How I Planned My Way Out of This Un-PLANNED-emic
To say that these times are unprecedented is an understatement. From recession to Global Pandemic, many families have taken an absolute hit when it comes to finances; mine included.
My name is Lila Berg and I’m going to share with you our story and some things we did to make this wild ride a bit easier on our pocketbook. Wait, does anyone have a pocketbook anymore? Who cares. Let’s dive in.
In 2017, 7 months after the birth of our first child, my husband was laid off from his job where he made a pretty decent salary. We weren’t millionaires to start, but we did well. We had what we needed and were able to afford a few things we didn’t. When this layoff happened, we thought, ok, no worries, let’s crunch some numbers. So we sat down and reviewed our budget and realized that with our current expenses and our dual EI income, we just weren’t bringing in enough.
That was a pretty terrifying experience for me. For someone who has always been really good with their money, I was just freaked out that we were in a crappy situation. At the time I felt super alone, but as time went on I realized how this is a pretty common occurrence. This stuff happens to lots of people. So instead of getting down, I got clever and figured out a lot of ways to save money without doing a whole lot.
In January of 2020, we welcomed our second child, Lars, into the world and I began my second maternity leave. We’d planned a little more this time and had a bit of money set aside for a few trips we’d take during my leave. But there was this thing. Declared in March of 2020. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Covid-19, but it’s been a pretty big deal from where I’m from. So big in fact that my husband was laid off, AGAIN, from a different organization. Bergs don’t do maternity leaves alone!
This time, however we were ready. Not for a pandemic. No one was ready for that. But we were ready to “tighten up” again. We had well practiced tricks in our back pocket and put them into practice quickly and easily. Most of our techniques just became a part of our lifestyle, so the change wasn’t super dramatic for us. Which was a good thing because our son screamed for the first 3 months of his life. Which was fun. But knowing some ways to save money made it a lot easier to manage the stressful chaos happening around us.
“This time, however we were ready”
So here it is, my best ways to save a few bucks during a layoff, pandemic, recession or whenever.
Car and House Insurance
Do you know what you pay for your car insurance? House insurance? Sure, you might know the amount, but do you know what you’re getting? When I called back in 2018, we were paying for “car rental” insurance which was great for travelling, but not useful for a time like now! I called and spoke to my agent (Karen from Allstate is the best) and explained our situation. She helped me review our policy and made sure we were paying for what we needed. I was able to save quite a bit of money just by making a few tweaks.
This go around we decided to take insurance off of one of our vehicles while my husband and I are both at home. Is it a bit less convenient? Sometimes. Do we save a ton of money? Yes. Almost $1000 a year.
*Disclaimer- if you do this, unplug your car battery so it doesn’t totally drain on you*
Another thing that can help you out, if you have some savings and can afford it, is to pay for your insurance in a lump sum and to use a…….
Credit Card with POINTS!
I hate collecting points. I don’t like Air Miles or Petro Points. Or Aeroplan. Or Esso Extra. I find that I’m always collecting and I literally get nothing. Except the one time we stayed in a really nice hotel on Air Miles for 2 nights. But it took like 800 years to earn them. But other than that, I feel like it’s more work than it’s worth.
PC Optimum points. This was another great way to save money. We both got a PC Mastercard and a PC Optimum card and started shopping exclusively at Superstore and No Frills (I’ll explain my exception store later). You earn points fast and save $10-$20 almost every single (or every other) time you go to the store. After I looked at our expenses, I realized that the next biggest expense after our mortgage was groceries. So finding ways to save at the grocery store was a biggie for us. This credit card helped.
Another thing that helps at the grocery store…and my most favourite thing to do now because I’m obsessed and I won’t stop until I find the best deal….is….
Flipp Couponing App
Man oh man has this one changed our life! Remember before when I mentioned that we shop almost exclusively (I promise I’ll tell you more about this later) at No Frills and Superstore? Aside from being able to rack up the points, these stores offer “Price Matching” with many competing grocery stores. This means that if you find the same item at a different store for less money, they’ll match it on the spot and it’s easy to do. Flyers generally come out of Friday (you can preview in the app on Thursday) so you can search and compare multiple flyers and make a shopping list all in one place. It’s pretty user friendly and comprehensive. You can just type in “bread” and all of the deals from many stores will pop up. When you find what you want, you can click it and it will put it into a “My Clippings” list for you so you can access it easily at the store. I generally put all of my “Price Match” items at the end of the cashier conveyor belt and do the price matches all at the same time.
You might be reading this and saying “OK lady. I don’t have time for this.” And I hear you. I don’t want to do anything that takes more time out of my day. But now that I’ve gotten into a rhythm, between coupon looking and meal planning (something I can do all in the same place), it takes about 30 minutes a week from start to finish. The coupon searching is actually the easiest part which only takes about 10 minutes or so. It’s something I’ve worked into my week and I can get it done when I’m just chillin on my phone for a bit. On weeks I have more time, I take it more seriously, and weeks I have less, I just do a quick browse.
It’s also super worth it for me, that’s why I continue to do it. I save at least $5-30 every time I go to the grocery store. No joke. I’d say that I save $50-$100 a month on groceries when I buy things on sale (especially meat and alcohol!), use this app and am organized when I buy groceries (e.g., lists, meal planning). If you’re looking for a place to save, this is a big one!
H and W Produce
OK, so I’ve said a few times that I am a Superstore/No Frills exclusive shopper EXCEPT for one place. Well, this place is H and W Produce. It’s a dream. You can get fresh, delicious produce for a fraction of the cost because it’s generally READY TO EAT! My rule is to only go to the store once a week (if I can help it), but I break the rules with this store. If you’ve never heard of it, you’re welcome. It’s a gold mine.
Cable, Internet and Phones
This was another area that I thought to myself- what services are we actually paying for? What do we actually need?
We’ve been Shaw customers for a long time, and if you’ve been loyal to a company, they’re willing to work with you to keep your business. I called and told them I had a budget and that I needed to stay within it. They helped change my plan around until it fell within the budget. Once the time has passed, they will start charging you more, so you have to be diligent and willing to call every year or two when the promotions end, but it’s been a money saver for us! We’ve had a similar experience with our phone company, too!
Many people decide to ditch cable, which is also a great idea! For us, we decided to ditch Netflix and keep cable. We spend a lot less time watching tv and PVR the stuff we actually want to see. Whatever you choose, my suggestion is to keep the one or two things you actually use. Many things just go unused when you have multiple TV/Movie services.
This one is totally your call. I’m not going to tell you how to live your life. Well, I guess I am. This whole blog post is about me telling you how to live your life. But you’re still here. You’re still reading. So I guess you’re asking for it.
The last thing we did was take a look at our lifestyle and see how we could alter things slightly to maintain a tighter budget. While we might have grabbed breakfast on the road before a road trip a few years ago, now we try to take a cooler with us and bring food from home. We seldom go out for coffee (an immersion blender and a french press hits the spot for us!) and we challenge ourselves to plan low cost date nights. Our city is actually pretty beautiful and there’s a lot of really nice picnic spots in and around town that you can bike or walk to. Covid and having two small children has also helped us with figuring out low cost, stay at home date nights, so it wasn’t a huge adjustment for us.
We also try to eat a bit less meat, which is better for our bodies and our budget, and use food from our garden when we can. Instead of buying new things, we often look to Facebook Marketplace or Kijiji to buy things second hand. Small appliances that I’m not even sure I need (like a French press and a bread maker- turns out I need both and use them a ton) are great things to buy used. This not only helps our budget, but it also helps our environment. There’s a TON of waste yo. Recycling is super important, but reducing and reusing is where it’s at. We’re also really fortunate to have some amazing neighbours who hand-me-down our kids’ clothes, and for myself, I literally haven’t purchased new clothes in years. Pre-covid I attended a few clothing swaps where I took my gently used clothes and essentially “traded” them with other people. This way, these clothes were new to me and didn’t cost a thing. And most importantly, clothes weren’t ending up in a landfill somewhere. Win- win!
At the end of the day, when we want or need something, we get it. We’re not deprived, but we’re doing things we can do to stay money conscious during this time of uncertainty. I’m really glad that I have acquired so many tricks over the years and that I felt somewhat “ready” to do this reduced income thing again. While it’s not a walk in the park, we’re not as stressed about money as we could be and are taking this time to enjoy each other while watching our babies grow.
I hope one thing in here can help you, and if it does, pass it on!