46 Ways to Save Money in Canada
Editor’s Note: This article was originally written by FT back in 2017. Due to its popularity, we have asked FT to update it for 2023 with more relevant advice. As always, we encourage you to comment below and tell us how you save money in your day to day life.
If you are looking for ways to save money in Canada, you are not alone. The financial circumstances globally are looking a bit grim at the moment. Costs are rising, the markets are still a bit volatile, and the average Canadian is likely feeling the pinch.
Careful financial planning is one effective way to protect yourself during uncertain times. Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to weather the storm. In this article, we’ll give you 46 ways to save money so you’ll be prepared for any situation.
Easy Ways to Save Money Everyday
Being a great saver really starts with carefully managing your day to day expenses. Keeping track of your expenses is a great way to see where you are spending and where you can cut. You’ll find many ways to save a few bucks or more on many of your regular purchases, which will help you stay within budget. If you don’t have a budget yet, you can check out our article on the Best Budgeting Apps in Canada.
Once you’ve got a clear budget in mind, you’re ready to find ways to save and meet those budgeting goals. Here are some easy ways to save money everyday in Canada:
1. Make a commitment to eat out less, if at all. Data shows that the average Canadian household spends upwards of $2,600 dollars per year on eating out, or around $216 per month. Cutting out this expense will save you hundreds of dollars right off the bat.
2. Enjoy your cup of joe from home and save big. With so many great grounds available for purchase, you can make your own coffee and save up to $1000 per year.
3. Take public transportation or carpool if possible. Although gas prices have fallen from their all time high in June of 2022, it’s still a big expense for many. Not only will it save you money on fuel, but also on parking, which can reach up to a whopping $347 per month in the big cities.
4. Find fun things to do for free. With spring right around the corner, events will start cropping up in no time. Be on the lookout for free concerts, art festivals and more. You’ll be surprised by the many ways you can have fun for free.
5. Pause or get rid of subscriptions you aren’t getting the most out of. Go through you phone’s app purchases and cancel subscriptions you don’t need, as well as getting rid of other recurring expenses like monthly streaming services you’re not really watching.
6. Head to the local library instead of buying books. Reading is a great activity to keep you engaged and since you’ll be getting rid of some unneeded streaming services, it’s the perfect time to pick up a book instead!
7. See if you can find a better deal on insurance by comparing prices. If you can find a lower fee elsewhere, it might be time to switch! There are options like insurance bundles and paying your premium upfront that will help save you hundreds.
8. Refuse to buy new. With more ways to purchase used goods like clothing and electronics popping up, now is a great time to purchase like-new or even new items at a fraction of the cost of buying new from the store.
9. Learn to DIY small projects such as house repairs or upgrades or even things like changing your own oil. Not only will it save you money, but it will empower you to tackle bigger projects in the future.
10. Think before you buy. We often make impulse purchases for things we don’t really need, especially in the age of online shopping. To help curb your spending, go ahead, browse and add things to your card, but don’t push the buy button. Save it in your cart for a day or two and then go back and see if you really want to buy it. Chances are you won’t!
11. Reduce your MER. If you have mutual funds, did you know that reducing your MER by 1.5% could result in a 50% larger portfolio after 30 years? I keep our ETF/mutual fund management expense ratios (MER) as low as possible by using indexed ETFs/mutual funds. And that’s assuming that your mutual funds can keep up with indexed ETFs! Check out some all-in-one ETFs here.
12. Reduce your financial fees. I arrange my banking so that I don’t pay any fees and use a discount brokerage that minimizes my trading expenses. The current highest rated discount brokerage with Million Dollar Journey is Qtrade – check out our review here.
13. Maximize those Loyalty Programs. Use points or a cash back based credit card that gives me the best return for my spending. Over the last few years, I’ve been maximizing the PC points system that can be the best points system in Canada if you use it right.
14. Save Energy at Home. We save energy around the house with CFL’s, programmable thermostats and proper insulation. A few years ago, we took it to the next level by installing a mini-split heat pump and it has made a dramatic difference to our overall energy usage.
15. Reduce your Sins. The government takes full advantage of cigarettes, alcohol, cannabis by taxing them through the roof (sin taxes). For me, as more of a healthy lifestyle choice, we avoid sin taxes as much as possible. That’s not to say that I don’t have a social drink or two when with friends.
16. Save Money on Travel. With all the comparison travel websites/apps out there now, getting the best deal now takes less time than ever. To save money on car rentals, I watch the fluctuating prices on Expedia and when a low price shows up, I bid slightly lower on Priceline. Another way to save is by getting a travel credit card or an Aeroplan card.
These small changes are really about breaking old habits, and creating new, more budget friendly ones. With time and commitment, you’ll find it easier and easier to say no to spending and start saving.
How to Save Money on Groceries
Next to housing and transportation, our biggest monthly expense is groceries. This is definitely one area to save big on, especially as the average Canadian household wastes up to $1,300 worth of food each year.
Here are some top tips on how to save money on groceries in Canada.
1. Planning your meals and shopping list is one of the best and easiest ways to save money on groceries. A lack of planning can lead to more food (and money) going down the garbage. By sticking to your plan, and avoiding impulse buys that are not on your list, you can save a lot when it’s time for weekly grocery shopping.
2. Buy frozen items, especially if they are on sale! Frozen foods are a great way to reduce food waste, as well as usually being cheaper than their non-frozen counterparts. An added bonus is that things like frozen produce usually have more nutritional value than fresh because they are picked and flash frozen when they are at the height of ripeness.
3. Learn how to bake at home and save tons of money. Bread products are statistically some of the most wasted food products in the world. When you bake bread, muffins, or cookies at home, not only will you send less than you would buy them premade, but you can also adjust the recipe to make less in one go, reducing the chance of waste.
4. Do not shop hungry. Always leave the house with a full stomach when heading out to the grocery store. Research shows that shopping while hungry can lead to spending 60% more than if you had gone after enjoying a full meal (that you cooked at home of course!).
5. Use coupons and save big on groceries. There are a number of free websites and apps available to Canadians where you can find ways to save on the items you buy the most, such as cereal, cheese, personal care items and more.
6. Don’t buy name brand products. Generic products are often just as good as name brand ones. In fact, some of them are manufactured at the same place, but put into different packaging! Buying generic brand products is a great way to save money on your daily needs.
7. Shop at a co-op and save. A co-op is usually a membership only shop where you pay an annual fee to be able to shop there. However, it is well worth the upfront cost as you will pay bargain prices on their products throughout the year. Another bonus is that these shops are usually packed with locally produced goods, which is better for the planet and your wallet.
8. Use cashback apps like Rakuten, Moka and more to help you earn cash on your everyday grocery purchases. Check out our full article on Best Money Making Apps in Canada to find out how.
9. Buy in bulk. This might seem like a strange way to save money because in essence, you are buying more than you need at the moment. However, when you price it out by volume, buying in bulk is the clear winner when it comes to low price. Just remember to store things properly, such as in the freezer and in air tight containers, so they will stay fresh longer.
10. Grow your own food. This is now easier than ever with inventions like the indoor hydroponic gardens that are designed especially for your home. This means that no matter what the weather is like, you’ll have access to fresh and tasty produce year round, and at a fraction of the price you would pay at the grocery store.
As you can see, just a little time and planning can save you hundreds each month on groceries.
Saving Money for a House
There are many benefits of owning a home, including additional tax breaks, and the potential to earn you money in the future. Saving money to buy a home is an important first step to securing your financial future.
Here are the best ways to start saving money for a house in Canada.
1. Create a budget and stick to it. This bears repeating as it will be nearly impossible to save for a home without having a financial plan that will help you do so. If you are purchasing a home worth $500,000, you will need at least $25,000 as a down payment. How much you can save per month will vary, depending on your income and expenses.
2. Pay off all of your credit cards first. This will help you achieve two things. It will help you improve your credit score, which means you could get more favorable terms for your future home loan. It will also help you save for a home faster once you’re ready as you will be credit card debt free, you’ll have more funds to help you save for a house.
3. Save money in a Tax-Free Home Savings Account (FHSA), which was created in Canada in 2022. This investment account allows you to save up to $8,000 per year, up to $40,000 total towards buying your first home. Not only will this help you save money for a house, but you’ll also grow your money tax-free!
4. If you are saving for a second home to use as an investment, open up a Tax-Free Savings Account solely for the purpose of saving for a down payment.
5. Consider cutting out a big expense, such as a car payment if you have one, as this can free up a lot of money in your budget. Not only will you save money by not having a car payment, but you’ll also save big by not having to pay for insurance and gas.
This one will take a bit more time and planning but it will be well worth it! You can also read Kyle’s article where he discusses if it’s worth it to buy a house in Canada or not.
How to Save Money Fast
In addition to the tips above, there are a few more to help you save money fast. If you need money quickly, to pay for something like an unexpected expense or an upcoming holiday, here’s how you can do it.
1. Find ways to make money. This is a surefire way to be able to save more money fast. Find things around your house that you don’t use anymore, but others might treasure. This could be anything from used electronics, to clothing, to furniture. You can also check out our article on How to Make Money in Canada to learn about more ways to add cash to your wallet and save money fast.
2. Put yourself on a spending freeze. This is a popular method that puts you into the mindset of not having any money to spend.
This does not mean refusing to buy gas if you need to make it to work to actually earn money, but it means doing small things like using up all of the ingredients in your house instead of doing a big grocery haul, or inviting friends over for game night instead of going out somewhere. How long it lasts depends on what you already have on hand at home, and how long you think you can commit.
3. Change bank accounts and transfer your money to a high interest savings account. Right now is a great time to do so, as interest rates in Canada are quite high. Check out our article on Canada’s Best High Interest Savings Accounts to find out more on where to park your cash and start saving.
4. Ask your employer for a raise. Making more money is one of the best ways to save more money, and this strategy can help you make more money fast. It will take a bit of strategic planning before having the big talk with your boss, but it will be well worth the time and effort when it works.
5. Automate your savings and start saving fast. Use your bank’s automatic transfer services to move the money from your chequing account to your savings account each week. This way, you won’t be tempted to spend, and you can watch your savings grow.
Saving Money on a Tight Budget
Saving money on a tight budget might feel like a nearly impossible feat. However, with a few small tweaks, you can definitely do it.
1. Make small changes to your everyday habits. Things like packing a home lunch and making coffee at home are good places to start. Other things like turning off the lights when they are not in use, canceling your cable subscription, and changing cellular service providers can help you save money each month.
2. See if you qualify for programs such as student loan forgiveness, or even low-income energy assistance programs.
3. See if you qualify for lowered interest rates. This can be on things like student loan debt or credit cards. Transferring debt to a lower interest rate account can help you save each month, even on a tight budget.
4. Get rid of monthly banking fees. If you are paying a monthly fee for chequing or savings, it’s time to cut that expense out. Check out our article on The Best Online Banks in Canada to find out how you can find the best deals on banking.
5. When you do need to purchase essentials like groceries and gas, compare prices before you buy to get the best deal.
How to Save Money as a Student in Canada
Students are notorious for having very small budgets to begin with, but by following some smart tips, you can find ways to save money as a student in Canada.
1. Find student discounts. You will be surprised by the number of places you can find student discounts. Investing in things like the Student Price Card (SPC) can save you money at over 450 stores across Canada. Fast food restaurants and movie theatres are other places that offer student discounts.
2. Sell your used textbooks and get cash back. Try to sell them directly to other students as possible to get the highest possible amount, as bookstores will try to offer you the least possible amount.
3. Offer tutoring services to other students and get paid for your knowledge and expertise.
4. Apply for grants and scholarships. Canadian Universities offer millions in student financial aid each year.
5. Find bargains on groceries by shopping at the end of the day. You’ll often find discounts on things like deli items and bread if you purchase them at the end of the day.
On top of all that, I recommend shopping around for financial products that are targeted towards students and a younger population in general. Our guides on the best student bank accounts and student credit cards are a good place to start.
Fast Ways to Save Money in Canada – FAQ
While saving money isn’t always easy, it’s one of the most important things you can do to reach your financial goals. The key things that will get you there are: making sure to have a well-planned budget (and stick to it!), reducing your daily spending, and finding ways to increase your income if possible.
By reading this article, you are taking an important step towards financial security. Small, actionable steps and consistency will get you there. Take things a step further by subscribing to the Million Dollar Journey newsletter and getting our 2 free eBooks here.
To find out how to turn your savings into money making investments, check out our article on how to get started with the Best Online Canadian Brokers.
What are some ways that you save money? Do you follow the frugal living lifestyle?
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I’m certain car driving lovers don’t want to hear this: However, if you don’t have children or they’re independent, then go cycling as your commuting and fitness vehicle. I gave up my license over 35 yrs. ago. So take transit, walk…and last 30 years bike in all non-snowy seasons. I bike up to early Dec. Choose to live within 15 min. walk of services, some shops and park, transit stop. This has been a conscious decision each city where I’ve lived. I’ve taken 4 fitness classes in these past few decades. Rest of time is free…on my bike which gets me around. Sure, it’ll be taxis when am less mobile…but that is the point of living close by to stuff so that ride isn’t super distance. In any big city, this is possible. I’ve calculated by being car-free, is redirecting $300,00 to other things for past few decades.
I am totally into everything on this list – with one exception. The travel item – and it’s from my personal experience from having had the naivety to travel the week of March 13th – 20th 2020!!
My wife and I got on a flight to Dominican Republic just as Covid was really starting to ramp up. Our plane was full of people – and perhaps some nervousness as well.
It’s a really long story, but we ended up having a mostly good vacation, and a safe, on-time trip home.
For this trip we took the unusual step of using a full service local travel agent. In the past I’ve booked trips to winter destinations on itravel2000, on expedia, and other discount sites. I was so thankful to have an actual travel agent who had my back while I was on my trip – fearful of the possibility I might not get home. She was readily available, was constantly in touch with my air carrier and assured me at least once a day that we could enjoy the rest of our trip and we’d safely get home. She also said at any time she could pull us home early (we did pay for the highest possible travel insurance).
I will book every future trip with an agent, this agent if possible, because the level of comfort and service I got was well worth the premium I paid.
Everything else on your list – I’m all over it!
for colder Canadian climates: we use firewood as much as possible, insulated the flip out of your house, have your family on board (learning and helping out) and teach them what we are all sharing, affordable vehicles, learn how to fix your assets, learn how to build, don’t be afraid to try things and take the small loss if it doesn’t work out, discipline goes a long way (learn to say no to yourself and family), to stay far away from Credit cards or pay off when due or a day prior, check out Manulife products as well as others, self -educate (loads of books out there) &/ or go to some type of business management school, find something you really love to do that is a type of service/ product and start a small business ( we do this constantly ie, roast coffee on our BBQ, make hand man winter wreaths, prune trees … = tax deductions and added income) keep expenses low with profits high. gardening can be fun and offer exercise (at least get a few fruit trees and learn about xeriscaping. get away from a huge costly lawn if you don’t need/ want it. this will save you time and energy for years and offer you fresh organic foods), we are low income earners so for those who are * learn about how you can take advantage of Kids sport, RESP, CLB. my chink now is learning about investment incomes. I’ve always been a skilled labourer and fugal as we like to say but time is not on my side so much anymore so .. its time to start looking towards the future = compound investments (need to learn more about this one ! ) We try to have an eye on the future but not too much or you’ll miss what’s going on today and now.
Just going through this with my 17 year old son in Ontario. Free tuition is for household income of under $50K which for most areas would be almost poverty level income. Plus that covers tuition only so the extra $10K per year has to come from somewhere (if the program they take is not available locally). For us, we are a two income family making reasonable incomes so we are above the $50K threshold. We do qualify for a $2000 grant through OSAP and most of the schools offer merit based scholarships of $2 – 3K per year assuming they keep their grades above 80%. My son has an 84% average so he is getting the $2K scholarship level. https://alpari.com/en/analytics/currency/converter/USD-TRY/?sum=1
Reading the comments on this page has actually convinced me to stop worrying about saving every penny and just enjoy my life. Entering contests for 30 minutes a day, using a metal detector to look for dropped change??? I stumbled upon this page because I was looking for ways to save money with the news that I have twins on the way. But after reading these comments, I’m convinced that there is much more important things than saving a few bucks here and there. I would much rather spend an extra couple hours with my kids each day, and accept that it is just going to cost an extra $100-$200 a month. If I have to work an extra year before I am able to retire, then so be it. I guarantee my kids and wife will appreciate it in the long run.
Of all the things you’ve outlined here, I think that by far the rule that I see broken the most is the concept of “banking your raises”. I work in finance and it’s very typical for new hires to have dramatic lifestyle increases upon being hired, regardless if they have boatloads of student debt or whatever their situation may be. Often it’s not the most prudent choice.
Good tips. simple and to the point. For cable, it’s possible to replace it with a TV antenna for free HD channels and Netflix.
One great thing we did to save money was use a company that helped us cut our costs for cell phones, internet, cable TV and landlines. They kept our services exactly as is with and with the same provider. They just got us better pricing. It was the ultimate win-win. If you are looking to save some money check them out at http://www.savecell.ca.
I offset any expense with TFSA returns. A $50 phone expense is paid with after-tax income. Make use of the TFSA and use any tax-free returns or profits to off-set some of your expenses.