Did you know that according to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, less than half (46%) of Canadians have a budget, yet the vast majority (93%) of those who do budget stay within it most of the time. What does this mean for you? It means that if you put in the effort to start a budget, you will probably stick to it. It also means you can feel more confident about your future – a budget can completely change your financial destiny.
I would consider myself to be environmentally conscious – I recycle, use the green bin and try to keep as much garbage out of our landfills as possible. But owning a home and being green goes beyond just what you put out at the curb every week.
When working with our builder, we talked a lot about resource consumption (water, electricity and natural gas), so we’ve elected for a high efficiency gas furnace, heat recovery ventilator, on-demand hot water heater, energy efficient windows & doors, spray foam insulation. During my research I found some great resources and incentives that are worthwhile looking into further.
First, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation takes energy efficient homes seriously – so much so, that they offer a 10% refund on your CMHC premiums if your home qualifies under the Energy Star guidelines. Not only will you save money on your utility bills – but, take that refund and apply it back to your mortgage as a principal payment – over 25 years you will save hundreds in interest costs and pay your Mortgage off sooner, it’s a win-win situation!
Let’s say you aren’t building a brand new home, have you ever considered having an energy audit done on your current home?
At our last house, we did. What an eye opening experience that was!
The audit revealed where the house excelled from resource consumption and where there were areas for opportunity. We had some windows and a sliding glass door that were identified as potential leak areas, and we needed to replace a mid-efficiency furnace – these were more major expenses, however, we also noticed some inexpensive fixes: silicone replacement, receptacle insulation, programmable thermostat, energy star light bulbs, low flush toilets, flashing repairs and door seals.
We did a number of high return repairs and improved our initial score from adequately efficient to most energy efficient. The investment we made in our home went beyond the obvious electricity and natural gas savings – it helped us market our home to interested buyers, and reduced our greenhouse gas emissions by 0.6 tonnes per year.
If you have been considering ways to go green here are some great resources for more information:
Home Energy Efficiency – Natural Resources Canada: http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/efficiency/housing
Green Housing – CMHC: http://www.cmhc.ca/en/co/grho/index.cfm
CMHC Green Home Rebate: http://www.cmhc.ca/en/co/moloin/moloin_008.cfm
Energy Audit Information – Barrier Sciences Group: http://www.barriersciences.com/services
- Use up the leftovers, instead of throwing them away. Invest in some Tupperware, and use for lunch the next day. Or create a second dinner from your leftovers by mixing together into a soup or ragu. This won’t just save you money, it will save you time!
- Make your own coffee. Have you ever added up the amount you spend on take-out coffee or tea? A daily Tim Horton’s coffee can set you back over $600/year, while a daily Starbucks Latte could easily drain $1,400 from your wallet every year!
- Make going out for dinner a once a month event, instead of a weekly ritual. Admittedly, millennials aren’t the only ones who plan social activities around eating out. But when you have a limited budget, spending $50+ on a meal (easy enough to do with an appetizer and drink) can easily add up to $1,200 or more every year!
- Brown bag your lunch, rather than eating out with co-workers every day. Again, eating out adds up fast. $10/day, 5 days per week equals $1,200 every year. Brown bagging will probably cost less than half. An added advantage is you will almost surely be taking in fewer calories.
- Avoid ‘fast fashion’. While low prices on cheaply imported clothing and shoes is enticing, keep in mind that ‘cheap’ also often refers to the quality as well. Here is a challenge: Compare your closets to those of your parents or grandparents. Are you guilty of buying a huge quantity of clothes (often ‘on sale’), and wearing them only a handful of times? While your parents and grandparents clothing probably cost more relatively speaking, they probably lasted years longer due to their durability. Sometimes paying more for classic styles (i.e. long lasting) ends up costing far less in the long run.
- Avoid Brand names. Do you really need brand-name chips, brand-name ibuprofen, brand-name toilet paper, and brand-name hair products? Do they really taste better, feel better, or work better? Think about that.
- Take advantage of your company pension plan. This is a no-brainer, especially if your company matches your contribution. Retirement is probably the last thing on your mind right now, but the truth is that you are in the best period of your life to take advantage of compound savings.
- Stop paying ATM fees. Paying ATM fees to use a bank that isn’t your own is a total waste of your hard earned money. This is when belonging to a credit union really makes sense – you can make transactions at any credit union in Canada without incurring fees (that’s why it’s called ‘ding free’).
- Negotiate. Negotiate. Most things can and should be negotiated. Don’t be afraid to negotiate the price of your cable and/or cell phone package. The same goes for the interest rate on your credit card. If you are able to speak to the store owner, you can even negotiate the price of clothing, office supplies, and dog food. Store owners are often happy to settle on a lower selling price if in return they can obtain a loyal customer.
- Good food isn’t necessarily organic. You’ve been brought up to believe that organic food is better. Is it? It is definitely more expensive. Do your research in order to learn which foods are really worth buying organic. Then, save money on the rest.