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Emergency Budgeting Tips for Canadians – Stretching Your Dollar in Tough Times

By Diane Amato

Published February 16, 2024 • 4 Min Read

Whether you’ve experienced a job loss or an unexpected expense, or you’re simply finding it hard to keep up with rising costs, the bottom line is you need your money to go further. Here are seven tips to stretch your cash when times are tough.

1. Focus on food

When times call for emergency budgeting, food is the perfect place to start.

Every month, people throw away a lot of food they’ve spent money on. Did you know that the average Canadian household produces 79 kilograms of food waste per year? Planning meals in advance and shopping accordingly — and eating the leftovers — can significantly reduce your food waste.

Consider cooking larger batches to stretch ingredients into multiple meals, especially if you’ve found items on sale. Other ways to reduce your food bill include:

  • Knowing what’s already in your fridge or freezer

  • Buying store-brand items

  • Looking for sales and buying in bulk when items are cheap

  • Clipping coupons

  • Drinking tap water instead of bottled water, juices or sodas

2. Evaluate your subscriptions

Most Canadians have at least one streaming service at home. But with streaming costs going up and crackdowns on password sharing, subscribing to multiple platforms can really add up. While you may not need to cut out your subscriptions entirely, you can ditch the ones you use the least. And you can rent movies, TV series and audiobooks at the library for free!

3. Trim your transportation costs

The cost of getting around isn’t cheap. To save your hard-earned dollars, consider public transit, cycling or carpooling. Many Canadians are feeling the pinch, and chances are, a friend or colleague may be willing to carpool to a common destination.

4. Plan free activities

Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t get out. While dining out or going to the movies might not be in the cards at the moment, there are plenty of no- or low-cost activities out there. Explore local parks and attractions, stroll through museums or art galleries with free admission days, or visit a farm, zoo or new neighbourhood.

5. Use points

If you have a credit card or debit card that earns you points when you shop, now is a great time to see how many you have accumulated. Points can go a long way towards paying bills and buying essentials.

6. Defer payments

If you have bills to pay but not enough cash in the bank to cover them, you can always call and ask to defer payments or create a payment plan. Many providers (whether it’s your insurance, utilities or mortgage company) will work with you to develop a payment solution that works with your current situation. Instead of ignoring your bills, connect with the companies you need to pay — this way, you’ll stay in their good books and help protect your credit rating.

7. Ask for a deal

From your cell phone plan to your cable package, these services can eat up a lot of your monthly budget. No matter how long you’ve been a customer, give them a call to see if you can get a better deal. There are often promotions happening, and you may be able to pay less for the services you have. Sure, they may say no, but there is no harm in asking!

When times get tough, the tough tighten their belts. With these budgeting tips, you’re sure to make your dollars last longer.

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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