifestyle changes and tame your ever-growing expenses, this article may help you. By adopting at least some of these tips, you will be able to start your own frugal living in Canada journey.
According to a survey, about 48% of Canadians are left with only about $200 at the end of the month, after paying off debts and covering primary living expenses. Also, about 65% of Canadians with debt find it hard to save or invest.
20 Frugal Living Canada Tips
Though frugal living practices might differ significantly from individual to individual, the tips we share can be used by everyone. Also, the amount you may be able to save through the tips below based on what part of your income you usually spend on it.
Lifestyle expenses should be the first you trim down when you are adopting a frugal lifestyle.
Potential Monthly Saving: $50-$100
Canadians are not as fashion-crazed as some other nations, but you might still manage to spend somewhere between 2.5% and 4% of your income on clothing.
You can cut that down by learning to mend and sew so that your old clothes will serve you longer. Buy rugged clothing items that last longer.
Follow wash-dry instructions not to wear out the fabric before its time. Better yet, buy second-hand, and hit garage sales and thrift stores. Trade your expensive clothes at consignment stores. Buy when clothes (especially out-of-season ones) are on sale.
Potential Monthly Saving: $30-$55 (You can save even more by sticking with a few basic accessories)
This may vary significantly from gender to gender, but many of the clothing tips are appropriate here. Minimizing your selection, buying a few good-quality accessories that last longer, and taking care of your stuff can help it last longer. Buy simple jewelry items and sturdy handbags that can go with most of your outfits. If you always wear a watch, invest in a rugged watch that can weather the times with you.
3. Cloth Diapers
Potential Monthly Saving: $80-$160
It’s truly a “lifestyle” choice if you decide to wash soiled diapers yourself. If you get them laundered, the cloth diapers might cost you the same or even more than disposable ones. It’s also better for nature. But cloth diapers would initially cost more than a pack of disposable diapers, and this is one thing I would recommend buying new.
Potential Monthly Saving: $40-$200 (Depends if you attend a high-end gym or a basic one)
The most “frugal” of gyms can cost you about $10 a month and about $40-$50 at the time of initiation. Instead of going to a mid-to-high-end gym, you can choose one of these basic gyms to get healthy or beef up. Better yet, don’t choose a gym in the first place. Set up a home gym, walk, jog or run for cardio, do push-ups, squats, and crunches to get fit. You can find plenty of help online.
5. Switch to a High-Interest Savings Account (HISA)
Potential Monthly Savings: $10 – $100+
If you’re currently earning a very low-interest rate on your savings, consider switching to an online bank with a high-interest savings account. Instead of earning less than 0.1% interest on your savings, you can currently earn 1.50% per year at an online bank like EQ Bank here. Read my guide on the best high-interest savings accounts in Canada here.
Gas prices haven’t been this low for quite a while. But there are still ways you can save on transportation.
6. Use Public Transportation
Potential Monthly Saving: $250-$1,000+, if you consider gas price, maintenance, potential car payments, insurance
Even if you own your car, you can save a lot of money by using public transport for the bulk of your commute (travelling to and from work). If you don’t own a car and plan on buying one in installments then public transportation will be a significantly cheaper and frugal option.
7. Buy Pre-owned
One-time Saving: $3,000 to $10,000+
If you are planning to buy a car, why not choose a pre-owned vehicle that’s in decent shape, instead of shopping around for a brand new one? You can get three, four-year-old models that are just driven 50,000 Kilometers total. If it’s in good shape, you also don’t have to worry about fuel economy. Ideally, you should buy it outright, saving you money on interest on monthly payments. Even if you can’t, monthly payment and insurance for pre-owned cars would be cheaper.
8. Become a One-Vehicle Family
Potential Monthly Saving: $250-1000+ (That includes monthly payment, gas, insurance, maintenance, etc. for one vehicle)
If you have two vehicles in your household, switching to one can be an amazing way to save money. It might be a bit inconvenient, especially if two working spouses have to go on the opposite side of the city to work. You can alternate on a daily or weekly basis on who takes the car to work. The other person can use public transport. It will free up a lot of your monthly income.
9. Vehicle Efficiency and Economy
Potential Monthly Saving: $300-$400
Even with just one car, you can save on many costs. Although I never recommend getting a car loan, if you have to, by choosing a five-year loan term, instead of two or three, you can lower your monthly payments considerably though it would cost a lot more in the long run.
If you bundle your vehicle insurance with home insurance, you can cut the cost between 10% and 15%. If you’re in a privatized insurance province, you can contact a car insurance broker to find a better deal. I cut my monthly car insurance from $150 to about $80 with a quick phone call (I lived in Alberta at the time)
Learn to maintain your car yourself, and only consult a mechanic when you need repairs. Park your car where you don’t need to pay a fee and walk from there. Gas credit cards (if used wisely) can earn you a decent amount of cashback.
Related Reading: Best GIC Rates in Canada
Utilities and Entertainment
Cutting down on some home and utility expenses can really help you “live within your means.”
10. Save on Electricity
Potential Monthly Saving: $31 (Ontario rates, if electricity consumption drops from 1,000 kWh to 750 kWh)
Use a programmable thermostat and program it to the most cost-friendly setting. If it seems chilly, you can wear a sweater and socks. Use a slow cooker and benefit from natural light as much as you can. Buy energy-efficient appliances and don’t keep them on standby.
11. Save on Heating
Potential Monthly Saving: $30-$45 (If you can bring down your heating costs about 30%)
Lower your thermostat settings in the night, and warm only the room you are sleeping in. Turn the heat down on your water heater by about ten degrees. You will get used to it, and it will save a lot of fuel. Rework your insulation, clean your filters, and re-caulk if you feel a draft coming in. Insulation around the windows and keeping doors and windows closed can also prevent heat from escaping.
12. Cut the Cord
Potential Monthly Saving: $25-$40 (If you opt for Netflix and other Online providers instead of Cable)
How much time do you really spend watching TV nowadays? The chances are that you spend more time on the internet or streaming movies. If you cut the cord, you can save about $25 to $40 a month easily. You can also hunt for free or cheaper services that can increase your options while keeping the cost lower than Cable.
13. Eating Out and Other Expenses
Potential Monthly Saving: $40 – $100+ (for each meal)
If you go out to eat only twice a month, you can easily save $40 (as a couple) or more (as a family with kids), by only going out once. Most families eat out way more than this though. Choosing lunch over dinner can also reduce the cost. Other cost-saving methods are streaming movies and hosting a family movie night instead of going to the cinema and controlling your tobacco and alcohol expenses
14. Cook from Scratch
Potential Monthly Saving: Three to five times less if you order in or go out for lunch/dinner.
If you can learn to cook from scratch and buy your ingredients in bulk (not the fresh items), you can cut your food budget down to a fraction. That’s especially true for working individuals who prefer to eat lunch at a restaurant. If they switch to home-cooked meals for work, a one-time $10 meal will only cost about $2 or $3.
15. Buy Generic Brands
Potential Monthly Saving: $75 – $100 (about 25%-50% if you typically only buy name brands)
Generic and local brands are usually much cheaper, and if you can find the right one, even better than the name brands. For most basic ingredients, there isn’t much difference in the taste and quality at all. It might take some getting used to (and a significant bit of hunting to find the right replacement), but it can save you a lot of money in the long run.
16. Buy and Cook in Bulk
Potential Monthly Saving: About 25% on your grocery bill
If you buy non-perishables, seasonal fruits and vegetables, cheese, nuts, canned goods, flour, meat, and some other items in bulk, especially when they are on sale, you can reduce your grocery bill by at least 25%. Similarly, cooking in bulk and freezing it for later use not only saves you time, but it’s also better for your electricity consumption and ingredient usage.
17. Coupons, Sales, and Price Match
Potential Monthly Saving: $80 to $100
Make use of coupons whenever you can. Whether you are shopping online or cutting coupons out from flyers, there are various ways of getting a little bit of discount when you are out grocery shopping. Similarly, try visiting your regular store whenever they are having a sale. But to stay within your means, make sure you write a grocery list and follow it, instead of buying wastefully simply because it’s cheap. If your store offers price matching, a little research can easily save you some bucks.
Housing is the core expense for most Canadians.
18. Search for Lower Rent
Potential Monthly Saving: $300 to $1,000 (Varies significantly from city to city, province to province)
Ideally, you shouldn’t spend more than 30% of your pre-tax income on rent. But the lower, the better. You can pay less in rent by widening your search radius, and shopping away from downtown. Don’t rent a bigger place if you don’t need it. If you can live in a studio apartment, don’t shop around for a two-bedroom. Ask about the utility cost and parking situation. You may be able to negotiate the landlord to a lesser price if the apartment/home has been sitting on the market for a long time.
19. Shop for Best Mortgage Rates
Potential Monthly Saving: A wide range, but you can reduce your monthly payment by about $800 simply by opting for a longer Amortization period (30-years)
You can only get eligible for the best mortgage rates if you have an amazing credit score. By saving up for a 20% down payment, you can save money on CMHC insurance. Shop around for the best rates and terms possible, and calculate whether a fixed or variable mortgage would be more suitable for you.
20. Downgrade To a Smaller/Cheaper Home
Potential Monthly Saving: About 25% to 50% on monthly mortgage payments
You can save a lot of money if you choose a smaller home that’s a bit far away from the suburbs, instead of choosing the best house you can afford. Your home is an asset, and the sooner you can pay it off, the better it would be for your housing expense. A cheaper home would be significantly easier to pay off, and your monthly payments will be lower.
21. Put Your Home To Work
Potential Monthly Saving: $325 to $1,100 (median and average Airbnb earnings)
If you have enough space and you don’t want to downgrade, put your home to work. Short-term rentals (Airbnb) can easily earn you about $300 or more a month (don’t forget about the taxes), while more successful hosts earn significantly more than that. If you are open to long-term rentals that might be even better. You will have a steady income stream, which can go towards your housing.
What Does Frugal Living in Canada Mean to You?
Spend less than what you’re earning – That’s an oversimplified definition of frugality. Frugal living in Canada is quite similar to living frugally anywhere else. Basically, it requires you to live within your means. The key is to do it without sacrificing any of your happiness or freedom.
Many people turn their noses at the notion of frugal living because they don’t have clarity regarding frugal vs. cheap. They think that it’s all about pinching pennies, saving money whenever and wherever you can, and only spending money on necessities.
That’s a completely wrong take on the word. Frugal doesn’t belong to the family of cheap or stingy. It leans more towards being financially disciplined and careful. Frugal living in Canada would be very different for someone who has a yearly income of $100,000 from someone only making half of that.
Another confusion that many people have regarding frugal living is about class. They believe that you have to spend in a certain way on certain things to fit into a social class. The truth is that frugality can be one of the defining characteristics of wealth, as shown by Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg who both live well below their means.
Frugal living in Canada can help you live within your means. Even if you earn a decent amount of money, some of these tips can help you save more, which will help you achieve your other financial goals faster.
You may pay off your home, your car sooner, choose early retirement or take more vacations. By maximizing your income, careful financial planning, and adopting some frugal habits, you can easily achieve financial independence in Canada.
Check out this master list of ways to save money in Canada.