Saturday, February 12, 2011

my frugal new year: pinching pennies

Uh oh. Dropped the ball on this one. Here's the second instalment of that budget series I promised you ages ago.

This post was originally going to be about budgeting, but I realized that we all do that in our own individual way. Who am I to tell you how to manage your money? I don't know how much you earn or how much you spend. Instead, let me share some of my favourite ways to get things that I want or need for cheap or free. And no, this isn't another post about couponing.

Don't be afraid to haggle: You won't know unless you ask. I like to shop around for any significant purchase to ensure I'm getting the best deal. Like recently, when we decided to switch cable providers. I found out what the competition was offering, and called our then-provider to let them know that I could get a better deal elsewhere. They had the opportunity to counter with a slightly better offer, but it still didn't match the competition, so we swapped (and no, I didn't just randomly go searching for fun, we had to change one of our services, so I figured it was a good time to scope out the options).

It pays to belong: Collecting points is worth it if you're loyal to specific stores. I collect Air Miles, Shoppers Drug Mart Optimum points, PetroCanada fuel points, RBC Visa Reward points and also belong to a bevy of punch-card clubs. Some of these programs take a while to accumulate points, but once you're there, you usually get something for free. How easy is that? In the last six months, I cashed in on $170 free from Shoppers (yes, I'm a points hoarder), $150 in Sobey's gift cards from Air Miles, and a $100 gift card to FutureShop using RBC rewards. Yes, my points balances are all quite low now, but they'll grow again. I'm always amazed when I hear people in check out lines tell cashiers that they don't collect store points.

It can't hurt to ask: I recently discovered a forum on Smart Canucks about contacting companies regarding their products. So during Baby J's nap one day, I Googled a bunch of websites for products we use regularly. I took about two minutes per website and sent a note to tell the maker how much we enjoy their products. Since then, I've received coupons and product vouchers for products including General Mills, Johnson & Johnson's, Jane's, Huggies and Chapman's. From what I've read, some companies will send product samples too, if you're interested in trying something new.

None of this is revolutionary, but hopefully some of these little reminders can help you get into the saving habit.

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