I remember as a little girl, dressing up to go to the bank. It wasn’t as fancy as Easter Sunday, but close. I had three tiny bank books in hand: ‘checking’, ‘savings’ and ‘long-term savings’. None of the accounts had much in them but the bank tellers assumed I was learning a ton and thought I was cute. Getting one’s bank book updated and waiting patiently in line was apparently a super-engaging kid activity. Sometimes I wouldn’t go for a few months and each interest payment would take so much time to print. Line by line. One cent, two cents…my family was very frugal and budgeted impeccably in order to save for vacations and big purchases.

Back then, interest rates hovered around 16% and GICs were a great investment. Unfortunately, my own aging has been inversely proportionate to both interest rates and bank service. Rates are miniscule for everyday customers at traditional banks, and account service charges have skyrocketed while personal service has dwindled. This has necessitated my family to make certain choices and decisions in order to save money. It’s so tough raising a family, and if money stress becomes an issue (isn’t it always?!) things feel even harder. While making more money would be fabulous, that option isn’t always available to us. The only other choice (no you cannot rob a bank) is to find areas where money can be saved. Often these ways harken back to methods used by our grandparents, which is ironic and sweet at the same time. Here’s what we do:

Home Cooking

Not only in cooking from scratch a healthier option – free from additives and preservatives, but it saves money. We purchase flour, icing sugar, lentils, baking soda, nuts and candy in bulk and transfer them to stunning jars with chalkboard painted labels. This approach also saves on packaging and makes your pantry look chic. Cooking on Sundays, freezing leftovers and planning meals saves so much and prevents food waste too.

Shopping on Sale

When roast beef or chicken is on sale and we can afford extra, we buy a few for the freezer. Big department stores often have major sales, and at the end of season we stock up on ski equipment or rain boots for next season. Consignment stores are great for fun wardrobe upgrades, and holding clothing exchanges with friends can be a great way to clean out and refresh your closet.

Saving on Travel

We travel by first using our points, and do that by booking up to a year in advance. When this isn’t an option, comparative flight websites can save you a ton of money, as can playing with different dates and stopovers. On the ground, vacation rental via owners are often more spacious and offer more authentic local experiences than do hotels. Grocery stores are almost always cheaper than eating out, and the vacation rental options usually have kitchens. When you are staying in a hotel, you can still bring outside food and drink into your room. Pay attention to cell phone rates while abroad, and use Wi-Fi and internet-based calling whenever possible.

Saving on Banking

Why are we spending more on monthly fees for lower interest and less service? I know that as Canadians, we are agreeable and friendly, but we shouldn’t do this at the expense of being sensible about finances. Make sure you choose a bank with low fees and free transfers.

However you choose to save money, the extra experiences, healthier meals, better closet and additional education funds will make it all worthwhile. We’d love to hear your ideas about the tricks and tips you have to keep your family finances on track!


Birthday Ideas on a Budget