Time to Rein in Spending

April showers bring May flowers is the old saying. The spring rains wash away the dingy gray of winter and usher in the beautiful bright colors of tulips and daffodils. In much the same way, ‘reining’ in spending can release some wonderful feelings of exuberance and new life as well.

When we over spend and are behind on paying our bills, the stress mounts ,and each new month becomes one to dread, instead of to enjoy. By saying no to our old spending habits in several small ways, we can become free to relax and enjoy life again. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

Make a shopping list and stick to it. If you didn’t write it on the list, you can’t buy it, that’s the rule with this one. That means you need to be very thorough when making out your list. It may take you a while the first few times, but you’ll get used to. You’ll be surprised how much it will help you just to have that sheet of paper that tells you what you can buy and can’t buy when you enter a store.

Don’t carry your credit card with you. If you have credit cards, leave them at home. If you don’t have them with you, you are less likely to spend money that you don’t have. Only put the credit card in your purse or wallet when you know that you will need it for a specific purpose.

Gifts. If you are a generous gift giver but your finances are out of control, this may be an area you need to rein in. Set yourself a budget for birthday and holiday gifts. Let your family know that they shouldn’t expect the same extravagance in gifts that they have received before. They’ll understand and you’ll find your bills much easier to pay.

Decrease your dining expenses. You don’t necessarily need to quit going out to dinner entirely, but you can begin to cut back. Start bringing your own lunch to work, instead of going out for lunch every day. Choose your dining establishments for their dollar value and not just their ambiance. Look for the specials and coupons in your local paper for area restaurants.

These are just four easy tips to begin reining in your spending before it gets totally out of hand. Every little bit that you can trim off, is money in your pocket.

Tips for Saving on Kids Sporting Activities This Spring

As parents, we want our kids to be involved in sports. We recognize the benefit these activities give to our children’s lives. Sporting activities provide enrichment physically, socially and psychologically. In spite of all the benefits, sports can be very expensive to participate in. So, we’ve come up with a few tips to help you keep your kid’s activities affordable.

Buy Secondhand – You can often buy used sporting equipment from other parents whose kids have out grown their previous year’s equipment. There are also secondhand shops that specialize in recycled sporting goods. Garage sales and craigslist are two other sources for buying used sporting goods.
Family Discounts – If you have more than one child ready for sports, try and enroll them in the same sports program. Often times there are family discounts for families who have multiple siblings enrolled in the same program.
Early Bird Discounts – Don’t wait until the last minute to get the kids signed up. Many sporting activities encourage early enrollment by offering early bird discounts.
Avoid Traveling Teams – Having to travel out of town for your kid’s sports activities can be very costly. Try to find sports where the teams compete locally, rather than out of town.
Swap Skills – Check to see if there are discounts for parents who help with the coaching or management of teams. See if there is another service you can provide in exchange for the service your child is receiving.
Choose Lower Priced Sports – Sports that require expensive equipment will be more expensive, such as hockey and bike riding. Swimming and running have very little equipment involved, and therefore, much less expensive.

Simply put a little extra thought into the choices of your kid’s sporting activities can save you plenty.

Managing Your Budget with Rising Food Costs

Grocery store sticker shock has become all too common for shoppers, and finding ways to reduce food costs can take some creativity, and a bit of self-control. Here are some tips on how to get your wallet safely out of Safeway:

1. Eat First – You’d be amazed at how much less food you think you need when you’re shopping on a full stomach. Take some time to fill your belly instead of your shopping cart.

2. Buy Low – No, we don’t mean prices, we mean shelves. Grocers place their high-profit merchandise at eye-level in order to get you to reach for it first. Look down lower for the bargain stuff.

3. Buy Bulk – Even if it means buying more than you need (you can split it with the neighbors), buying in quantity can bring some real savings. Look for bulk buys at places like Costco, and save gas and food costs.

4. Grow Your Own – It may be time to see just how green your thumbs are, and start a veggie garden. The benefits to growing your own produce can go far beyond the financial savings.

5. Take a Calculator – There’s nothing like keeping a running tally of your expenses as you traverse the aisles to get you re-thinking those extra goodies in the cart.

Remember, it doesn’t have to hurt your appetite to save on your food bill. All you need is the stomach for playing it cool and smart.

Stretching Your Gas Dollars

As the average gas price across the provinces hovers around $1.20/ litre, the importance of making the most of your trips to the gas station is greater than it’s been since the crunch of ’08. So it’s a good time to take a look at some ways to ease the pain at the pumps.

1. Combine Trips – Try to coordinate errands and appointments in order to reduce the number and/or distance of your trips.

2. Adjust Your Work Schedule – Consult with your employer about the possibility of working four 10-hour days to save a day’s commute, or working a flexible schedule to avoid traffic delays.

3. Lighten the Load – Every little bit helps – or hurts – your fuel economy. Inspect your trunk or cargo area for any unnecessary weight, and leave it at home.

4. Check Tire Pressure – Under-inflated tires can add undue friction to your car’s ride, thus reducing fuel economy. Make sure they’re at the prescribed air pressure when gassing up.

5. Carpool – If changing your work schedule isn’t an option, see if you can share the commute with co-workers instead. It not only saves on fuel costs, but overall car maintenance.

It may even be a good time to keep that New Year’s resolution – to lose some of that winter bulk (and put some back into your wallet) – by leaving the car at home and dusting off that bicycle in the garage.