My frugal life hacks

I, as well as many others, have a love-hate relationship with’frugal life hacks’ and the word frugal in general. The internet is littered with Pinterest galleries dedicated to ‘Turn your CD spindle into a bagel tote!’, ‘100 surprise uses for muffin tins’ and ‘How to make your garbage work for you!’ but what does this all mean? Everybody has different spending habits and consumption habits and what works for somebody with their own backyard in the burbs may not work for somebody living in an apartment with three roommates.

When I was still paying off my student loan, friends and readers would ask me how I managed to still have a life while paying 30-40% of my income on debt. My boring answer? I budget and cut corners where necessary.

My fun answer? I ‘hack’ my life.

Considering I’m in the middle of a September No-Buy / Low-Buy, I thought I’d revisit some of the things that I do that help me save moolah. Keep in mind, these are things that work for me, from frivolous to pretty serious savings, but no two people are alike, so while it worked for me, it may not work for you.


1. I’ve lived in shared accommodations my entire adult life, and never paid more than $700 a month
This is probably the biggest reason I’ve been able to save, so I’m sharing it first. The number one thing I look for in an apartment is affordability. I stick to the Gail Vaz Oxlade method of not spending more than 35% of my income on rent and have basically lived with roommates or my partner the entire time. Sure, this comes saddled with a lack of privacy at times, and was downright stressful when I lived with three or more people, but I think it made me a slightly more patient person, gave me some great friendships along the way, and helped me keep costs down during some of the tightest times of my life. I get that some people can’t do this and have to live alone, but that is a choice that comes with more financial burden unfortunately.


2. I bike pretty much everywhere from April to October
pee-wee-hermanIn Toronto, a monthly transit pass is $133.75 a month, so during the warmer months I try to take advantage of my bike as much as possible. In July and August I managed to only spend $30-40 on transit (including rides on the GO train!) and in September I’m aiming for that same number. That extra $80-100 a month really adds up, especially with summer lifestyle creep. While my bike DOES come with some costs (i.e. yearly tune-up, replacement parts, etc) it has paid for itself and then some these last seven years. (I estimate I save at least $600 a year by biking.)


3. I totally clip coupons
Just not in the traditional way. This is an obvious life hack but I use online coupon sites like to help me find coupons for day-to-day items like ‘ladycare products’, paper towels, dish soap, etc. Saving a few cents here or there on the essentials never hurt, ESPECIALLY if said item is on sale. Double savings and it totally adds up.

4. I trawl the internet for free beauty products
Frugal Life Hack 4: Free beauty products online!By using sites like Red Flag Deals, Chick Advisor, Influenster (ask me for an invite!) and BzzAgent, I’ve practically got this down to a science. Even with a long mane like mine I haven’t purchased shampoo or conditioner in almost a YEAR!

5. I use Ebates when I buy things online
I know it sounds silly, but I’ve made a bunch of money BACK by using Ebates when I buy from stores like The Bay or Chapters. The only tough thing about Ebates is REMEMBERING TO USE IT. I recently FORGOT to use Ebates when buying a new laptop and lost out on about $70 of credit. I fell into a pit of despair for a few hours after that.

6. Buy cereal/coffee/granola bars at the drug store
gottahaveCerealIf there’s one thing I always have handy to snack on at home, it’s cereal. I come from a family of breakfast monsters (my dad and I would regularly have eggs, bacon and toast for dinner when I was a teen) so I learned really early how to nab the best deals on these foods. I bypass the grocery store and nab em at Shoppers Drug Mart! These kinds of breakfast foods/pantry staples are always on sales at drug stores, because they are basically the ‘impulse buys’ for people picking up medicine or paper towels. So use this to your advantage!

7. I don’t really buy take-out coffee
This is one of the more traditional frugal life hack rules, but I’ve managed to cut my ‘coffee’ consumption outside of the home/office kitchen to very low levels this summer. It helps that I don’t work around the corner from two amazing cafes anymore. Take-out coffee should be a treat, not a daily requirement for living. At work I have free coffee in the kitchen, and I have a french press and Nespresso at home.


8. I don’t have cable!
cable-guy-smile-oI’m one of those Millenials who has never paid for cable! I had roommates who did in previous households, but for the last seven years I’ve been completely cable-free! Instead I use Netflix and Un-BlockUs for access to all kinds of tv shows and films, and I stream from the large number of broadcasters that share their products these days.


9. I don’t pay any fees on my bank account
I’ve been with PC Financial for almost half my life,, I love banking with no fees because I’m free to use my debit card (which makes it easier to track my spending) and never worry about being penalized for my transactions. PC is owned by CIBC so you can use your debit account at any CIBC bank machine and Tangerine is another option for no-fee, higher-interest banking. I’ve recently started to move my Chequing account to Tangerine to take advantage of their better rates and if you do it too, we can both make $25! My orange key code is 39814304S1.

10. I don’t carry a balance on my credit card
I can’t even tell you how much this changes things. I know people who use their credit card, with rates as high as 18 or 22% as a line of credit, paying major interest each month. I try to only use my CC for online purchases (also good for protection purposes) or major purchases, paying it back by the end of the week. This is especially good if you use a rewards card (which usually have high interest rates.)

So there you have it. Here are some of my SECRETS (aka, not really secrets). What are yours?

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