As we head into the holiday shopping season, I find myself thinking more about ways to save money than spend it. In my day job as investor relations director for a billion-dollar Canadian company, I recently built my department's budget for 2010. I also had to document how well we performed against our 2009 budget expectations. It's a natural extension for me to translate this corporate record keeping into my home life.
Over the past week, my husband and I have been taking a close look at the budget we built last December. Our household budget, which resides in an Excel spreadsheet we have used for years, includes the large items that we pay automatically from our chequing account, such as our mortgage, insurance, car and daycare costs. We also have estimates, based on past credit card statements and debit transactions, for what we spend on food, clothing and personal items, travel and entertainment each month.
Aside from a few unplanned expenditures, we have remained fairly on track with our monthly budget. Yet, by talking through each line item, we've already found two ways to save our family a few hundred dollars a month.
Our cable bill, for example, was an easy place to start after it crept higher this year. My husband subscribed to a few specialty sports channels that were free at first, but soon carried a fee. He rarely watched the channels and had forgotten to cancel them. We also decided to cancel the PVR feature on one of our two televisions. Overall, we identified monthly cable savings of $25. It's a small amount, granted, but still $300 a year that we were spending needlessly.
We did better with our home and car insurance, which has been costing us $500 each month. Our car insurance costs, in particular, rose several years ago after we accumulated three minor driving infractions. The last of these infractions came off of our driving records this year. We ran a quick insurance quote comparison online to determine what our normalized insurance costs should be. After sending copies of our drivers' abstracts and the list of better quotes to our insurance company, we quickly got our monthly insurance bill reduced to $350, a savings of $1,800 a year.
Even without an update to your driving record, you can try to lower your insurance rates by obtaining a competing quote. Use an online tool such as Kanetix.ca to get and compare quotes from the country's major insurance providers.
We're so pleased with these simple and pain-free adjustments to our budget that we've resolved to find more ways to cut back in 2010.
If you want to tighten your family's budget without feeling pinched, there are many online resources to get you started.
I also frequent personal finance guru Gail Vaz-Oxlade's blog for her no-nonsense advice on how to save more and spend less. Gail's new about-to-be released book, Debt-Free Forever, is now on pre-order and is sure to be filled with practical ways to get your budget focused.