On lovemom.ca we feature inspirational, working moms because there’s so much more to share and learn from a community of hard-working mamas. And today we’ve got some new intel from a challenge that will help shape up everyone’s budget. Recently I was tasked by PC Financial® to track my family’s spending for a month. While I’m not one to open up about my financial challenges, managing our budget has been a struggle (one stable income from the huzz with contributions from freelance jobs from yours truly) and this was the kick in the high-waisted jeans that I needed. It forced me to look at what we were spending our money on, reevaluate our spending habits, and figure out how to maximize the money that was coming in—and going out.
Here’s what I learned on my journey:
Keep track of all expenses, no matter how annoying it is
Remember to log in expenses into an Excel spreadsheet. And trust me, if you forget to do it just once, it could start a domino effect: One receipt turns into two, then five, and before you know it you have a pile of papers in your purse that are half-smudged thanks to a leaking water bottle (just sayin’). To avoid this, I made tracking my expenses a part of my daily routine. I logged any receipts every evening after the kids went in bed (it takes less than a minute per night which is so much easier than leaving it all to the end of the month). This way I also see where my money is going on a day-to-day basis. PS: Don’t forget to ask the hubby what he spent that day too, so you can log that in. Midway through the challenge I was shocked to see that the bulk of our expenses are food-related. Here I was thinking that we were being frivolous and spending our money on ‘stuff’ when that stuff is actually a necessity.
Take a serious look at your credit cards
I talked about this briefly here, but I started to get budget-clarity when I realized what we were spending most of our money on. After some research, we decided to consolidate a few of our cards and chose PC Financial®, specifically the PC Financial® World Elite Mastercard®. This way, we earn an extra 30 points on every dollar we spend at participating Loblaws grocery stores, Joe Fresh or Shoppers Drug Mart (places where we already drop money in), in addition to our regular PC points—plus 10 PC® points per $1, everywhere else. This means that we’re buying the things we need, but also maximizing our points for free groceries, cosmetics, housewares, even clothes — you know, the stuff a growing family needs in life. Even better? There’s no annual fee to suck up all those hard-earned savings.
Hot Tip: Get a supplemental card in order to maximize points between you and your partner.
Consolidate your shopping when it makes sense
Now don’t get me wrong. I love me a farmer’s market: The feel-good neighbourhood vibes, the pretty presentation, meeting the people that create the food that ends up on our plates, but sometimes these smaller venues can be costly. I support local producers as much as I can — and buy a $7 basket of strawberries and $6 bushel of kale at the market — but I also have to think about my budget and what we can afford to stay ahead of the game. I’m happy to see more and more grocery stores bringing in local farmer’s produce, fish and meat and showing support, which means I feel better about doing the bulk of my food shopping in one, convenient and cost-effective location.
Rewards totally make a difference, if you use them
The hubby and I used to have a joint credit card that gave us travel points but then we had to deal with expiry dates, blackout dates, then cuts to the program itself. It was such a headache. That, and the realization that we actually don’t travel often and didn’t even use the points that we’d accumulated. By choosing a credit card with ‘real-life’ rewards — food, clothing, home — we knew we’d actually reap the benefits. After my diligent budget-tracking thanks to the PC® points calculator , I’ve spent enough to rack up over 75,000 PC points — over $80 worth of free groceries — in only one month!
Don’t be shy to over-share
Since people knew I’d taken on this budget challenge, I’ve been repeatedly asked about how I’m doing. In the beginning, I was embarrassed to open up about my maximizing-points and money-saving tips, but it turns out I’m not alone; people wanted to know what I’d learned, and had their own sound advice to share. My fave tip was from Janice Meredith, a fashion expert and stylist, who tipped me off to her PC® points-trick: She saves her points all year and redeems them only during the holidays when she knows there’s going to be extra expenses. This means her groceries and gifts won’t dig a hole in her wallet, and she can celebrate the month stress-free. Now why didn’t I think of that? #momgoals
After giving my budget the much-needed attention it deserved, I noticed my spending decreasing as the weeks progressed. I was extremely conscious of what I needed. I made weekly menus and only purchased items that were on my shopping list. Sure, things cropped up that we hadn’t budgeted for but I felt that we were more prepared to handle them, and I was less stressed. Now as every mom knows, that in itself is a win.
xo — Tracey