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For most people, saving money is a lot easier said than done.  If you consider that the average Canadian is saving a lot less than they want to, if anything at all, many people probably need to be more creative with how they go about saving money.  My secret is to trick myself into saving.  Sounds a bit silly, but it actually works!  With a few little tricks you may be able to get yourself out of the financial rut you’ve been in and start improving your situation.  No matter how great you are at saving money, by taking the time to read the following little tricks you may be able to save even more.  I’m not the greatest when it comes to saving, so I often have to be a little creative with my habits so that I don’t fall off track too often.

Whether you are just trying to save more money in general or if you have a goal in mind, the following ten tips might just be what the doctor ordered to get you back on track and saving like a pro.

  1. Pay yourself first.

The very first thing you should do once all the bills have been paid is pay yourself.  Set a little money aside for a rainy day fund, add another $20 to the vacation fund, or drop another $25 in loose change into that jar on your shelf for the next big ticket item you’re eyeing at the mall.  Now you’re probably saying, “Where am I supposed to find an extra $20?”  The trick is to save the money before you have a chance to notice it’s gone.  Each time you get a paycheque, slide 10% over to a savings account right away before you start spending the money on the weekend. Even better, arrange it with your bank to transfer that money into a savings account every payday for you.  Once it becomes automated you won’t even think about it anymore, and before you know it you’ll have a savings account to be proud of.  If you treat your savings as another bill you have to pay it will become a habit to make that payment every two weeks and soon the savings will begin to grow.

  1. Wait to make a purchase.

Before you buy anything that is not a necessity, you may want to take a day or two to think about it.  The bulk of our spending is done through impulse purchases while shopping for something else.  Think about how many times you have bought a new outfit just because you were window shopping at the mall, or how many times you picked up a magazine just because you were bored while standing in the checkout line.  Forcing yourself to wait before making a purchase can significantly reduce the number of frivolous items we buy on impulse.

I use this trick every time I want to buy something that I didn’t originally plan for.  If I wait for a couple days before purchasing the item I was eyeing at the store I usually don’t go back to buy it.  This is more out of laziness than anything else, but it works for me and it might just work for you too!

  1. Save your change.

I am a cash man.  I use cash for all my personal purchases.  There’s something real and tangible about having folded money in my pocket disappear when I make a purchase.  I know that once the money in my pocket is gone, my spending is over too.  One thing that you can count on if you use cash for most of your purchases is that you will eventually collect a lot of loose change.  This is especially true here in Canada where even $1 and $2 are considered “change”.  For some reason it just doesn’t feel like real money when we spend change on something.  This loose change can add up very quickly.

My trick is to use a bill whenever I spend money on something.  Whatever change I get back, I save in a jar on my shelf.  Once a year, I pour out the loose change and roll it all up so I can cash it in for bills.  A typical year can net me over $200 in change that I get to use for something fun and frivolous.  And it doesn’t break the budget!  Another idea is to see if your bank has a program where they will round off your interact purchases up to the nearest dollar and add the extra change to a saving account.  I haven’t done this myself as I try not to rely on interact purchases, but I hear it’s a very easy way to accumulate some extra money in a short amount of time.

  1. Do a “No-Spend Challenge”.

What’s a no-spend challenge you ask?  Well, it’s a challenge that you can start with your friends or significant other to see who can go the longest without spending any extra money on non-necessities.  No dinners out, no coffee from the shop on your break, no extras at all; NONE.  It may only last a couple days or maybe a week, but you’ll be surprised how much money you can save when you’re not spending on anything extra.

To be honest, I haven’t found anyone willing to join a no-spend challenge with me yet so I just challenge myself.  Once a month I set a goal of two weeks and decide not to spend anything extra after the bills have been paid.  It makes the collection of loose change a little more difficult, but the money I manage to save ads up very quickly.

  1. Stick to cash

As I said above, I’m a cash man.  I use cash for all my personal purchases and once the cash is gone, I’m done spending.  It almost physically hurts me to see cash leaving my hands when I make a purchase.  It really makes me think about what I’m spending my money on and whether I really need the item in question.

I tell a lot of people just starting out with their budget to use a cash system.  It really forces you to see how much money you are spending instead of just using a debit or credit card all the time.  It can make paying bills a lot more difficult, and you may want to keep making those payments electronically, but all groceries, gas, toiletries, and other such purchases are made with cash.  It will really give you a new perspective on how much you are spending each month.

6. Give yourself an allowance

OK, you’re probably thinking “I’m not a child anymore so I will not give myself an allowance!”  I have an allowance and it really helps me stay on track with my personal spending.  I get $40 every payday and that is what I use to buy drinks at the corner store, a new book, or an afternoon at the movies.  I’m not expected to buy gas for my truck or that extra bag of milk from the grocery store on a random Sunday morning with my allowance, but anything that isn’t budgeted for that is for my own personal entertainment has to come out of my allowance.

Having an allowance allows me to spend that money as I see fit.  Maybe I want to buy a bottle of pop from the corner store, or maybe it’s an ice cream from the mall, but whatever it is I never feel guilty about making the purchase because it never affects the overall budget.  It also forces me to show some self control as well.  If I want a new book that comes out next month I have to save my allowance so that I have enough to make the purchase.  Self control is the beginning of a good budget and it’s a skill most people are sorely lacking these days.

  1. Save your raises and bonuses

This one might not apply to everyone, but if you get a bonus or a raise, resist the urge to spend it right away as “fun money”.  A bonus is just that and shouldn’t be considered part of your regular income and used to inflate your lifestyle.  When you get a bonus, transfer it into a savings account before you get the urge to spend it.  If you get a raise, start making bigger payments into your savings account.  If you don’t, you are more likely to just start spending more in your day-to-day budget.  Don’t have a savings account?  Now’s the time to start one!  You’ve worked hard for your money and it’s about time to start making your money work for you.

  1. Make extra money.

This might sound obvious, and if we could, we would all be making more money.  But what about starting a side hustle?  Do you babysit on the weekends?  Are you crafty and able to make things to sell to friends?  What about taking surveys on the internet during your downtime?  There are literally thousands of different ideas on the internet for easy and simple ways to make extra money.  The trick is, don’t start using that extra cash as a regular income.  Anything you make extra should be considered a bonus, and like I said above, take that bonus and save it (or even better, pay down your debts!)  If you think you don’t have time for a side hustle, just calculate all the time you spend surfing on your phone, playing games, or watching TV.  This is time that could be spent earning some extra cash for that savings account.

  1. Cut costs

This is another one that might sound very obvious, but it’s one we very often forget to consider.  The idea behind a budget is to not only decide where you need to spend your money, but also, where you can cut your expenses if needed.  Do you have a gym membership you never use?  Are you still paying for a phone line at home that only solicitors call?  Are you constantly going over on cell phone data?  If you take the time to track your expenses each month I guarantee you will find a whole bunch of places where you can trim your excess spending and save some extra cash.

I got rid of cable and just forced myself to watch shows on Netflix.  It hurt at first, but I soon realized that I didn’t miss the constant channel flipping and commercials.  It’s been over a year now and I don’t miss cable at all.  Sure, I might not be in the loop when it comes to the latest show around the water cooler, but I find other things to talk about or I just listen to the others talk and I’m all caught up with the show by the end of my break anyway!

  1. Stay motivated

Saving money is not for everyone.  It takes dedication and persistence but it will pay off in the end.  I equate it with going to the gym.  If you want to see results you have to put in the effort and remain true to yourself and the routine.  There will be days when you don’t feel like following the budget, and there will be days where you abandon the budget all together.  Don’t lose hope and get back on the wagon.  Soon, saving will become second nature and you’ll actually start to want to save.  You’ll be looking for deals and price matching with the best of them in no time.

My trick for staying motivated is to have visual reminders of why I’m saving money.  I have a picture of an item I want as the background of my computer and phone.  I keep a clear jar of change on my shelf so I can see how far I’ve come and how far I have to go.  Do whatever works for you and stay the course.  It will all be worth it in the end.

Of course, the best motivation is when you actually get to use the money you’ve been saving all these months to make the purchase you’ve been dreaming of.  It makes the item so much more worthwhile and really rewards you for all the hard work you put in saving all those months.

What are some of the tricks you use to save money?  Are they working?  If you need to bounce some ideas off a professional make an appointment with one of our trained and certified credit counselors here at the Sudbury Community Service Centre.  It’s a free service and will only cost you an hour of your time to get some expert advice on how to manage your budget and cut that spending.