Between coronavirus and sharp declines in oil prices, the government and banks are warning that Alberta’s economy is going to take a hit this year. Early in February, Alberta already had one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, and more job losses are expected.
If you have already or are worried you might find yourself out of work, it’s important to look closely at your spending and take steps to cut back where you can. We know this isn’t easy, especially now, when it can already feel like so much of daily life has been disrupted. It can also be hard to know where to start.
With that in mind, a couple of staff from the Louise Dean Centre put together some ideas about cutting back on expenses. If you can cut $10 from three monthly bills, that’s $30/month that is saved instead of spent. The suggestions below may also give you other ideas for where you can negotiate or cut back.
When was the last time you called your phone provider to negotiate a bill? There is usually some wiggle room here–sometimes a lot! Ask to be transferred to the loyalty department to determine whether they’re able to decrease your bill. Be persistent. If you own your phone, you might be able to reduce your bill by switching to a BYOD (bring your own device) plan.
Coffee, tea, and lattes
Make drinks at home. Buy your favourite tea or coffee and milk or milk alternatives and have virtual teas with your co-workers, family and friends. Use programs that have a free option like Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime.
Did you know that you can use a whisk to froth your milk? Oohlala! You can also add cinnamon for some extra pizazz.
Subscriptions or memberships
Do you have any paid subscriptions to things like magazines, books, music, or games? What about memberships to clubs, gyms, or other venues? If you don’t use them, can go without them, or can’t access them right now because of social distancing, consider pausing or cancelling your account.
Cooking at home rather than ordering take-out can help save you money, and preparing meals together as a family can be an enjoyable activity to break up the day. Look for recipes that make a lot and use low-cost ingredients–soups, chilis, stews and rice dishes are a good place to start.
Did you know apps like Flipp can help you save money? Use Flipp when planning your grocery shopping to see what’s on sale and where. You can also use the app to make price comparisons at the store.
Bank account fees
Are you on the right account? Why pay for services you’re not using? Call your bank to ask. Especially now, many banks are also willing to work with individuals to help mitigate financial burdens.
Cable and internet
Are you on the best plans for your usage? For cable, you might look at reducing your package or eliminating it. Use an online streaming service instead.
For your internet, are you paying for more speed or data then you need? Speak with your provider to see what options are available.
Electric and gas bill
Call your provider to ask whether there are lower rates available to you. You can also check out a handy comparison tool: ucahelps.alberta.ca/cct
You likely have room to negotiate your monthly insurance costs. Contact your insurance provided to discuss the options.
These are just a few ideas. Some will not apply to you, but you might also have other opportunities not listed above.
When you’re making calls to service providers, be both polite and persistent with the company. Here are some quick tips to help you prepare to advocate for yourself:
- Ask to talk to the loyalty department at the beginning of the call (save yourself the time).
- Do your research first and see what other providers are charging to give you more negotiating room.
- If your account includes an online user page, check there to understand how you use and don’t use the service you’re changing.
- Be cautious of offers to upgrade your service at a lower rate. For example, switching to a higher internet speed often comes with a three- or six-month discount on your bill. While this may save you money in the short term, higher rates after the promotional period may defeat the purpose of switching. There may also be policies or cancellation fees that prevent you from switching back to a lower tier of service.
Rachael Flett, BA (Psych) – Transition to Independence Program Coach