No Grants, No Label Money, Just Old-Fashioned Saving…

How are we able to take an unpaid leave from our jobs for 7 months to focus on music? No grants, no label money, just old-fashioned saving.

After totaling up our monthly expenses, we figured out what we would need to save each month for a year to ensure that all of our expenses would be covered during our leave. This initially seemed impossible, but by making many small changes to our lifestyle, we have been successful in reaching our goal.

Simple ways to save:

Plan your meals. This is by far the best thing we do to save money, time, and avoid stress every day. Each Sunday we sit down together and decide what to eat each week. We usually plan meals that create leftovers for lunch the next day and we buy items that can be used in multiple meals. If we know something is on sale that week, we incorporate it into our meals. By planning our meals, we don’t buy extra food that we don’t need and we aren’t throwing out food at the end of each week like we used to. We also plan cheap meals – eating oatmeal with frozen blueberries for breakfast is healthy and costs just pennies a day.

Change grocery stores. As much as we loved shopping at Loblaws, our grocery bill was always very expensive. By switching to Freshco, we have cut our grocery bill in half! We still occasionally shop at Loblaws though to use up our PC points and get free groceries. It usually ends up being $40 of free groceries a month. Other ways we have saved at the grocery store include only buying on-sale items, “no-name” products, or the lowest price products, buying in-season fruits and vegetables, and not buying organic (this was a difficult change, but most organic foods cost more so we had to sacrifice). When products that are non perishable go on sale, stock up! Coupons – love them. We signed up online for various coupons to be sent to our house and as sad as it may sound, a lot of excitement comes from handing over a few pieces of paper and seeing $10 drop off of your grocery bill! It is even better when you can find multiple coupons for the same product. We can see now how people can become extreme couponers (we’re not there yet though). Our next step is price matching 😉

Eat/Drink smart. We used to buy milk in the carton and bought both 1% and 2%. Now we have amalgamated our milk (2%) and buy it in bags. We get more milk and it’s cheaper.
We make our coffee/tea at home. When you figure a large tin of coffee that lasts for over a month is the same price as two or three cups of Starbucks coffee, the savings really add up. Baileys for our coffee used to be a staple in our fridge, but now it’s just a treat when we go home to our parents’ houses. The biggest way though that we eat/drink smart is not eating out at restaurants. We can no longer justify spending on one meal what we spend for an entire week of food. When we go on road trips, we always pack a lunch or a snack to avoid stopping for fast food. It’s healthier and cheaper.

Clean smart. Vinegar and baking soda can replace so many household cleaning products. They are much cheaper, more effective, aren’t hazardous, and are environmentally friendly. We clean all of our mirrors with vinegar and it actually works much better than Windex. For the bathtub and other surfaces, we use vinegar and baking soda combined. We used to swear by Swiffer, but those refills add up. A broom does the trick, doesn’t cost us anything, and is better for the environment.

Drive smart. Carpooling to work is another change that yields major savings. Since driving to work every other week, I have cut my gas bill in half. I also make a point to fill up my gas tank when gas prices are low, even if my tank isn’t empty.

Barter. In the summer, we often shop at markets where bartering is an option. We even traded CDs for sausages and Kevin currently exchanges guitar lessons for haircuts and private yoga sessions.

Stop buying clothes. Most people have more than enough clothes and we are certainly no exception. Buying new clothes used to be a regular occurrence and now it’s been 17 months with only one shopping trip. The boredom with my clothes was easily solved when I took part in a clothing swap that allowed me to get rid of my unwanted clothing in exchange for what felt like new clothing.

Other ways to save:  

-Save the soaps and shampoos & conditioners from hotels.
– Call your cable company to lower your monthly rate (surprisingly easy to do)
– Use appliances like your dishwasher and washer/dryer during non-peak hours
– Take advantage of rebates and offers. We regularly get two free movie passes because we save and mail in the tops of m&m bags.

Most of the changes we made not only save us money, but are healthier, and are better for the environment. Saving money is a lifestyle and one that we now find easy to maintain.