It only takes a pet vet emergency, an illness in the family or something as minor as a sink overflowing, to make us realize how necessary savings are. But what if you are barely making ends meet or are already having trouble with creditors? How do you downsize your day-to-day expenses and start banking more money each month?

Start simplifing your life. Over the years we have all developed habits when it comes to spending money. Some of these were taught to us by our parents and our friends. Others such as our co-workers, friends, neighbours, and the media, all influence us to consume and we don’t think twice about it.

Here are 5 ways to save money immediately:

1. Sell your stuff.
By definition, ‘stuff’ is all the things that we surround ourselves with but really do not need. Ask yourself – do I really need a television in every room? A garage filled with tools but I never fix anything? A new patio set that has never had the umbrella opened? All these items have value to someone – remember, they did to you at one point!

Garage and yard sales are a great way to sell off items for the house and home. Stop by the local dollar store, buy a few pre-made signs and some pricing stickers (approx $5 expense) and start pulling out everything that has not touched in 6 months. No one can resist a good sale, especially when the pricing is reasonable ($20 or less) and it is also a great way to meet your neighbours who may be up for bartering in the future.

Resale websites such as Craigslist and Kijiji handle larger items with higher price points and have app’s so you can post details and pictures directly from your phone. Sale prices depend on demand, so don’t be surprised if the resale value of your item is as low as 5-10% of what you actually paid for it. Some minor online research will guide you to realistic pricing.

2. Barter and then barter some more.
Bartering with friends and neighbours is an easy way to stop paying for items that you would traditionally buy. A friend with a large garden may barter with you for yard maintenance. Just like that you have cut your grocery bill in half for months. MoneyCrashers has a list of 36 existing online communities based on bartering (or use terms like ‘swap’and ‘share’) for home and office space, clothing, dog-walking/pet-sitting services, transportation sharing, business/professional skills, babysitting and entertainment. Developing a successful bartering system could result in saving $100’s to $1,000’s of dollars a month.

3. Cancel memberships to fitness and social clubs.
Did you get pulled into buying a gym membership and went a few times and then stopped? The monthly charge keeps coming off your credit card whether you go or not, and the contracts are impossible to get out of. According to StatisticBrain, 67% of people who buy memberships never use them and the average monthly fee (in the US) is $58 each month or almost $700 per year.

Many urban dwellings have gyms or swimming pools includes in the amenities package and if yours doesn’t, most likely we know someone who has facilities in their building that may be motivated to work-out more if they had a buddy. Also, Meetup is a free-to-join online community where there is a social group suitable for everyone and if there isn’t, you can start your own. A majority of the groups have no charge and others a minimum; say $5, which is pooled to cover basic expenses like seminar room rentals or transportation costs to get to specific locations.

4. Source and prepare your own food.
Eating out and snacking at coffee shops is literally eating away at hard-earned income. The CheatSheet calculates that if you buy at the grocery store and eat out, it is possible that your food costs outweigh your housing cost, which should be your bigger priority. Dollar stores are increasingly carrying brand name canned and dry goods which can be prepared in batches and frozen in $1 meal containers (that sell at chain grocery stores for 5 times the cost) and carried to the office in $1 stylish thermal lunch bags. Use coupons, buy produce fresh at the corner store, families should look into joining a group buying club (or start your own), and in the summer find pick-it-yourself farms and freeze fruits for the future.

5. Re-develop your DIY skills.
Growing up we were taught to clean our rooms, mow the lawn, do laundry and iron, take care of personal grooming, and change the oil in the family car. That all changed when we started working. Now there was money to pay other people to take over those routine activities. By eliminating these costs, there could be up to an extra $1,000 in your savings account each month.

Cutting back on smaller items is a great first step and may you feel better in the short-term but to make serious change in your financial situation you need to make the hard decisions and stick with them. These five guidelines are key in starting to make lifestyle choices that will get you back on the right track.


Helen Siwak is Editor-in-Chief of BLUSHVancouver & EcoLuvLux Lifestyle Blog | Lifestyle contributor to Daily Hive (VancityBuzz) | West Coast contributor to Retail-Insider | contributing writer for Marble Financial.